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Encouragement to declutter

(19 Posts)
elena Sat 26-Sep-15 18:01:11

I have just visited my 93 year old aunt. She is drowning in clutter. It's not hoarder next door levels, as she has carers and the place is clean. They also ensure piles of paper don't build up. But every room is full of crappy ornaments and knick knacks, cushions, slippers, shoes, pictures, tons of cardboard boxes of god knows what, and last time I went into her loft I couldn't believe what she had up there. Masses of furniture including wash basins and a toilet, plus bags and bags of her late husband's belongings and clothing (he died 15 years ago). I knew things were bad but I had not been upstairs for a while.

She wants me to help her decide which items to leave to people in her will! No one in the family will want anything, as far as I can see. It will also take months to itemise and and decide. I have said we can start with a drawer of jewellery. There is nothing valuable in it, as it's almost all costume jewellery, but at least it's all in one drawer and I can do an inventory if nothing else.

She is an example for me to follow though. I will definitely not get to a great age before having a massive clear out!

glammanana Sat 26-Sep-15 18:10:46

I do think personally at 93yrs old your Aunt is entitled to keep any possessions she wants as long as she is not endangering her lifestyle the items are obviously important to her and at her age she will not have the inclination or energy to decide what to get rid of,she will no doubt have all her memories wrapped up in these boxes and if they are not a health or fire hazard I would tend to leave well alone and let her decide at her own pace,you must be a very caring niece to check on your Aunt as you do so many people of her age never see visitors or family from one week to the next.

rosequartz Sat 26-Sep-15 18:57:36

Probably each crappy ornament or knick knack holds a memory, and memories is what she probably thinks about when she is on her own.

Not sure about the toilet and wash basins though hmm what sort of memories they would hold!

She probably lost the will and/or the energy to de-clutter, which is a lesson to us all.

elena Sat 26-Sep-15 19:03:41

The stuff really does not hold memories for her. She wishes it would all go away. She has just left it too late to really get on top of it. Yes, any sorting out would have to be done at her own pace. Which means never starting smile

trisher Sat 26-Sep-15 19:26:48

She probably has no idea what there is in most of the rooms and the loft. Maybe you should just ask her to trust you to sort out and get rid of old clothes etc, You could tell her how grateful the charity shops are for such things and how much she would be helping. She may even like to choose who the things go to. My mother is 93 and lives in a sheltered housing flat-so has got rid of loads of stuff but she had still managed to accumulate a large cupboard full of bin bags! She went away for a week and we sorted it. She was delighted to find she could walk into the cupboard and find everything she needed.

FarNorth Sat 26-Sep-15 19:35:12

I agree with trisher.
If she'd like it all to go away but doesn't want to feel it is wasted, emphasising the gratefulness of charity shops (while maybe judiciously removing some things before they get there) could be successful.
Rather than aim to tackle the whole house, maybe she'd be happy to focus on one room / cupboard / drawer at a time.
Best of luck with the jewellery.

vampirequeen Sat 26-Sep-15 19:48:04

My elderly neighbour lived in a similar fashion. She was happy with her clutter. Most was rubbish but it was her rubbish. When she past away her son hired a skip and dumped the lot.

rosequartz Sat 26-Sep-15 20:06:39

We used to try to 'sort out' MIL every time we went.

Luckily there was nothing in the attic!
However, there were piles and piles of old papers, junk mail etc, but she got very distressed if we tried to throw it out. Old catalogues which she thought she may 'need' etc.

Grannyknot Sat 26-Sep-15 20:22:55

My DIL wanted to try cooking with a slow cooker, having enjoyed meals that I've cooked in mine, and I happened to see one still in the box in its original plastic wrapping and with the instruction booklet, in a local charity shop, so at £6:00 I snatched it up grin When I got it home and had a proper look, it had been bought in 1995 (there was a slip in the box with a date and some vouchers). I think it probably came from the home of someone as described in the OP ... my DIL is delighted with it, it is rather smart and works like a bomb, in fact it is much nicer than my one that was bought in recent years.

I'm so glad I married a minimalist otherwise I might tend towards accumulating stuff, he is utterly ruthless at moving things on and he cannot stand "bric a brac" grin or "nick-nacks" so I'd have no chance.

That sounds like a mammoth task that you have elena good luck with it!

jogginggirl Sat 26-Sep-15 21:21:26

No nicknacks or brick-a-brac here - any clothes not worn in the last 12 months or that don't fit anymore go straight to the charity shop. Books that have been read go to the local library. I am ruthless! I can't do with clutter, it just messes with my head.confused

I've been helping my mum recently who has become a little overwhelmed with 'stuff'. She was a little unsure but now is over the moon because when she goes into a cupboard/drawer/wardrobe - she can see exactly what she wants! I have just one more bedroom to do.

Because she has dementia as well - I think clutter was really adding to her confusion. To be honest, she has already forgotten what I took away. I did replace all the clothes (which were way too big for her) with some lovely new, pretty tops etc. and she was delighted smile

elena Sun 27-Sep-15 12:52:57

I have wondered if I should offer to help her do one room or cupboard at a time. To be honest I don't relish it. I tried to help when her husband died 15 years ago and got as far as boxing up stuff and getting a valuer in to make an offer for his map collection. The valuer made an offer but she thought she would get a better price elsewhere and then did nothing about it. She would not give his clothes away - this was a couple of years after his death - and I did not push it. Now she's got to the stage where she feels oppressed by the clutter but does not have the energy to do anything about it. If I went I and helped her do it drawer by drawer I think I would run out of patience, negotiating over every ornament and unopened packet of tights etc etc.

It will have to wait until she's gone, I think.

FarNorth Sun 27-Sep-15 17:15:19

Would she agree to you doing at least some of it on your own, for her, rather than her having to be involved?
Then you could just tell her it was all going to charity to be made use of, even if that is not totally true.
I can see why you'd feel daunted by the idea of starting but I think it would cheer up both your aunt and yourself, if headway could be made.

jogginggirl Sun 27-Sep-15 20:50:39

I did it on my own - my mum had gone to a day centre for the day. I discussed with her first though, I wanted to be respectful and did not want her to think I was 'taking over'.

I have three boxes here at home with me at the moment, mostly photos that are all jumbled up - I have ordered photo albums from Amazon and am going to put them in so it's easier for her to look at them. I have untangled all of her jewellery and put all of her earrings into pairs - again making it easier for her to find stuff.
I also used a dymo labelling machine and labelled her cupboards and drawers - moving all autumn/winter clothes into one wardrobe and spring/summer into another wardrobe. My mum absolutely loves it and is so happy to see everything in order again. It was too stressful for her before.

Any stuff that I can't do at her house, I pack into boxes and sort it here at home and then I take it back all neat and tidy grin

Anya Mon 28-Sep-15 06:08:19

I've just gone through my sister's 'junk'. My son and daughter were with her when she died and they loaded both cars with stuff and fetched it back to me. They didn't want the job, and everything stinks of cigarettes!

We also fetched a final box back after the funeral and arranged for what was left in her flat to be given away or dumped.

It's sad when there is so little left after a life that other people would want to keep. Things that meant so much to one person, that they bother to hang on to, which mean nothing to anyone else. Photos of long dead, but beloved cats, as one example. All her certificates, piano exams, 'O' levels, nursing qualifications. Diaries. sad

elena Mon 28-Sep-15 12:26:41

FarNorth, thank you for the suggestion, but no, she would not agree to that, and I would worry I was chucking stuff out she actually did want. There might be the odd cupboard or drawer she'd be ok about, though. I mean, she surely cannot need her husband's old stuff concern is that a lot of stuff is jumbled up, so stuff even she would not be bothered about is mixed with stuff she does not want to chuck and I'll be forever asking her sad Easier to wait until she's gone, maybe!

jogginggirl those ideas are great. I can't use them, but they make sense for others, I'm sure.

jogginggirl Mon 28-Sep-15 16:30:20

It's a tricky one elena - but kind of you to show such concern for your aunt.
As you say probably easier to wait until she's gone - less upsetting for everyone especially your aunt smile

Sadly, you are right Anya "things that meant so much to one person - mean nothing to anyone else" sad

Well, I am away to start on another load - I am putting together a memory box as well - putting all mum's memorable things in it - like special photos of her mum and dad, my dad's war medals and some love letters (they are so romantic).

Come to think of it, I haven't ventured into the loft yet, there may be more stillhmm

elena Mon 28-Sep-15 18:11:11

I wonder if you'll find a bathroom suite*, like the one in Aunty's loft, jogginggirl smile smile

* actually just the toilet and wash basin, but that's bad enough!

jogginggirl Mon 28-Sep-15 20:33:30



Elegran Mon 28-Sep-15 20:36:04

I think you were right first time.