The house is decorated with the sights of Christmas. The tree is carefully hung with ornaments of Christmases from long ago. Grandpa’s star he brought back from the war is on top of the tree. The paper chains that uncle made in elementary adorn the banister. But then you start looking at all the other clutter that has been accumulated over the years. Maybe it is the box of records from the seventies that you are still keeping at your parents. Perhaps it is the Barbi collection from your childhood. Or maybe it is even the gift of ceramic chickens you gave your mom fifteen years ago.
As you visit start to look at what is accumulating. Are these gifts that you have given over the years as a well intentioned child? I am visiting my parents this week and staying in the basement and I see the ceramic jogger I painted my dad when I was in middle school. I started thinking, I wonder if my dad knows he can get rid of that? Boy I hope he knows that after 35 years he doesn’t have to keep it as my feelings will not be hurt. But what if he doesn’t know? It is up to me to tell him that he can get rid of it if it no longer brings him joy.
I asked if it brings him joy and he says yes. Truth be told it is in the room where the treadmill is, so maybe it is a good reminder of his running days. But at least I told him that he can get rid of it now. Looking around your parent’s home put on a different set of eyes. Put on the eyes of helping your parents downsize before they are forced to.
Here are some hints as you prepare to celebrate the holidays.
Buy only consumables. If your parents have to dust it, don’t buy it for them. Think food items or gift certificates to restaurants or movie tickets. Take their interests and hobbies into account. Zoo memberships and memberships to museums are great gift ideas.
Give the gift of travel. If your parents are healthy and like to travel, arrange a trip with them. No need to break the bank as this could be a weekend to the local big town or even a staycation. Plan some activities in the community and have fun.
Visualize where it is going to go. If you buy something figure out now where it is going to go. Don’t just buy a gift without seeing where they will be storing it or the long term care for it. Don’t create a clutter problem. Be a good steward of their space.
One in one out rule. I gave a hint to a friend to buy his mom a vacuum that is easier to maneuver as she has a heavy one. But I also told him to take her old one with him when he leaves. Don’t just add to the clutter problem. If you buy a new piece of furniture for grandpa and think he is going to replace his beloved recliner with it, make sure he is going to do that otherwise you will be faced with trying to squeeze in the new piece.
De-clutter your items. Did you move out of your parents home ten years ago and your bedroom is still intact or you are still storing boxes at your parents? Guess what, you need to remove it yourself. Chances are mom and dad are not going to do it as they don’t want to hurt you. But you need to take it upon yourself and deal with all of your high school stuff once and for all. Your mom might want to turn your bedroom into a sewing room.
Tell them they can discard gifts. It is nice just having the conversation with your parents to tell them that whenever you give them something that it is ok that they can get rid of it. They need to focus on if it brings them joy or they find it useful. If it no longer serves these two purposes it should go. Same goes for gifts they give you. I have clients who struggle with getting rid of something their parents have given them. Please keep in mind that love is not attached to physical possessions. The six foot tall nutcracker is not a sign of love.
Give the gift of time. As a parent to adult children nothing would thrill me more then if my kids took time to spend with me. Take an extended weekend to go home. Sit with your dad playing cards. Help your mom in the garden. Spend time and listen. You might just learn a few things. Make this time about them. Make it special and it may just be the best gift you give all year!
As you start making your list this year, think about giving with purpose and keep the above thoughts in mind. Some of the gifts cost nothing and those might just be the best gives you give!
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things!