Every Christmas, dinner tables across Australia become the battle ground for adult children concerned about the safety of their parents, and parents desperately hanging on to their independence. And one of the biggest sticking points is clutter.
In the past, adult children demanded to know if the family home packed full of stuff sparked joy. Many elderly parents have been urged to embrace Swedish Death Cleaning as a means of living with less. Minimalist family members are putting pressure on others to join the trend. Gripped with FOTO (Fear of Throwing Out) parents feigned hearing loss and artfully change the subject.
The benefits of being organised are well documented, but it’s important to acknowledge that different generations have different experiences and priorities and being surrounded by a lifetime of acquired items can be a source of comfort and satisfaction for many people. The most important thing is that elderly parents are safe and well, and family relationships remain healthy.
If you’re concerned that your loved one’s clutter is interfering with their safety and well-being, it’s important to have a conversation, and it’s important to do it in the right way.
When is the Right Time?
Consider that maybe now is not the right time. Often at Christmas, people have brought their emotional baggage to the table. They are tired, stressed, and possibly under the influence of alcohol.
Set aside time away from the stress of a family get together to have a meaningful conversation.
When you do, here are a few useful things to keep in mind:
- Keep the conversation about the task at hand. Avoid being drawn in to side conversations about past family grievances.
- Ask curious and respectful questions, such as, “If you were to make a change, what would a first step look like?”
- Avoid badgering with the latest pop culture decluttering maxims. The only thing that won’t spark joy is the conversation.
We’ve developed these tips and many more for starting a conversation about hoarding and clutter that respects the differences and protects the relationship. You can get a copy of those tips here.