Telling My Parents They Have Too Much Stuff

Telling my parents they have too much stuff wasn’t easy. The words were easy to get out, but I couldn’t help but feel disapproving and critical – who am I to judge?

I’m an organizer, that’s who! Being committed to supporting everyone in their efforts to organize, de-clutter and minimize, it was becoming increasingly apparent that my parents were overwhelmed and stressed out by the amount of stuff in their house. When they even consider the inevitability of moving to a smaller home, they get really stressed!

So, what to do about this? First things first, I have amazing parents. For over 45 years, they have been loving and supportive from the comfort of their suburban home, the house my sister and I grew up in. They’ve cultivated a home where all of us could thrive as a family. Growing up, I had everything I needed so I just figured that all the stuff in our house was normal.

Fast forward 25 years and things are different. When I started organizing professionally, I began to realize how much stuff we had in our family home. Items from every era, and every family member, stored in large closets, cupboards and dressers, as well as the basement, shed and garage. So many items not being used.

As they age, I worry about their ability to handle all their stuff. Wanting to help them think seriously about a process for “letting go”, I went through the benefits of minimizing and de-cluttering – more space, time, money, freedom, etc. My sister and I can help some, but letting go requires the “owners” to do most of the “heavy lifting” to be successful.  Plus we have too much of our own stuff to deal with!

A few things became apparent when I told my parents they had too much stuff.  They recognized that:

  • owning so much stuff was increasing their stress
  • starting the minimizing and de-cluttering  process felt insurmountable
  • the time never seemed “right” to do it
  • baby steps were needed to make the process doable
  • their emotional attachment to their stuff would be the hardest part to overcome

My first task was to assure my parents that this process was not impossible – we all need to feel like things are possible. Part two was to walk through the emotional process of letting go – the hardest part of the process.  Finally, I assured them I was there to help but ultimately, decisions were theirs to make, not mine. Once we addressed that, it was important to simply start, with a small task like the basement clothing storage.

The process is unfolding. Items are being sold, donated, thrown out and/or recycled. It is a good start, with much more to come. As I help my parents through this challenging yet freeing process, I am also uncovering items of my own in their (formerly “our”) house which is interesting.

One of the nicest things is recognizing that our family home has had a great life and it’s now time to clear some of the old to get ready for the new, whatever and whenever that may be.

I know that my parents, and so many others, can truly benefit from minimizing, de-cluttering and organizing. If you know someone who could benefit from the words, “you have too much stuff”, I urge you to let them know, support their next steps, and let them know there is help if they need it. That way, we can all be part of this life-changing endeavour.

Your feedback, comment and suggestions are always welcome below or email me to learn more.