Tag Archives: organizer coach

Support Speeds Clearing Out Parents’ Homes

I was recently reminded about how having the assistance of a professional organizer can help

Mom and my step-father, John

adult children face and complete the clearing of a parental residence. I spent 4.5 hours helping a dear friend clear out her old bedroom in the home she grew up in. After a tour of the house to see the reality of the overall project, Carol (name changed to protect the identity of my friend) and I agreed that the best place for us to work together was in her childhood bedroom. She chose that project because it was the part of the house that she most dreaded tackling. I agreed because from our conversation I understood that her bedroom was a place where we were likely to find many things that could stir up strong and perhaps uncomfortable feelings from her past.

This kind of project can keep a person stuck in their clutter clearing process because they intuitively know that they will be taking a mental and emotion trip down memory lane, reviewing their history which is almost always a mixed bag of positive and negative memories that can stir both positive and negative feelings. Carol knew herself so well that she could predict where she might get stuck and flee from a project that had to be done. That type of project is a great place to bring in the support of a professional organizer who has experience working with people in emotionally charged situations.

Clearing out the home of a parent or parents ranks up there as one of the most challenging clutter clearing projects because when you empty a parent’s home, you are taking apart what’s left of their life. It also takes you back into the past and stirs feelings of grief and loss. Even if your relationship was not close with your parent(s), feelings are likely to come up because of their significant role in your life. If your relationship was troubled, disconnected, abusive or non-existent, you could feel sadness about not having had the type of relationship you wanted and deserved. If you had a good relationship and have lots of wonderful memories, you might be sad because you are left with a significant void in your life where once you shared good times, connected deeply, and made precious memories.

I am able to work well with clients who are in Carol’s situation, faced with the daunting, emotional, and overwhelming task of clearing out and closing a parent’s home because:

  • I went through that painful process myself when I cleared out my mom and step-father’s home four years ago. I learned so much about what it takes to get through that process and the realities of that type of mammoth undertaking.
  • I have had LOTS of experiences moving through my own grief (parents’ divorce, my divorce, the death of my mother, healing childhood wounds). In all but one of those situations, it was with the presence of support from a trained professional that I was able to heal and return to build a life of meaning.
  • I have a M.S. in counseling, so I know what works to help who people who are experiencing grief and uncomfortable feelings and move through feelings that could send them fleeing for a safer, more emotionally comfortable place. Most professional organizers without that level of training and experience aren’t comfortable helping people who feel sad, mad, hurt and the host of other feelings that tend to show up when clearing out a parent’s home.
  • I enjoy the opportunity and challenge of being present with people when strong feelings hit. I have both knowledge and experience as a counselor and Certified Organizer Coach® that have taught me that what works in that type of situation is to acknowledge the feelings that have presented and to inquire about the feelings, which offers the person the chance to stay with the feelings, explore what triggered the feelings, and ultimately manage them or release them so forward progress is possible.
  • I have 18+ years experience as a professional organizer doing this kind of work.

How does this work affect me? I feel so grateful for the honor of being allowed to be part of a person’s healing. I leave that type of situation knowing I made a significant difference for the person whether they acknowledge it or not, a difference that has the potential to lighten their emotional load a bit in a VERY complicated and difficult situation. I also know I have been part of helping them getting on with their lives after a significant loss. I feel very good about paying it forward, helping others as I have been helped.

If you find yourself faced with the challenge of clearing out a parent’s home, consider me a resource who can help you step into and move through the emotionally difficult parts of that process. I can be part of that process in any way that works for you. I can visit the home and recommend strategies for how to get the job done. I can do spot clearing with you in areas you tend to avoid as I did with Carol, areas that stir painful feelings or that seem too overwhelming because of the quantity items to be cleared, the messiness or nastiness of the space, and/or your difficulty making decisions. Or, I can help you with the whole project by working with you to break it down into doable bite-sized pieces, working with you hands-on so you can move through the process without getting stuck due to feelings associated with overwhelm, grief, and other strong emotions, and identifying other potential resources for support if needed.

Closing down a parent’s home can be a healing process with the right kind of support. Check out my website, call me at 804-730-4991 or email me at debbie@debbiebowie.com to learn more about how my support can help you clear your parent’s home more quickly and easily. 

Packing to Move: Identify Box Storage Areas

Packing to move house and home can be completely overwhelming. I have

A box storage area in a guest room.

A box storage area in a guest room.

done it many times, and over the years I’ve learned that the first step to take is to identify a place or places in your home to put boxes as you pack them.

Why would this be important? One option is to pack boxes and leave them in the rooms that you’ve packed up. If you do that 1) those rooms will be cluttered with boxes, and 2) the whole house will scream, “Everything is out of control. You are ripping up your roots and moving!” Sure, you are moving, but to emotionally survive a move it’s best to keep the house as uncluttered and “normal” looking as possible.

The option I am suggesting is to pack boxes, label them and move them to an identified box storage area or areas. That way the areas you’ve packed up stay clear of boxes and continue to feel much as they were before. How can that be, you ask? After all, you’ve stripped the space by packing. Smaller items may be packed up, but the furniture remains to hold the basic room configuration in place.

If you have a two story house, I recommend at least one box storage location on each floor. Larger houses may require several box storage areas. That way when you finish packing a box you can put it in a storage area without having to deal with stairs or walking great distances.

Areas that make good box storage locations are rooms and areas that don’t get a lot of traffic like guest rooms, sun rooms, dining rooms and garages. You can also clear furniture and other items out of a section of any room to make it a box storage area.

Once you identify your box storage area, you are ready to start packing!

Put Things Away, Prevent Clutter

Clutter is created in many ways. One of the most common is for people to just drop things instead of taking the time to put them away. People with ADHD in particular tend to move through their lives with such a sense of urgency that they often drop things because their ADHD brain convinces them that there is something more interesting and important to attend to than putting things away.

In the ADHD Group Coaching to Clear Clutter series I am currently running, participants are developing new awareness about clutter, how it happens, and how to get clutter clearing done. They have learned that their ADHD typically results in self-awareness challenges, one of which is that they often aren’t aware of how they create clutter.

Each week participants tackle a clutter clearing project and come to group to share their experience, their learning, their successes and challenges. This past week one participant spoke about the process of unpacking his vehicle after a camping trip. Because in group he has been urged to observe himself and his habits, he was able to watch himself reflexively start to drop items without taking the time to put things away. When he was about to put firewood down where it didn’t belong because it was expedient to do so, he caught himself. His new commitment to

A place for everything and everything in its place.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

prevent clutter and his desire to not destroy the good work he had already done, caused him to pause and think about what he was about to do. He told himself, “The wood pile is within easy reach. If I drop this here, I will be creating clutter.” He then took the wood to the woodpile.

After processing that client’s experience, the group came up with a new reminder to help them prevent clutter in the future: “If I drop something, it becomes clutter. If I take just a few more steps and a few more seconds, it will be put away and I can prevent clutter.”

Watch how you create your clutter. When you are tempted to just drop something out of place, remember, you have a choice: create clutter or prevent clutter.