De-Cluttering the Home

Cenetta Lee

Clutter… clutter… clutter. We never seem to get around to going through our “stuff” in order to give or throw away items that we no longer use or need. We may promise ourselves, “I’ll do it tomorrow.“ But tomorrow never comes. My mother used to say that the thought of having to get rid of the excess stuff in her house would keep her awake most nights. So, insomnia aside, when she became ill and was physically unable to clear her clutter, this became my job–surprise, surprise.

De-cluttering takes a lot of time, patience, and energy. If you undertake this task, you may end up with days of aching muscles. That’s the downside. But de-cluttering also has its advantages. You may uncover details about your family history. And, if your relative is supervising the process, he or she may share stories–good and bad–that you’ve never heard before. Reminiscing may elicit a variety of emotions from your loved one. He or she may laugh, cry, gaze into space, or just smile. The experience can be heartwarming for both of you. But beware of being falsely accused of throwing away any item that turns up missing. You’ll never hear the end of it, until the item is found or the loved one forgets about it. In my case, the latter rarely happened!

These tips will start you on the road to decluttering:

• Get permission to de-clutter your relative’s living space, unless he or she can’t communicate.

• Be organized and have a plan. For example, tackle one room or area a day, two days a week; decide what task to do first.

• Create categories of items—trash, donate to charity, offer to family, keep. Once you start the process, you’ll get a better sense of how long you want to spend–a day, week or month–doing this.

• Stop working if you become short-tempered or frustrated. Before taking a break, make a note of what you were doing when you stopped and affix the note to the back of a door–so you’ll know where to begin next time.

• Read a book or Web site on de-cluttering. Write notes of pertinent information so that you don’t need the source material with you as you work–it could be thrown away by accident.

• Get friends (women and men) to help—heavy items may need to be moved.

For more details on de-cluttering, click How to Get Rid of Things and Get Rid of Clutter.