We love to fix, however few of us like to be fixed. To be fixed implies something’s wrong with us in the first place. It can feel like we’re being judged or blamed. Like a friend who raises an eyebrow to our cooking, dress choices, parenting or choice of partner, we pretend to ignore them and seethe. When our parents eventually need our help in their old age, we may see ourselves as the fixers, without giving thought to whether or not they want to be fixed. Backtrack for a minute and think about your relationship with your parents. Yes you (mostly) love them deeply but you also have other feelings (unworthiness, fear, frustration, hate, guilt, regret and so on). It all sounds a bit negative but these are natural human responses to the complexity of familial relationships, as well as love, devotion and admiration. All these emotions can cloud the helpful decluttering and tidying you plan to do for them. When your parents become less mobile it seems sensible to help them get their house in order (getting rid of clutter, deep clean, sort the fridge, unworn clothes and unread papers). This fix seems sensible and it is, but your parents may not want to be fixed! What to do? Lead by example (parents have an antenna-like capacity to sense hypocrisy). Make sure you first get rid of all your stuff you’ve kept in your parents’ home for years because they provided free storage for you. Once ALL your stuff has gone from their home, hopefully you’ll have had time to spot another category of superfluous stuff in your parents’ home (eg: old newspapers or catalogues) and can gently start a conversation about how to recycle them. And carry on until other categories are decluttered.
ElWell is an organisation that helps older people live the life they want. They write in more detail about the link between decluttering and older parents.
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