As a child, grandchild, spouse or sibling of an aging loved one, the day is bound to come when the house they have lived in for many years needs to be sold. This could be for any number of reasons, but the most common is generally when they need to be moved into a care facility or retirement community.
Before this day comes, there will be so much to organise, including the packing and moving of their decades of belongings. To add to this there is a high emotional price tag attached to many of these items. Consequently, decluttering the lives of an aging loved one can be a highly sensitive task for all involved.
Here are a few simple steps to encourage aging loved ones to begin the decluttering process before a mountain of memories is left for family members to deal with!
Declutter with the S.T.U.F.F. method
The S.T.U.F.F. method of decluttering and untangling an aging loved one’s home stands for: Start, Trust, Understand, Focus and Finish.
Start as early on as you can with the decluttering, selling and cleaning process. Get the process underway by discussing it openly. Help your aging loved one to understand the great burden which will fall on other family members if they don’t begin the decluttering process early on. The key is to start small – such as throwing out used / expired medications, cosmetics, books, magazines and newspapers. Be patient in this process, rushing your loved ones can result in resistance and feelings of resentment.
This sensitive process is built on trust. In order to strengthen a parent or loved one’s trust, you need to remain patient and understanding throughout the process of letting sentimental items go. Once trust is established, your loved one will realise you have their best interest at heart, and the entire process will become much easier.
It’s important to understand that letting go of certain possessions will take some time. It has taken years to accumulate so much stuff, it may take just as long to let some of it go. Tell your loved one if you have fond memories or value a certain item, and they may give it to you. Many aging loved ones may find it easier to part with certain items if they know they will be well taken care of.
Divide up their home into sections and focus on one area at a time. It takes a lot of mental, emotional and physical effort to clear out a life-time’s worth of possessions, so the only way to avoid becoming overwhelmed is by focusing on one room at a time. It’s important to guide your loved one where needed, removing as much stress from the process as possible.
Once a certain room or area of the home is finished, it’s vital that you agree with your loved one on the next area to tackle. Agreeing on a new area to declutter will make it easier to return to the clear out process the next time you visit. Try and install confidence in them by letting them know you care about their feelings and will only declutter a certain area if they are 100% comfortable with it.
Depending on how much stuff your loved ones have, the process may take weeks, months or even years. While your goal is to eliminate clutter, it's important to preserve your relationship with a loved one. If you don't have the time or patience, find someone who does –be it a sibling or a professional, and get the process started as early as possible!