Friday, July 8, 2011

My Folks & Clutter

I started writing this post about 10 days ago.

Here is how it started

My parents' clutter is breaking my heart. We have gone over there every Tuesday for a couple of months, to do laundry and grill food. But we stopped by briefly on Sunday, to say "Happy Father's Day," and it was too gnarly in there. It smelled awful. Kaden always says it smells like cat poop, but I don't smell that. I could only smell the dishcloth, filling up the whole kitchen.

But cut out the whining; I want to help. That is a HUGE reason I wanted to move back to Olympia from Bellingham, truth be told. I figured I'd be over there every weekend clutter clearing, and we'd have them dug out and ready to retire to Texas in no time!

Over the years, the things I've read about clutter have become second nature to me. It is OBVIOUS to me that clutter holds you back, prevents you from moving forward in your life, and stands in the way of relationships, especially with yourself. I also understand the flip side: what would you have to face, if you didn't have a house plus 4 sheds full of clutter? If you didn't have the overwhelming 3/4 acre, all hill piece of property to tame? If your 22 year old daughter (my sister) ever left home.

Last weekend, I was over there, helping paint the house. The house has not been painted in about 25 years. The house has not been all the same color for about 5 years. My first task, after the hour-long bike ride over there (SO LUCKY to have bike trails almost the whole way!!), was to clean off the front porch. It is a bit misleading, since the "front porch" is on the opposite side from the street. My parents live on a lake, and therefore the side facing the lake is the "front."

I took everything off the porch. I wish I had a picture of it. There were garden tools hid in boxes behind and under other boxes. There were pans of pretty rocks covered in spiderwebs. There were crates of old wooden shingles. There were buckets of house paint and cans of spray paint. And other stuff. You couldn't get to the grill to cook, or to the seating to relax and enjoy the lake.

We did a full day of painting, and then I dug into the decluttering. I was getting tired and cranky and couldn't decide whether to stay and get the job done, or go home. And I was frustrated, especially with all the stuff my mom wanted to keep, as obviously she hadn't used any of it in at least a year - it was buried!

The next day, I was recounting the story to my husband, and I realized that I have to let it go. I am much more upset about my parents' clutter than they are! Maybe what I want for them isn't what I need! I am leaving that typo, because I meant "isn't what they need", but it's not what I need, either. I don't need them to be decluttered; I need to be decluttered. They don't mind living that way and they don't complain about it and to the best of my knowledge they don't lose things. Everything I have learned about clutter clearing has taught me that it is in their best interest to declutter. But everything I learned about clutter clearing has also taught me that you have to be ready for change, for BIG change. And if they aren't, that's not my business.

From now on, I will only help when my help is requested. I am more than happy to be there and support my mom when she wants to work on it. But I can't go over and force them, I can't whine to them about why they don't need whatever item (I definitely notice my voice going into a whine in those situations). I will focus on my decluttering, when I need to, and let their clutter be until I am asked to help.


Jill Foley said...

I can so relate to this. I don't visit my often as she lives in the midwest, but when I do her clutter sometimes affects me physically. I have to let it go - it's hers, not mine (thank God!). I guess what's lurking in the back of my mind is that someday it might all be mine to deal with.

I Read. Do You? said...

Wow. I can relate, too. My parents' home is exactly as you described. My parents live two states away and yet I think about their clutter every day. Over the past year I have really been working on my mental attitude towards their clutter. It's a complicated situation as my parents get older and I know it will be my mess to clean up.

tammy j said...

being 66 and a minimalist from long ago... my entire life i guess... i can only say one thing about people my age who are clutterers (or hoarders)... it is a cruel thing to do if you die and leave your children to wade thru that mess when they are feeling the most grief and lack of motivation for it.
i don't know why my age group and even older seems to 'hang on' to every single thing! it makes one feel old i think. and their houses usually "smell" like old people live there! they never figure that out. lol.
you are a wise and loving daughter.
guess it falls under "live and let live."

Liina said...

Thanks for the comments and support! I too have thought of the future, of my, shall we say, "inheritance". To make matters worse, by husband has parents who are tidier but probably have as much stuff, just in a bigger house. Furthermore his aunt is a single woman who has all of her parents' (my husband's grandparents) stuff from when they passed away - some in her house, some in storage hundreds of miles away. And we know neither his brother or my sister are going to be of much help - so we are going to have a LOT to contend with some day! I just hope it doesn't all come at once! But it sure is motivation to control our own belongings.

K.D. said...

What a moving post. I can relate and I'm glad you kept your insightful, unintended sentence: "Maybe what I want for them isn't what I need!" Other people's clutter always seems easier to see. I wonder what would happen if we asked our parents to help us de-clutter our own homes... Scary, I'm thinking.
Best wishes.