The time may come when, as a caregiver, you may have to clean out the home of the person in your care. Organizing and decluttering personal belongings can be an emotional experience especially if you have to do a complete purge of every item in the home following a death.
For caregivers, cleaning out the home of someone you’ve spent time taking care of can be very difficult.
Or, you may just need to pare down the amount of items in order for the person in your care to downsize their living space or accommodations. It may even be a case of decluttering for the safety of the senior in your care. See our Elizz article on Home Safety Tips for Seniors.
In either case, it can be difficult deciding what to keep and what to get rid of when decluttering. All of a sudden, every item that person owned holds sentimental value, for them, and sometimes for you.
Despite the emotional task of the decluttering challenge, there are some people who prefer to tackle the “stuff” right away, while others prefer to wait until they feel ready. Where some people want to work through clearing out belongings alone, others are grateful for help. Choosing to handle decluttering tasks in the way that best suits you is perfectly okay.
Here are some easy decluttering tips to help get you started:
- Schedule the time - Set aside time to go through the home. It may also help to give yourself a deadline to help keep you on track. However, unless there is a reason for a set deadline, it’s perfectly fine to take your time. You don’t need to organize and declutter everything in one day. Plan to work at a pace that is achievable for you.
- Declutter room by room - It’s usually not necessary to organize and downsize the entire home in one go. It might be easier to go through the home of the person you are caring for room by room, or even break it into smaller pieces (a dresser one day, the office desk the next). Depending on your situation, and how you’re feeling about the task of decluttering, will also determine how to go about it.
- Sort belongings into four piles – Some people use the strategy of only touching an item once. So, once you make a decision on an item, you don’t go back to think about it again. Many people find sorting items into four piles helps in decision making:
- Consider special items – As you declutter, think about what you’d like to do with any special or valuable items. Is there anything you would be able to sell? Are there items that other family members or friends would like to keep?
- Organize important documents – This is the perfect time for organizing important papers such as financial and legal documents, in case they are needed later. See our Elizz article on Organizing Important Documents.
- Eliminate garbage - Throw out things that are obviously garbage, like anything that is broken or worn out, food that is spoiled, used toiletry items, etc. This can help you make a dent in the amount of clutter around the home.
- Donate to charities - Start a donation bag for items you feel good about donating. Some charities will even come pick up the items from your home. This is especially helpful if you choose to donate larger items like furniture when decluttering.
- Preserving memories - Some people find that taking a photo prior to donating or getting rid of an item helps preserve the memory in a more practical way. Remain realistic about how many items you can keep. Think about whether you have the space or not, and why you want to keep the item.
- Repurpose - If you (or someone you know) is crafty, look for some DIY projects as you declutter to repurpose items. A popular thing to do is to make a quilt out of a favourite t-shirt collection. It’s a way to preserve memories in a useful way.
When organizing and decluttering the home of someone in your care be mindful of the temptation to get a storage locker for all the items you couldn’t decide on. This is an added cost you probably don’t need, plus you’re just delaying the inevitable. Eventually you will have to sort through that pile of stuff again.
For caregivers, cleaning out the home of someone you’ve spent time taking care of can be very difficult. Other people may try to tell you what you should do, but remember you know what’s best for your situation. If you start to feel overwhelmed try taking a break, or only organize and declutter for a short period of time.
It may not be possible to sort through the belongings of someone you care for without getting emotional. It’s okay, and expected, that you’ll feel a range of emotions throughout the decluttering process. Ask for help if you need it; otherwise take as long as you need. Declutter one item at a time.