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An Open Letter to My Friend Who Wants to Help Her Parents Get Organized

(Based on an e-mail I wrote to a client)



Dear Friend Whose Folks Are Crazy-Cluttered,


I completely understand how difficult it can be to watch people you love make decisions that seem detrimental to their physical and mental health. Both of my parents have symptoms of clinical hoarding. They often bemoan the cluttered and chaotic state of their home, however neither of them are actually interested in decluttering. It took me years to figure this out as they would pretend to want assistance, but it was only from a desire to keep the peace. When it came down to it, they didn’t want my help.

As difficult as it is to watch their “stuff” negatively impact their health and lifestyle, I had to accept that they are adults and have the right to choose to live as they wish.

If my parents ever do choose to allow someone to help them get organized, it will have to be their idea and their choice. No amount of reasoning on my end has changed their mind. In fact, after a while I just started coming across as a nag.

That being said, there are some things you can do that might help your folks make the choice on their own.

1. Invite Them to Watch “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”.


Episode 2: “Empty Nesters” is excellent for older couples.

Episode 4: “Sparking Joy After a Loss” is great for those who have lost a loved one and now need to go through their belongings.

2. Suggest They Hire a Professional Organizer.


Let's face it. I am totally capable of helping my parents get organized. The trouble is, there is too much emotional baggage in the parent-child relationship for this to be a reasonable solution for them. I am sure that you are capable of helping your own parents get organized, but they might not want your help. Hiring an objective professional who will not pressure them into parting with anything they are not ready to discard could be a winning compromise.

3. Have Your More Motivated Parent Get Organized First.

There is generally a more willing spouse. For example, if Dad is gung-ho to give some stuff the ol' heave-ho, have him organize his belongings only. This helps keep the trust, and she may be inspired to get organized as well.

4. You Go First.


Hire a professional. Take loads of "Before" and "After" pics. Share your progress and the process with your folks. I have seen entire families get organized simply because one member had the courage to go first.

However, if after all your efforts to woo them into making the decision to declutter they are still not interested, you will have to make like Elsa and Let. It. Go.

As difficult as it is to watch people reap the consequences of choices we disagree with, sometimes it is the only way.

And as always, I’m here to help if needed :)

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