I have just come back, having spent a couple of weeks decluttering my elderly and disabled parents’ home. One of the triggers for this was watching a Youtube video where someone was describing house clearing after their parent’s death. Don’t get me wrong- I am not wishing for an early death of my parents but this is was a practical necessity as my parents do not have the time and inclination to declutter now. They were brought up in extreme poverty and have got into the habit of extreme saving. They have kept everything from scraps of rags, my school books to letters, just in case, even though they no longer had any use for these. There was a danger from not only vermin infestation and hygiene issues but also the clutter was in the way of them getting about their lives- my mother often fell down as she hit something. I have often helped other people after their deaths to declutter but with my parents, I wanted to do it now to help them to make their lives easier.
The decluttering was physically and mentally very tiring- I had to stop often and rest. It is also very interesting to see what people collect towards the ends of their lives. In the case of the people I had helped in the past, I remember a man with over 40 mirrors and a lady with a room full of scented soaps! In my parents case, while they used only 20% of the space and contents, the rest was full of books and stuff left by my siblings. They also had huge amounts of kitchen paraphernalia and crockery- mostly not needed now as they only used one or two plates. While I was clearing the stuff, I also went through my own therapy. I saw how what my parents had collected was also reflected in my own home- too many books and crockery! Why did I do this? Even though my parents must have influenced me, I cannot blame my parents as I have had enough time to correct this tendency myself. But I found it very interesting to see how my childhood in a cluttered home had led to my own clutter and disorganised home.
Some people react in different ways to their childhood environments- some children grow up to be very organised as an antidote to their parents’ disorganisation. In my and my siblings cases, we had all become very disorganized and cluttered as we grew up. So when I returned home, I started to take a deep look at what was in my home and where. My mother is especially grateful to me as we managed to sell some of the stuff and make some money. However, I am even more grateful to her for letting me do this and also take the decluttering further and clean up my own environment. For those who want to declutter, it might be a useful thing to examine the place they grew up in- it might offer clues as to why you are what you are now. This decluttering of my own place has had effect on my own children- they have naturally begun to give things away and keep their bedrooms tidy- a small trickle effect. This is much better and more effective solution than nagging at your children to be tidy.
Now the clutter of my parents has a very different origin to my own but the effect is the same. My parents wanted to save every scrap of thing that they had because they were poor while I just have too many things. So regardless of the intention, the effect manifests in similar ways. Some people believe that by treating the cause, you will cure the problem. But I believe that just like how you can change your mental attitude by forcing yourself to smile, in a similar way, this problem can be tackled by just removing the clutter. As soon as I moved her stuff outside to the yard and the rooms began to look clear, my mother began to clear up other areas of the house herself. She needed to experience the clarity of the space to get clarity of her intention. It is said that making people clear up their clutter is impossible but I think through this experience, it can be done. In fact, each person comes to the point when it all gets too much and they want someone to help them. It is at this point that this kind of help can be given, not before. My mother wasn’t ready before. The fear of letting go of things is tied to the fear of dying, as people relate their possession of things to their lives. Letting go is very freeing and empowering- that relates to both possessions and people!