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#1 of 22 Old 04-29-2010, 02:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is it fair to ask them to declutter before they kick off? I just got back from a visit to my parents' place and the clutter they have is extensive. They're not hoarders with bags up to the ceiling, but they have been in the same house for 30 years and every closet is packed, cupboards overflow, and shelves line just about every wall. The garage and basement are anxiety-provoking. There are spices that date back to the '70s, with price tags on them that read 57cents.

During this last visit I was house-sitting for my folks while they were out of the country and I was able to take care of one room. I repainted, hung new window coverings, and removed the clutter. I was hoping the feel of this one room would inspire them.

I'd really like to beg them to declutter. Anyone here help their parents declutter with any success?
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#2 of 22 Old 04-29-2010, 08:31 PM
 
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I don't think it's fair if they are happy living that way! If they would enjoy less clutter, then by all means, but if they like all their "stuff", I don' think it's fair to make them get rid of it. I think when the time comes if you don't want to deal with everything they've left behind, hire an estate service or something.

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#3 of 22 Old 04-29-2010, 08:42 PM
 
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I agree with CrunchyMama...but I can feel your pain! My FIL was born in the 1920s (he was in his 50s when DH came along) - he was a Depression kid who hoarded until the day he passed a few yrs back...and it was BAD.

It has made me want to strive to live minimally just to avoid having my babies deal with the same issues!
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#4 of 22 Old 04-29-2010, 09:24 PM
 
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There is no way to do this and sound like a decent human being.

But I feel your pain.

My ILs grew up during the Depression and are now in their late 80s. They had 5 kids. They never throw anything out. MIL still has clothing from when her sons were little, and they are all 50-60 now. She has every stitch of clothing she ever bought.

She is trying to declutter for the reasons you mention. She doesn't want us to have to do it. But it is so against her nature it is unbelievable. She'll spend all week going through stuff and will end up with one small bag of stuff, and even then she can't just get rid of it. Everyone in the family, many of whom live at some distance have to go through the stuff and say they don't want it. It's not good enough to just give blanket permission. The whole thing is just painful.
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#5 of 22 Old 04-29-2010, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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A couple years ago they faced dealing with a similar situation (dad's mother passed) and when they got home apparently they vowed to declutter to make sure they don't leave their kids with an overwhelming task. But I think the momentum died soon after.

So I can see how it would seem insensitive, but I think they do have some willingness. I think that perhaps what's lacking is the energy. My harping on them won't help, though. I think it's something I'm either going to have to do with them or like a pp mentioned: just hire it out when the time comes.

Darn, though. Aren't people living in clutter unhappy? That's insensitive of me, isn't it? I just think they would obviously be happier with less clutter and a more peaceful house. Yes - I see the problem with this thinking.
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#6 of 22 Old 04-29-2010, 09:51 PM
 
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Darn, though. Aren't people living in clutter unhappy?
I think that's a reach. Maybe you would be unhappy living with clutter, but that doesn't mean everyone is.
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#7 of 22 Old 04-30-2010, 05:20 AM
 
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That's the one side - not wanting to hurt their feelings. On the other hand, all of us who hoard (or are just accumulating stuff over the years) risk "delegating" the task of dealing with it to someone else. That's not especially considerate of other people's feelings, either.
Besides, painful as some of it might be: it's probably less painful than going through things while you're mourning and possibly pressured for time (assisted living or whatever).

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#8 of 22 Old 04-30-2010, 05:49 AM
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my mil, who is a pack rat, actually did declutter--of a fashion--after clearing out three households in a row over three years. first, Paternal GFIL died. then, GAuntIL died. then, maternal GMIL needed to be moved to assisted living.

all three were pack rats, too. so, the work that MIL did was not small. all three had large, suburban homes with full basements, full attics, and full garages (cars kept in the drive way).

so, she spent about 2 years decluttering her space. i know that she has gone through and gotten rid of a lot of stuff, finished projects that were decades old and used those things, etc. but she's still packed to the gills and collecting as we go. she can't let go of many things--such as a box of knitting needles combined from the three homes she cleared out.

while it will be many years before they pass (they are 65ish and healthy), it will not be fun to clear that place out.
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#9 of 22 Old 04-30-2010, 11:28 AM
 
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I'm lucky in that my not-quite-hoarding mother is very sensitive to not burdening me with anything about her aging process and death (to the point that I sometimes feel excluded, but that's another story.) And in general, discussions about death and end-of-life planning are all really matter of fact and above board in my family. It's totally cool in her book if I say something like "Yikes, you're gonna make me clean out that closet when you're dead?" That would make her laugh and start decluttering, though she might never finish it. And HER mother had a pile of stickers that she applied to pieces of furniture over the last 10 years of her life to indicate who would get what. Like I said, other stories abound here, but still - it was all on the table.

But if she weren't interested in the subject, I don't think it would be ok to initiate the conversation directly. So if your parents are willing to have a conversation about assisted living options, funeral planning, health care proxy stuff, etc., then I bet you could start in by asking "How would you like me to handle distributing your things after you are gone?"

If they're not into those conversations at all, I think the best you can do is casually tell a story about the trials that your "friend" is going through in a similar situation. If they don't take that bait, then I think you've just got to get some friends signed up to support you in a decluttering process that you'll be doing on your own later.

It would be really telling to hear how they handled the changes you made while they were away. If they loved it and embraced it, then you've got a chance of your efforts being appreciated instead of alienating them.

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#10 of 22 Old 04-30-2010, 11:51 AM
 
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Originally Posted by insahmniak View Post
A couple years ago they faced dealing with a similar situation (dad's mother passed) and when they got home apparently they vowed to declutter to make sure they don't leave their kids with an overwhelming task. But I think the momentum died soon after.
A gentle reminder of that incident might inspire them again to get moving. But I agree with your comment that you will probably have to do it with them. Maybe if you offered to make a date with them on a regular occasion to go there and help with the task, it would be easier for them?


You could also make this time a good bonding experience when you listen to stories from their past, revisit old memories, etc. I think it could turn out to be a wonderful thing that you could do with them on a regular basis. You may even learn a thing or two about your parents that you never knew before

If they are open to the idea, I don't see what the problem is with helping them to declutter. You could tackle the project over a long period of time, every week just do a little bit more with them. But try to make it a special, precious, reminiscing occasion... If you're going to have to do it anyway, you might as well do it now while they are still around to tell you about all of this "junk" and why they kept it

But just be careful in your choice of wording for your reasons behind doing this with them -- because no-one wants to be reminded that they're going to "kick off" soon
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#11 of 22 Old 04-30-2010, 02:44 PM
 
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To start the parents thinking, you might want to suggest that they make plans - or even give the stuff away now - if they intend for specific items to go to specific family members. If they've said they want you to have X items - that you don't want - you might indicate that you don't have room for X items and want them to go to other family members as you will donate or sell after their deaths.

I was worrying about this with my parents, but due to a situation whose details I won't go into, their home was contaminated with formaldehyde and virtually everything in the packed closets and basement had to be pitched. I was thrilled when I heard that! Less crap to have to eventually deal with (my parents are in their early 70s)!

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#12 of 22 Old 04-30-2010, 08:19 PM
 
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My parents are 55 and 61 and I have been hinting away that they might want to start decluttering now because they are planning on moving when they retire. I even held a yard sale last weekend and invited them to bring stuff. They are pack rats and I have no siblings so it's a bit scary to think of having to go through their entire house by myself. I've even been helping them list things on Craigslist too.

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#13 of 22 Old 05-02-2010, 02:59 PM
 
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I worry about having to sort through a house of clutter - luckily my parents are planning a reasonably long-distance move later this year and I hope this means they might declutter somewhat. They still have boxes of "stuff" that moved into the current house with them 25 years + ago and haven't been opened since...

My grandfather, who's 90, recently got rid of lots of things so we didn't have to sort it after he's gone (his words - bless him). There's still lots, but I think it's unavoidable.

My two aunts - one has written a detailed list basically dividing *all* her possessions between the close relatives (whether we want them or not!), and the other has a "collection" of thousands of decorative china/pottery animals - I have no idea what we'll do with them! But I'm not brave enough to ask her to get rid of some...
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#14 of 22 Old 05-03-2010, 11:32 AM
 
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I tried bringing this up with my dad, and he's intent on leaving me the pile to go through. He has lots of military uniforms and things like that, and won't part with any of it because they're *his*. I suggested giving some of the extras to a group that recreates encampments, but he wasn't game. He also won't sell it because no one would appreciate it as much as he does. Sigh.

Every surface in his office area is covered in stuff. He found 1 brass liberty bell at a garage sale, so now he has to buy every liberty bell he sees. Same with president busts, Statues of Liberty, etc. And the beer steins. Ack. My mom boxed up a pile of them because she got tired of looking at them, but that open space just got filled up with more steins he found in thrift stores or garage sales.

Every bit of wall space in his office is covered too, mostly in military things...medals, pictures, calendars, etc. I made the mistake of buying him a WWII calendar 3 or 4 years ago...he won't recycle it because the pictures are important history and they need to be remembered. Nevermind that they are all readily available on the web or in books. Nope, he needs to be the keeper of all things WWII.

I think it got worse after having a brain tumor, but I think he always was like this to some degree. It's really screwed up my perspective of decorating though, because it's hard for me to see an open horizontal or vertical space and not want to fill it to capacity.
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#15 of 22 Old 05-03-2010, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think what a PP said: about having to face the task of dealing with all the collected stuff in the midst of grieving....that's what I would like to avoid. And yes, I could hire someone. But there are also things I'm going to probably want to handle with care. The more clutter there is the harder it is to sort out what is of meaning under all the superfluous. I know that to a certain extent this can't be avoided. And in some ways it's therapeutic to the grieving process. But I'm sure there will be a lot to take care of beyond sorting, and there will likely be time limitations. Room upon room upon closet upon closet packed to the brim is beyond therapeutic.

One option might be to hire someone to help out ahead of time - like in the near future. I think there are people you can hire to help you declutter. (Anyone used one of these?) Of course my mom would have to be on board and would be there. But we'd have moral support and a deadline. Hopefully mom wouldn't spend the next ten years filling it all back up again! My guess, though, is that clutter attracts clutter. And things are so busy in there now that it's easy to lose track of what belongs in the first place.
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#16 of 22 Old 05-03-2010, 11:53 AM
 
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My mother has been trying to get rid of stuff and declutter for years now. She got stuck helping to get rid her grandmothers stuff after she died. The woman had so much stuff! It was very neat and tidy, but still a huge amount of stuff.
Last time I went to see my mother I told she couldn't die. She had too much stuff to sort through She laughed and told me to start picking stuff out that I wanted.
Kind of gave me the creeps when she said that though. I get what she means but still.

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#17 of 22 Old 05-03-2010, 11:38 PM
 
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Calling a professional organizer might help--he/she could tell you what you need to, give resources, if your parents are amenable to that.

You can find a professional organizer in your area through napo.net

Good luck! I know I'll have to deal with a lot of that too...

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#18 of 22 Old 05-03-2010, 11:51 PM
 
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Well, first of all, are you the executor of their wills, if they even have one? That is, are you for sure going to be the person responsible for dealing with their estate?

If they have told you that you're it, then I think it's reasonable for you to ask them to make your job easier. I've known for awhile that I'm one of the co-executors for my parents. With my mom, I made a list of all the main "family" items. I asked her to go through it and designate who gets what. I wanted that already decided, by them. I didn't want there to be wrangling. She was fine with that.
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#19 of 22 Old 05-04-2010, 07:54 PM
 
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Ironically i was back at my parents house last week. (that gives me the creeps for so many reasons) and they have a HUGE house. I dont want to be the one to go thru it all in 20 years. My sister literally lives around the corner and I know she wont be able to be bothered. But I'm not going to worry about it now, anything can happen between now and 'then'. 4 car garage, storage shed, full basement, main living floor, upstairs, I can go on and on...not to mention my sisters junk she didnt move out when she got married 3 yrs ago.... UGH....

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#20 of 22 Old 05-04-2010, 08:16 PM
 
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Well, first of all, are you the executor of their wills, if they even have one? That is, are you for sure going to be the person responsible for dealing with their estate?
Also, even if you are designated as executor, you can just turn down the job. If someone has to be paid to do the job, that will reduce any inheritance, but you never _have_ to act as executor.

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#21 of 22 Old 05-08-2010, 02:05 AM
 
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My dad died last year and left us a house full. It wasn't fair to us or to my mom. To be fair, he had always said he would declutter before he died, but he died a year after being diagnosed very unexpectedly with cancer. And he did declutter a little tiny bit before his second surgery...but I'm glad he didn't do too much, it was too much like giving up. If you can bring up the subject tactfully, I would. My mom is trying her best to clean things up so that she doesn't leave that much for us.

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#22 of 22 Old 05-08-2010, 03:25 AM
 
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With my mom, I made a list of all the main "family" items. I asked her to go through it and designate who gets what. I wanted that already decided, by them. I didn't want there to be wrangling. She was fine with that.
I sure wish my mother was like that...I asked her also to decide in advance, and she reacted really badly as I was waiting for her to keel over and die to get my hands on her things! I am not game to ever bring it up again...and have decided that what will be, will be....

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