Follow
Share

This question relates to the recent post, 'feel like it's Groundhog Day'. Sometimes everyday does feel identical to the one before it. The same endless questions; the same belongings "lost" and must be located. In between the same-old, same-old, I look around at the clutter my parents have collected, and won't part with because "It might be useful someday". I think I understand that mindset, and indeed share it in some respects. However, as a merged household -- and the home I will inherit -- I often feel resentful that there's almost no space for my husband's and my things, due to all the unused, "can't part with that" stuff of my parent's. I guess I am the household manager now, but haven't felt comfortable sorting out, disposing of or donating their excess possessions. It's still their home, and their savings/ pensions pay the bills. So, I was surprised by forum members strongly recommending that live-in family caregivers begin sorting through and clearing away the care recipient's belongings. Not only has the idea made me uncomfortable, but I felt I didn't have the right.


If I were to start doing so, I know I would start feeling more in control, maybe even be more motivated to get out of bed to start the next Groundhog Day. What I'd like to know is, should I be rethinking my rights in this situation? Should I start making the decisions about what stays in the house and what goes, because it's of no use to them or to me any longer?

I’m playing Devils Advocate here, but in my case, I would feel highly resentful if my children came into my house and began pitching my stuff. I’m not a hoarder, but after 44 years of marriage, I’ve collected a lot of “stuff” that my kids have no idea the meaning of. I have a jet-bead necklace that a relative made in the mid-1800’s for her Rosary, a true “hand me down”. I also have a cedar chest that’s nearly 100 years old. My children have no appreciation for these things. I’ve begun pointing out things that are precious to me, but there is no guarantee they’ll remember. If they walked in while I’m still “here” and started going through my things, I’d be furious. I’d appreciate it more if they’d pitch in and wash floors and walls.

This is just how I feel and not meant to be fodder for argument or rebuttal.
Helpful Answer (19)
Reply to Ahmijoy
Report
Daughterof1930 Jan 3, 2019
Ahmijoy, we have two cedar chests, both precious, one from my husbands grandfather and one from my mother and I’m sure they’re both approaching the 100 year mark. They were known as Hope chests to our foregone relatives and stored items they “hoped” to use in their homes one day. I’ve cleaned them both out and given the old contents to the family members they pertained to and now use them to store blankets. And there’s your overkill of info for today!
(9)
Report
See 1 more reply
I know how you feel all away around this!

Two and a half years ago my boyfriend of 15 yrs and I moved into my mother's house, which is my childhood home and the house I will inherit. My parents had enough stuff to furnish another house and my mother went out and bought things (that she never used) after my dad passed away. Actually my boyfriend and my stuff is in a storage unit because there was/is no room for it. Like your parents, my mother would not give up anything! I found the clutter draining my energy and depressing! And more over, I too didn't want to get out of bed! There was no room for us at all.
The feeling, the thought of going through their things ( yes you read correctly, my mother kept a lot of my dad's things) felt so wrong! I can't even find the words!
However, I changed my thinking! 1) Living this way was/is not healthy on any body. Not only does it drive your emotions down to no mans land, but it just sucks the life out of you. To move this to get to that. Looking for something that got miss placed...oh wait, it didn't have a place for it! Most of all, you can't really clean anything, because you either can't get to it or stuff was on it! So it becomes a physical health problem too. 2) I am going to inherit the house with all the crap inside as well. I had to ask myself, what will I do when mom passes? How long is it going to take me to clean this big house out and get it liveable for my BF and me? What should I keep? What can be donated? What can be sold to help with repairs? Because the house got full no body could do any repairs in it! These are questions you need to start asking yourself.
First thing I did was pick a spot and cleaned it out. This spot for my boyfriend's work apparel. Our bedroom was cleaned out before we moved in, however, that stuff was all over the house. Secondly, because we use our basement as part of our everyday living area ( which was full except for a pathway. We started with the basement. My mother doesn't use the basement that much. Stairs have become hard on her. We just start to go through stuff and put things into totes. Didn't ask and didn't say anything to mom. Here's why? She would just say, I am going to use that some day! I want to hang that picture on my wall ( there is no place to hang it on her wall). We couldn't even get to our bathroom in the basement! After we put things into totes we stacked them in one place. Yes, we threw away anything that was broken and can't be fixed, unusable. After my mother seen what we did she went into shock her anxieties went up, but I took her to the totes and showed her here are your things., and I expain that we couldn't get to the bathroom or dad's paint room, now we can! She said, " oh well that will make it easier for--my BF name." "It looks so much better!"
See where I am going with this.?
By the way, we are down to 2 of those totoes! I had her go through them. You start off with small things and you explain and keep explaining how you and hubby need your space. How you can't keep living this way! Give your feelings a voice. Also, tell them that you want to do it with them not to them. You have to get them to see your point of view.

Because humans are good at adapting to their environment they feel everything is good that way until you show them a new way!

I am not saying to do a huge clean up in one hit. Nor am I saying to disrespect them. It's a little at a time! You will be surprise how much they won't notice things missing. I have notice and did some research elderly people have tunnel vision. ( most of them)
As far as they pay the bills, offer to pay and to do some of the repairs. Even if they are just small repairs!


You have my deepest condolences. I for one know what you are feeling and going through. It is hard enough to see our parents decline, and try to take care of them, but to live in a house were you feel uncomfortable, and the walls are closing in on you makes it that much harder--unbearable!


Good luck!
Helpful Answer (16)
Reply to Shell38314
Report
Anjolie Jan 3, 2019
I discovered 2 years ago that my mother seldom threw away twist ties, milk bag clips, rubber bands, aluminum pie plates...you name it!
She also has more pots and pans and bakeware than anyone in our family needs. She will only wear familiar clothes (things she's had for 40 to 50 years) and both parent's clothing are full of holes, underwear included.
There are books and magazines from ages past with print too small for me to read now. Financial records going back 10 to 20 years. And this is after my brothers got together some 10 years ago and completely cleared out the large, packed attic!
There's canned food and cookies/crackers in the cupboards with Best Before dates of 2005.
I did a big initial clean up when we moved in 2 & 1/2 years ago, trying to consult them on things to be sorted out. My father didn't care about much, but my mother balked at EVERYTHING. She couldn't part with the bathrobe that was so ripped and torn she struggled to locate the right "hole" for her arms to go through.
You seem to understand better than some members of this forum what I'm facing, and I appreciate that. Part of the reason I've put off doing any more organizing, is that I've been so focused on respecting my parents values and possessions. But I see no option but to start donating or disposing of things they'll never again use and won't miss. I grew up in this house, live here again and expect to spend many years to come here. It's time it actually felt like home to me again. Thanks.
(7)
Report
I feel your pain! I have trouble breathing if surrounded by too many objects. Not from dust- from anxiety.

What my mother and I did was box up some of the treasures, date the box and move them to the garage. The next year, if the box hadn't been opened, we donated it sight unseen to the Goodwill.

It was a slow process and she will occasionally mourn those "beautiful individual soup crocks you made me give away" (Bought at a garage sale, held for 20 years, used zero times!)
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to anonymous594015
Report
lealonnie1 Jan 3, 2019
Which is precisely why treasure hunters such as myself check out the thrift stores like Goodwill on senior 50% off Tuesdays.....lol.
(6)
Report
Hi, Anjolie. This is a tricky one, isn't it?

Something that resonated with me on this forum when I first discovered it is the advice that caregiving needs to be a two-way street, a give-and-take, a partnership. That would seem to suggest that you ought to be able not to live in complete chaos as you take care of your parents and live with them.

Would your parents actually notice if you cleared away some junk? And is it a health or safety issue?

My dad doesn't have cognitive issues at this time, but I have definitely gotten rid of a lot of items that I know he has no use for any longer without telling him. For instance, his second bedroom closet that used to be stuffed with a million size medium jackets that he can now no longer wear is now is a home health supplies closet. He has no idea.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to SnoopyLove
Report

Hi!
I would first define space for you and your husband. Space you are responsible for keeping clean and tidy. They may be inspired if they see your area!

I have had two situations happen. My brother and I threw out a lot of my mothers things when she first became ill without her. She was mad at us and still talks about it. So the second run through I included her. The second run through took longer but we could talk her threw each item.

Are they open for downsizing? If so, do it while you can! I would let them know you want to know the stories behind their possessions. In my opinion, it is best to do it while they can have input. Some stuff you probably don't know if it is valuable or not or if there are memories attached. It is very hard to go through loved ones things when they are not their to tell you what matters and what doesn't.

One pile at a time, start with three bins, bags or whatever. One for trash, one for keepsake and one to sell. I like the idea of jotting the story down behind what they feel needs to be saved. Throw away the trash and sell the stuff for them. Maybe they will be encouraged by the money?

Don't put huge exceptions on them the first run through. They may keep a lot the first run through. Say after six months if you do it again they may see the stuff is not being used and just taking up space they may be more open to getting rid of it.

We asked questions:
Would you buy it again?
Is it valuable?
Does it have significant meaning?
When there were 50 empty plastic medicine bottles that she wanted to keep we compromised on keeping 5.

It can be a slow tedious process but so worth it in the end. It helps to know where important papers are as well!
Good luck!
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to Mort1221
Report
qattah Jan 6, 2019
Very respectful way of doing things.
(3)
Report
Anjolie, are things legally set up so you are sure you can continue to live in the house? If not, do so right away. I would get advice from an Elder Care Attorney. If the house is in your parents name and they ever have to have state aid like Medicaid, when they pass the state will come after their estate. This includes the house, in order to recoup their money. Many times kids think they will inherit something and whatever it is has to be sold to pay for the parent's care. Think of it this way, the state loaned your parents money and when they die, they collect from the estate. It is about 5:30 am and I can't figure out how to write this clearly.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to MaryKathleen
Report
Zdarov Jan 7, 2019
You did fine! :) It’s very good to stop and focus on just that item for a moment.
(2)
Report
I have a little different perspective than some of you, but I'll hope you'll bear with me for this posting.

After my dad died in 1997, I tried for years to get my mom to pare down and get rid of a few things. She got rid of some of his things because they were a painful reminder of his passing. After those things were gone, we'd sort though years of old magazines, clipped recipes, and outdated clothing, and even put a few things in a box to donate. But, I'd leave and come back to find the box empty and the things back in their place. I'm prefer a minimalist or very simply style, and the "visual clutter" in her house frustrated me. For over 21 years I tried to get her to pare down because I found the "visual clutter" frustrating.

Then, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. With no treatment options available, she wanted to die at home, around the things she loved. (That included a cigar box covered in macaroni and spray-painted gold that I made in first grade. I'm 64 years old now.)

Less than two weeks ago, she died at home at the age of 92, surrounded by the many things she loved. I'm glad - no, I'm proud - that I didn't force her to get rid of her things. They gave her so much comfort during her last weeks as she related stories about many of them, remembering the person, place, and circumstances in which she received or purchase the items.

So, please don't be in a hurry. You probably have years left of your life. Your parents are old and find comfort in the things they have. You can clear it out after they're gone. If you don't care anything about their "stuff," you can have estate sale personnel or a charitable organization come in after they're gone and clean it out. In the meanwhile, have some respect and compassion! Honor and love your parents instead of considering them a burden! At some point, I think you'll be glad you did.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to anonymous849063
Report
Midkid58 Jan 6, 2019
You had a very "different" side to the issue of dealing with a hoarder. You can now look back fondly and be grateful that you didn't force mom to comply with your rules--but your story is unusual, VERY unusual.

More often, when the "junk" becomes of more value than relationships, then what is the POINT of keeping the junk? BECAUSE my mother chooses to hoard--she also chooses to have zero relationships with any of her grand or great grand kids. There is simply no room for anyone to come and visit her.

While "keeping everything" worked for you--in most situations, it's a nightmare of gargantuan proportions.

Mother has chosen garbage, literal garbage over people.

My "friend" is losing her home b/c she cannot afford to store her "garbage".

Where is the "loveliness" in that? I'm not trying to pick a fight--I think that you're amazing b/c you took the road that gave mom the life she wanted with all her stuff in it. Sounds like she had her "people" too.

Most hoarders are not that fortunate.
(11)
Report
See 2 more replies
Part of the reason I've put off doing any more organizing, is that I've been so focused on respecting my parents values and possessions. But yellowed magazines, musty paperbacks with tiny, crowded print, dozens of baking pans, and nobody left who has the time or interest in baking...ripped, torn and faded clothing that no longer fits them. At that stuff I plan to draw the line. I see no option but to start donating or disposing of things they'll never again use and won't miss. I grew up in this house, live here again and expect to spend many years to come here. It's time it actually felt like home to me again.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to Anjolie
Report
againx100 Jan 7, 2019
I think that's a very appropriate plan. I see no reason to keep stuff like that. And it will be nice for all of you to live in a less cluttered home!
(1)
Report
Good luck.

All the respect in the world couldn’t get my mother to agree that 11 boxes of Band-Aids was 10 too many. Or to donate her clothing from 10-15 years ago that was 4 sizes too big for her. Or to concede that she had no use for stacks and stacks of catalogs and magazines from the past 20 years.

Multiply that by every square inch of the house. Fine for Mom. Her stuff was SO important to her - in a way she could not articulate, other than blowing up at anyone who dared to mention it.

Not fine for anyone whose brain functioned properly. For anyone who had a modicum of safety knowledge.

In the end (and I mean END), extended family & I filtered out the (few) valuables and sentimental keepers. It was total chaos. We then shuttled countless carloads of donations to the thrift store. The rest went into a huge rented dumpster - that was emptied and replaced 3x.

On a kamikaze schedule, of course. Luckily(?), I had scheduled that week off work months earlier (with entirely different plans, naturally). Cuz 3 stinkin’ bereavement days from my employer weren’t gonna cut it.

My only comfort was learning how common this syndrome is. And it wasn’t very comforting!
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to BlackHole
Report
keepingup Jan 6, 2019
You hit it right on the nose. The thing about hoarding is that the hoarder is not aware that having six foot piles of old clutter really does bring down her quality of life. Before my mother's passing I blame her confusion and frustration as much on the hoarding as dementia. It was a choice between a violent NARCISSISTIC rage if I tried to clean, or historians her piles where they were. I chose the latter.
I
I
(4)
Report
I’ve thrown out and/or donated many items from my dad’s home, and he lives there still. Most of it he knows about, but there is some I have done without his knowledge, things I’m very sure he’ll never miss that were obvious trash. Like old newspaper clippings from fifty plus years ago, he hasn’t looked at them and doesn't remember they were saved anyway. I look at this as making his environment easier for him to live in and making it a bit easier on me when he either doesn't live there anymore or passes away. Most people accumulate far more than they realize and paring it down definitely makes you feel more accomplished. Be sensitive to your parents wishes, but at least organize the stuff they won’t part with so it’ll be easy to donate or trash later and out of the way for now
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to Daughterof1930
Report

See All Answers

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter