Dear Francy; I am helping my mother in her own home and she has it filled with stuff that I am not suppose to “touch” How can I get rid of this stuff?
Not easy, is it? I always make projects like this as upbeat as I can and that starts with you. You have to have a good attitude and “think” update not sort and throw. Lightly talk to her about going through the memories and making notes on things so her grandchildren will understand what things meant to her. Let her think about the project. It will seem so overwhelming that she will not want to even start it. When you’re unwell, old piles of magazines and rooms full of storage are just one more horrible reminder of old age.
Next you set yourself up for one visit a week to tackle a room or part of a room. You might start with something safe, go through the cupboards in the kitchen. You can get rid of old food stuffs and sort through pans and dishes that she no longer needs. Take a few boxes and mark them with the grand children’s names (or whom ever she is close to) and begin to give a little bit of this and that to each box, plus one for Charity. Do not mark it “throw away” Let her feel it is all going to a good home. Old kitchen items may seem used, but they can be special to some folks. Just go through the cupboards and move the dishes she will use on a daily basis down to where she can reach them. Maybe it is time for her to use her “good” dishes for everyday…and get rid of the collection of plates she might be using now. Change the shelf paper to fresh and new. Clear and clean up the drawers and let her feel it’s done for her convenience. Not to mention how helpful it will be for the grand kids to have kitchen things to use. Always praise her step by step, it is a hard thing to say goodbye to little memories and she needs to feel that its worth it. Best to have a little treat to eat during breaks and talk about all the nice old memories, that will make her feel this is worth the stress.
Then you begin again in the bathroom. Go over the old towels and throw them out and bring her a couple of sets of pretty new towels. Clean up the place as you move around and make sure the drawers are fresh and clean and then make sure her tooth products are easy to use. You might want to get her an electric toothbrush to make her tooth brushing easier and better. Throw all old medications and over the counter stuff away and make labels for things so she knows what is where. As your memory is stressed, things are so confusing, make it easier by getting it all sorted and ready to go. If you have someone that would come in and give the bathroom a new paint job, do it. If you have some loose caulking around the old tub or shower, freshen it up, that is easy to do. Getting a new faucet will make the drips go away and little things like the newer light bulbs that are power savers lets her feel, “green”. So the point is, you clean but you update slightly and make her “feel” its special. A few new towels and a shower curtain…can make it feel so good to her. Remember remove all scatter rugs and bathroom rugs, those are waiting to trip her. I like to put a phone in the bathroom, that’s where loads of folks fall or get sick and to have a phone by the toilet makes it so much safer. Oh, and don’t forget to put in handrails after you paint, one by the toilet and one on the bath tub, or shower area.
If you’re going to go through an older bedroom that is now a mess of storage boxes — tell her you need to have the room clean and clear in case you or a friend has to stay over night with her. Go through the closets and give away the older clothes to charity, make sure you express the need for clothing in times of trouble for other people to use. Do not talk about garage sales…you are stressed enough and so is she, just gift things to the Universe and you will both feel better. Change the bedding and once again, buy some new sheets at a discount house so its all fresh. If you can do it- paint the room when you’re done and always keep in mind, that neutral colores are best. They will ready the place for sale if that has to happen down the line.
Her bedroom should be last, it’s always hard to go through personal things in someones bedroom. Better to start in the kitchen, dining and living room. Giving away or marking paintings and collectibles with names of who will get what in times ahead. Then go to the bathroom and hall closets, on to the spare rooms and other storage then back to her immediate sitting room and her bedroom for last.
Remember as she ages, her clothing habits will change. All the old long gowns and cocktail dresses can be given to some cute young neighbor that will love the retro style. Her night gowns and such will be used more and her casual and comfort clothes will be her daily favorites Leave a nice dress or two for family functions, all else can go out and if you get a lot of pressure, tell her she has a gift card coming to get her something new. You will find that changing the hangers in the closet so they all match and cleaning out old shoes and purses will free up space and allow her to feel fresh again. You might have to bring in an air filter for a while, lots of dust can bother folks with lung problems.
I suggest you do all of this with an attitude that it may take a few months to go from project to project, so be brave and dig in. But and this is a big “but” if you think you do not have time to finish an area, then wait till you do. The finished projects, clean, clear and fresh paint will give her confidence that this is a project that will free her of worry.
I put all the pictures and things in a big plastic storage bin. As I went over for visits we would go through the bin and mark the pictures to scan in the scanner so the family can enjoy them. I put post a notes on the back with little notes of who and what was happening in the picture. Then I put as many as I could in photo albums around the living room, so visitors could look up their childhood pictures and have something fun to talk about with Grandma!
Now, that this is done, you can rest assured that when time comes for her to make a move out of her long time home, most of the work is already done. I have a TIP for making sure the family feels they all got remembered equally. Take your digital camera with you and as you gather together little remembrances for family and friends bring the box to the dining room table or floor and lay out all of the contents and flash a picture. That way, when you are finished and any one says…they got more, or who got that? You can print up a page of pictures with the names of the received collections and everyone can see that you were fair.
Newspapers and magazines…have to go. You will have rodents if you keep such things around the house. So make sure you call ahead and have a family member with a truck ready to take a load of stuff to the dump. That way it is out of sight and away – no dropping things in the garage. Once the house is clear, its time to steam clean the floor and finish the painting. Get it ready to sell in your mind…and allow your mom to enjoy the fresh clean surroundings while she lives there, instead of after she leaves. New throw pillows in the living room, new covers for the dining room chairs, re-potting old plants in new updated pots and you have a new start.
Good luck, since I have done this job over and over again for senior friends and family…I can tell you that its nasty but really rewarding. Pain of change leaves when the senior sees the fresh new rooms clean and clear. When they open closets with just a few coats leaving room for guests to use the closets. See through plastic containers with labels to reminds what is where makes life more organized and easy. The seniors daily life takes on a new kick for them…so don’t give up or give in. It has to be done.
Just remember, keep your energy up and your voice tone up. Make hard decisions something you joke about not argue about. You can always have a box marked “wait and see” and they can place things in it and think over them. You will see that once the project takes on a forward motion that “wait and see” box will be emptied and on its way to a new home.
Please visit my website for other tips that will help you through the care giving of your loved ones. It can be lonely out there all by yourself. Let me help you with ideas to keep you going and your senior happier and well adjusted www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Thanks francy Dickinson