How to Declutter

Hi! Vicki here, the founder and CEO (as well as chief exhale officer). I’ve dealt with decluttering first-hand.

It can feel like it’s suffocating you. For me, it’s been arduous and emotionally draining, but I have learned a thing or two as I continue to tackle this ongoing project.

Here are my tips to get it under control because on top of your parent’s health care, medical bills, everything else bills, the last thing you need to worry about is the house.

What tips do you have to share with our community who may need to hear it? Feel free to mention them in the Exhale First Facebook group! For starters, here are mine:

  • Hire someone. You may need an unbiased helper, a professional, another pair of hands. I found an awesome professional through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing. Identify a few organizers near your parent’s home, interview them and depending on your budget, go with the one you feel is most appropriate and budgetworthy. They can be a lifesaver!
  • Recruit a buddy. Sure, the economical answer would be to enlist a sibling and/or friend, but just know it may lead to the next bullet. (I had a friend who was a purger and tossed everything, many things without my knowledge that I needed to keep. Even after politely speaking with her, she denied it and continued to do it which led to the exit door.)
  • Fire someone (hey, it happens). Hopefully it won’t come to this, but if the person you asked to help is inefficient and a waste of time (or if he starts hitting on you in the family room like what happened to me—ew! Wrong time, wrong place buddy), move on fast. You don’t have time for this. Every ounce of your being needs to be micromanaged and preserved—and this includes decluttering.
  • Create four piles. Donate, trash, sell online and keep. For safekeeping, guard it with your life. If something is precious, immediately take it to an off-site storage unit, your home or a safety deposit box. If it’s still in the house and an aide has access, assume it will be stolen. Let’s repeat that again for emphasis: assume it will be stolen.
  • Give yourself a deadline. And a hug. This can be arduous and emotionally painful. It may bring happy tears among priceless memories, but it may not be easy especially if your parent’s a hoarder. Cut yourself some slack which is all the more reason why you’ll need someone there to power through and hopefully provide some emotional support.
  • Start small and declutter before you even have to start. Start with a drawer a day or a corner of a room. Carve out time and a little space so the house can be broken down into small, digestible bites.
  • Buy plenty of trash bags. This goes without saying.
  • Move your body, hydrate and take breaks. Your health is important and going up and down stairs 30 times within two hours is definitely exercise, but it may also be exhausting.
  • Streamline processes. If you donate clothes for instance, to local organizations like Purple Heart, create a system: where are you going to put the donation, how often are they going to pick up, etc. And remember to include it as a tax write-off.

Legal disclaimer: Exhale First content is informational only and not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.