Clutter Clean-Up

“For Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also”

My mother was a neat-nik. When she turned 70, she spent the year purging her files and storing only her and my father’s important documents in a safe deposit box and in a filing cabinet at home. Years later, when I needed to quickly find my father’s discharge papers from the military service or a copy of the cemetery deed, I knew exactly where to find them.  As I look around my own office, I feel sorry for my children if something were to suddenly happen to me.

Are your parents thinking about downsizing or perhaps a move into assisted living or a retirement community?  Do they intend to remain in their home but could benefit from de-cluttering and organizing? It often will seem daunting and almost impossible to clear out decades of memories. Recently, I met Laura Moore, founder of Clutter Clarity.  As a professional organizer and coach, Laura helps people de-clutter and organize their homes, schedules, and lives. She teaches people how to think about it all so the physical work of holding on and letting go is liberating instead of overwhelming.  Laura makes a very necessary and sensible distinction between clutter and treasures, helping me to see that the plastic wall plaque that hung above my mother’s kitchen sink for decades is one of my treasures, more valuable to me than an antique chandelier collecting dust in the attic. Laura’s blog and tweets are full of unique, helpful ideas about how to change our relationship to our belongings and get organized.  She offers 21 ClutterClarity Tips on her website.  My top five favorites are:

  • Is It or Is It Not Clutter? Ask Yourself: Do I love it now? (not like a lot); Do I use it now? (within a year); Does it comfortably fit into my home? (if not, what can I let go of to make room?); Does it fit into my current lifestyle? (family, work, friends, hobbies, etc.).
  • Get a Timer: Pick a project you can finish in 15, 30, or 60 minutes-a drawer, a corner, or a box.
  • Buy a Shredder: Set it up at waist level so you don’t have to bend over so much. Shred for a short period of time so you don’t get bored.
  • Find a Clutter-Clearing Companion: Instead of working with someone you live with, find a good friend who will not judge you.
  • Pick a Non-Profit: Choose organizations that do work that you care about. Sometimes they’ll even pick up your stuff for you.

I personally follow all of these tips, although occasionally I do get carried away.  Just ask my teenage daughter; I shredded her driving permit and she had to wait three weeks to replace it.  Donating to non-profits that will use items no longer needed or worn by your family is very satisfying and may be what helps your parents part with some of their treasures.

Consider passing Laura’s wisdom on to others.  If you have trouble knowing what personal financial, legal, and medical documents to save or to shred, I recommend her 21 page publication “Paper Clarity at a Glance.”  I keep a copy at home as a reference guide for my own paperwork.  As always, I do not have any financial arrangement with Laura or her business; I simply think the services of a professional organizer can be invaluable.

How do you and your parents deal with clutter?

©Circle of Life Partners™

2 thoughts on “Clutter Clean-Up

  1. Soon after my mother was diagnosed, my siblings and I slowly started decluttering their house. Over two years we would periodically meet to clean out the basement, attic and each drawer in every room. Luckily the town my parents lived in had a dump. Once we had gone through all the rooms we had a huge yard sale.

  2. Great post! My parents are both deceased, but I did want to share my personal “family clutter culture” experience having had parents who lived very much in the moment (raising 11 kids, having 2 family businesses and enjoying every moment of it!) When my dad passed at 80 (we consider it an unexpected death since he was in great health), my elderly mother was left with all of this to run. They were quite an “old school” couple as my father handled all the “business” aspects and my mother the “children” aspects of their household. I have to say that my mom was a bit overwhelmed since my dad kept EVERYTHING, much of which I would consider clutter. She tended to keep everything too just as my dad did, so when she passed and the 11 of us tried to sort things out, it was quite difficult. We pushed through the process but it ended up being rather straining on our sibling relationships. I try to organize and de-clutter as much as possible… I would like my kids not to have to go through what we did.

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