Tag Archives: parents

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. 

Clutter Clearing Can Be Comforting

I’m sitting in McDonald’s in Kilmarnock, VA, taking a break from watching the process of my step-father’s death. I’m attempting to take care of myself in the midst of a very painful phase of life–helping parents at the end of life.

Because it’s hard for me to write and work on aspects of my business, I’ve been doing what I teach clients to do when they can’t do what they think they should be doing. I’ve been clearing easy stuff. Today the easy stuff is emails that just aren’t important given what is going on right now. It’s amazing how easy it is to clear out emails that I usually pause over. I just don’t have the time or energy to consider all the discussion group emails, the networking emails, the offers of products to buy. And, I certainly don’t need them cluttering up my inbox!

I’m saving all the kind notes of support from friends and people who read my newsletters and blog posts. I want to thank each person for their kindness. I’m responding to emails regarding appointments, speaking engagements and other aspects of my business. Nothing else really matters right now.

Somehow clearing out the non-essential emails has helped me feel more in control of my life at this moment. I am certainly not in control of what is happening with my step-father. The hospice nurse said the timing of his death depends on his will, that it’s between him and God. I’m just an observer of a process that is so much bigger than me.

Clutter clearing can be comforting in difficult times.

Feng Shui Organizer Missing In Action

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for the past four or five weeks from my weekly blog, newsletter and emails.  During the holiday season, it is common for most of us to become blitzed with too many obligations, with too much to do.  I suppose I’m no different; however I have been unable to keep up my usual posts and communications, not because of the holiday, but for what I believe to be a normal stage of life.  Normal, but utterly lonely and overwhelming.

My priorities shifted abruptly at the beginning of December and much of my normal life is on hold. On the 4th of December my step-father’s mental status took a turn for the worse, landing him first in the ER, then the hospital, then a rehabilitation and nursing facility, then the healthcare unit of a continuing care facility and finally home.

During that journey I learned that not only my step-father, but also my mother have dementia. Since Mom and John live 90 minutes away, my step-sister and I had to determine the best way to provide them both the care and safety they now need. My step-father’s dementia keeps him primarily unaware of the changes in his life. My mother’s cognitive impairment, however, is more challenging. Because she is more aware of what is going on, she has felt threatened at every turn by the our attempts to make sure she’s safe and has what she needs to stay happy and healthy. Dealing with dementia has been an education in patience, creativity and asking for help.

After spending time in almost all levels of care available to senior citizens, we discovered that a company called Visiting Angels could provide 24-hour in-home care for Mom and John. And, we have enlisted the services of Hospice of Virginia to help John make a peaceful transition from this life to the next. Mom and John are now able to be together in their peaceful home by the water with their cat, Harley.

I have had to do things I had hoped I’d never have to do, like take my mother’s car keys, request her doctor to officially determine that she is not competent to manage her affairs, drive and live independently. My life has felt like a tragic game of chess. Every time I think I’ve made the best plans and life will fall back in order, I’m led down a new path with a new problem to solve.

When exhaustion has threatened to take me under, I have somehow found the strength, guidance and assistance to keep going, guided by love and a commitment to do the right thing for Mom and John, whether they like it or not. There have been many lessons and many blessings.

I’ve learned that what I thought was best for my mother wasn’t. I’ve been blessed with a positive connection with a step-sister I hardly knew. She came to my rescue a number of times when I needed a kick-butt approach to make something happen. We’ve been blessed with help from Mom and John’s neighbors and friends, and the home care of the Visiting Angels and Hospice personnel has been outstanding. So many of my friends have taken time from their busy lives to let me know they miss me and send their supportive prayers. And, I’ve been blessed with an outpouring of love from Bob, my husband of 21 years. His appreciation of what I’ve been going through and how I’ve handled this trip through aging parent hell and his willingness to walk beside me through the difficult parts of this journey have kept me afloat numerous times when my little boat was at risk of going down from the weight of responsibility and turbulent emotions.

This is a journey I would never have willingly chosen. It has derailed me from my life and my business. I had the worst Christmas of my life. My feelings have ricocheted between profound sadness, fear, impotence, frustration, rage and numbness. I’m weary not only from the intensity of feelings I’ve been flying through and the physical demands of many trips back and forth to Kilmarnock, Virginia, but also from having to be the healthy, functioning “good brain” for Mom and John through this difficult transition.

This is my life right now.  I recall meaningful sayings from important places, such as, “One Day at a Time,” “This, Too Shall Pass,” and “Let Go, and Let God.”  I remember these sayings as I’m taking over management of Mom’s life and while I’m coordinating with my step-sister to arrange and maintain the best care for Mom and John.  We’re working hard to help them live with as much serenity and dignity as possible.

All this is to say that, for me, family is first.  I will not be able to be consistent with my online communications for some time.  But I will return when I can.  I long to return now.