How To Organize Your Parents: Part 1

Last week I had the privilege to speak in front of a group of about 150 Senior Citizens about the topic of downsizing. I veered away from the topic and talked about some really important things that may be happening in their lives.

Because of the show “Hoarders” we all know what one looks like. The term hoarder is now a common word that I use in my everyday talk with client’s. They all start out by telling me they are not a hoarder, and most are not. If you want to learn more about hoarding you can visit my blog post here.  Most of our parents are collectors and not hoarders. If you are worried that your parent my be a hoarder my first advice would be to get the help of a mental health professional. To determine if your parents are a collector or a hoarder, look at the level of shame. If they have people over, they are more of a collector. If they are a hoarder, chances are nobody ever comes over and visits their home. There is so much information on this topic that I could blog about, or even write a book about. However the only point I really wanted to make on hoarding, is with the first step which is asking for help with a trained professional.  There are many good books out there about hoarding and I would encourage you to search them out if you are in need. I turn to Judith Kolberg as the guru of teaching professional organizers about hoarding. There are also many good organizations that can help you if you think that your parents may be a hoarder.

 The next point I want everyone to understand is; Just because the children do not want their things, does not mean that they don’t love their parent! This is so important for our parents to understand. We are not rejecting them, we are rejecting the stuff that we do not have emotional attachment to. The items I do have emotional attachment to are things such as pictures or handwritten recipes. The things most children do not want from their parents would be furniture, china and clothing. Parents need to ask their children if they want any of the stuff and if the children say no…..the parents need to be okay with that decision. We live in a different time. We can go to a big box store and buy 5 shirts for $25. Our parents were maybe given a couple of new shirts and pants or a few dresses a year and that is all they got. Our parents probably had one couch that they saved for and paid cash for. Now we can buy couches with financing by making a snap jugment purchasing decision and have it in our home by the time supper comes around. I am not saying that this is right, I am just saying that the children have a different set of circumstances with their purchasing power. Have the conversations now. Come from a place of love, not judgment.

So maybe your parents homes are full of things that you see as junk. You need to understand the many reasons that they may still be holding on to many of the items.

Reasons People Keep Things:

  • They paid a lot of money for something
    • Memories of how they saved and saved to buy it
  • Because they may need it one day
    • Ask these questions
      • Can I replace it quickly?
      • Can I replace it for little money
      • When was the last time I used it?
  • Because it is still in good shape
    • Ask this question: When was the last time I used it?


To Joyful, Simplified Living,

MS. Simplicity

MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger  operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity.  She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at .  Need to contact MS. Simplicity privately, you can email her at  For daily organizing tips find the MS. Simplicity fan page  here.

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