Cleaning Out Your Late Parents Home

estate clearing

ClutterBGone receives many inquiries from people who have been left with the task of cleaning out their parent’s home after the passing of a loved. Many times one parent has passed previously and now the remaining parent has passed leaving a home full of memories to go through. Here’s a few tips to help the process go a little more smoothly.

Divide and conquer

If you have siblings get them involved. Besides being a traumatic time there will have to be a lot of time dedicated to this task. All hands need to be on deck to help and to support each other. You could also ask other family members and friends.

Be thorough

You would be surprised where ClutterBGone has found valuable items tucked away in homes where we have been called in to help when a loved one has passed. Some of the elderly still don’t trust banks. Others forget where they put things or forget that they even had them. Check all pockets, fan through books, look into the back of all dressers and drawers. You don’t want to miss something valuable even though it may be just a valuable memory.

Bring in experts

If needed, an appraiser can be worth their cost many times over. estate cleaningWhat you think may be insignificant may well be worth something. If there is a lot to sell give some thought to bringing in a third party to sell it for you. They will take a percentage of the sales but they take a lot of the work from you too. A professional organizer can help to sort, file and purge an estate when you just don’t have the time or people to assist you.

Donate the clothing

Most elderly people don’t spend money on clothes like people who work do. They just don’t need to. Unless you know there is a bit of vintage clothing in the home, you will be better off just donating the clothing to a charity that can ensure it is used by someone who could really use the items. Just check the pockets before giving it away!

Preserve the memories

You are going to come across a lot of memories during the cleaning out process. estate cleaningEnjoy it. Save all the pictures and letters that you want to and share them with family and friends. After the smiles and tears have gone consider preserving the memories in an album or a memory box.

As you go through your parent’s things a flood of memories will come. Enjoy the memories and take this time to say a final goodbye.

If you need help with cleaning out an estate ClutterBGone has assisted many families with this task. We are tactful, non judgemental and respectful. Contact us here to talk about it.

Don’t Leave Your Clutter For Others

leaving clutter to family

We don’t take our possessions with us when we pass. So, what do we do with all of our cherished items? Leave them to somebody else? ClutterBGone has worked with so many clients that have had to go through an entire house full of goods after the passing of a loved one, most of which nobody wanted.

Don’t leave the decisions to others

Most of our kids don’t have the same taste in home décor or furnishings and certainly not in clothes. Today’s Boomers want a more minimalistic lifestyle and don’t have the room for a lot of new items anyway. Leaving a house stuffed with items nobody will want is a burden on your loved ones. It will create stress on them to go through everything in a short amount of time while they are also grieving. Keep this in mind when preparing for your move or preparing your will.

Saying goodbye to items can be easy

Now that you’re no longer in the work force, someone else can use your work clothes. leaving clutter to familyThat suit or dress you no longer wear could help someone else look sharp in an interview. Are you going to use that silver server set you received as a gift a decade ago and still haven’t used it? The kids certainly don’t want it. Donate it to a cause where you’ll know it will bring joy to someone else. If you are up against a tough decision just ask yourself “Does it bring me joy”? If not, why keep it?

Money talks

You’ve heard that phrase “cash is king”? It’s true! Rather than leaving an item to someone that won’t use it or isn’t going to appreciate it, why not sell it and leave the money? Better yet, why not use the money for a little something you’ve always wanted?

Talk to your family about what they want

If you aren’t sure about who wants what, have a discussion with your family and find out. leaving clutter to familyThis can be a little sensitive to some but it will ensure that a special memory will be left to the right people. In previous jobs we have even had the names of family members put on the back or bottom of an item so there is no confusion at all. Let them know that leftover items will be sold, donated or tossed.

We all love our possessions but they don’t hold the same value to someone else. If you have recently retired or will be moving to a smaller space soon, now is a great time to make some decisions about what you will keep and what you won’t. ClutterBGone has assisted a lot of families in this exact same situation. We can also help you. Just contact us here.

theZoomer – Spring Cleaning Begins by Springing the Clutter from your Home

May 2018 – With the weather warming up, many of us are parting the curtains, opening up our windows, and allowing the sun and fresh spring air to whip through the household.
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A Guide To Helping Your Parents Downsize

Seniors downsizing

One of my family members is a senior who is currently going through the process of downsizing. It got me to thinking that most of us will have to address this at some time in our lives with a loved one.

Some of our parents are not going to be able to stay in the larger family home and are going to need help in downsizing to a smaller dwelling be it a smaller home, a condo or even a retirement residence. If you find yourself in the position of having to assist a senior in downsizing here are a few things to keep in mind when doing so.


The move and the preparations that are required are going to be an emotional time for both you and your parents. seniors downsizingExpect some tears, some smiles and maybe even some arguments. Keep your feelings in check and remember that it’s your parents that are being uprooted and moved leaving behind a lot of memories. Remember how you felt when your parents moved when you were young and the feelings you had? Most important is do not be judgemental. Perhaps a third party will be required to help with the process

Plan the new space

You will know the approximate size of the new rooms so sit down with your parents and decide what pieces of furniture are just not going to fit into the new living quarters. Maybe now is a good time to help out a child or a grandchild that could use a piece of furniture that is not going to fit into the new place. Explain that the piece will still get good use and will provide memories of them to the new owner. Maybe a sale would be in order with the money from the sale being used for something special that they want or need.

Precious memories

Decorative items are really the ones that make the place feel like home. Ensure that you know which are most important and pack them carefully. Once in the new place have them hung or displayed in a place for all to see to reduce the anxiety of the move. These memories will bring a sense of home and calm to them.

Now is the time to purge

I don’t know if it’s an age thing or not but many elderly people I’ve met tend to hang on to things and don’t want to let go. downsizing seniorsNow is a great time to go through the closets and drawers and toss anything that is worn to the point it is no longer wearable or donate anything that just doesn’t fit anymore.

As you go through the process remember the three piles – toss, donate and sell. Don’t be judgemental, be patient and let them know that there are people that could use the things they don’t need or don’t have the space for anymore. And remember – we are all going to be there at some point so compassion and empathy now will probably come back around later.

ClutterBGone has assisted countless GTA families with this process. We’re non-judgemental in our approach, compassionate and caring. If you need assistance with helping a loved one downsize just call (905-642-5669) or click here to contact us.

How To Talk To Your Parents About Downsizing And Letting Go

It’s a conversation we never want to have but for a lot of us the time will come when we need to talk to mom and dad about moving out of the family home into something smaller and more manageable or perhaps even into assisted living.

You may have noticed that they just can’t keep up with the family home any longer and for physical or financial requirements they need to move.

These tips and suggestions can take a little bit of the pain out of that sensitive conversation.

Start the conversation early

Don’t wait until the move is imminent. Start the conversation early on to let your parents know that you’re thinking of them and their welfare. Talk to them just to find out how open they are to the option and whether they’ve been thinking about it themselves. If you wait until the crisis has started you are apt to make plans that are less thought out causing undue stress on them and you.


Parents really don’t want to be a burden on their children so I think you’ll find they may be quite receptive to talking about it early to let you know how they feel about it and to express their specific wishes.

Make sure everyone agrees

It’s important to have all the siblings, and in laws as well, on the same page. Whether mom and dad are going to live with you, move into a smaller home or reside in assisted living it’s important that all family members agree on the plan and agree with the decision made by the parents.

Leave any emotional baggage or past disagreements outside. What’s best for your parents is what’s important here. Sometimes one sibling can feel guilty about placing parents in assisted living or wants them to stay in the family home for personal reasons. If you are not all on the same page it will cause anxiety and chaos for your parents.

Deciding what will go with them

Any move is likely going to result in smaller spaces. If your parents have lived in their current home for a long period of time you can bet they have accumulated a lot of memories and treasures.

Crowded home

Find out what is most important to them and see if it can be accommodated in the new home. If not, there are a lot of options to keep the memories close by such as memory books, shadow boxes and storage containers. Moving is tough enough but holding on to some of the most important memories will ease the stress.

Deciding what to do with the rest

Our parents are probably the last of the generations that hang on to things. Today we don’t hold much value for things like china or formal dining room sets. Our taste in clothes and jewellery is also much different.

Your parents may believe that everything they have still holds value and it does. Just maybe not the value they believe. Find out what charities they support and suggest they donate to that cause. Hold an estate sale or consign the larger items for sale if they want or need the funds. If need be you can always have a professional appraiser come in to have a final say on the value. If there are items being left to certain family members perhaps mom and dad want to give the item to them now so they can see them get the use out of it.

Keep them safe

Let your parents know that the discussions you are having and the assistance you are giving them is out of love and you are looking out for their best interests. You don’t want them to be burdened with a home they cannot take care of any longer nor do you want their new home to become a safety/trip hazard with items they don’t want or need in the new smaller quarters.

It can be a tough, gut wrenching conversation but if you start it early, be supportive and let them know it is out of love the conversation will go a lot easier. If you need help with the process of de-cluttering, downsizing or moving to smaller spaces contact me here and we can chat.

5 Signs That Your Parents Are Ready To Downsize

We all go through the stages of home ownership in our lives. First we rent, then we buy our first home, then we move into a larger home when we have a family and finally we downsize as we grow older.

Do your parents need some help in making this life changing decision? Here are 5 signs that they may be ready to downsize into something more manageable.

Are they having difficulty with the current upkeep?

Your parents want, and need, their independence. But sometimes pride gets in the way in refusing to downsize and acknowledge that they just can’t accomplish what they used to. The family home was just that – a family home. Purchased quite a while ago when there were children in the house. All of the children have moved out and have started their own families and your parents are still in the same house.

As the home gets older things start to need maintenance and repair resulting in expense or your parents reaching their physical limitations. If you see them struggling to maintain the home or property or are keeping it for sentimental reasons, it’s probably a good time to have a gentle discussion centered around moving.

Are they having financial issues?

Once you stop working you become dependant on your own savings and/or government assistance. It’s nice to know that your prescription costs are covered by the government when you reach the age of 65 and doctors visits are also covered. However not everything is 100% covered and let’s face it, as we get older we can normally expect to start dishing out for medical expenses not covered.


Entertainment costs, vacations and the home expenses start to eat away at savings. Many of the older generation believe in paying off the mortgage as soon as possible and using the value of the home towards their retirement.

Well, perhaps financial challenges are now coming to play and the equity in their home can be used to help them in their later years. They don’t have to be further away just because they sell their home. Many parents are now moving in with their adult children. Finally! Some revenge!

Are they having difficulty finding things?

When you visit your parents and you ask to see a family picture or a memento that you know they have, do they have difficulty in finding it or can’t locate it at all?

I’m not talking about the medical diagnosis of dementia here, just not being able to find something because of all the stuff your parents have in the home. It’s nice to be surrounded by items from the past but not if they are packed away because of the volume of items in the house.

I’ve suggested to many families that they create a Memory Box with the most important photos and remembrances and hang it on a wall for all to see. Just the sight of these items will bring back a lot of memories to cherish. If your parents are keeping a home just because they can’t fit everything they currently have into smaller quarters it is time to talk about downsizing and reorganization.

Do you feel your parents are not safe in their home?

As your parents age they may not be able to get around like they used to and perhaps don’t have the reflexes that they once had. Things they could easily manoeuvre around before or step over may now be a trip and fall hazard.

Elderly tripping cartoon

Remember that old television commercial with the lady who fell? – “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. If you feel your parents safety is being compromised by having too much stuff in the house, it is time to discuss downsizing.

Are they looking for a little freedom in their lives?

Perhaps your parents secretly want to buy that motor home or want to leave the cold for a couple of months in the winter. They feel guilty about spending that kind of money or feel guilty about being away from the kids or the grandchildren. They’ve probably worked hard most of their lives and they deserve to do these things while they still can. Let them know that they have plenty of time to visit in the warmer months and that by downsizing they will have the funds to enjoy themselves.

Downsizing may not be right for everyone but many of our parents are going to do it. Look for the signs and have the gentle conversation with them. It is of course their decision, but downsizing could have a very positive impact on their lives.

ClutterBGone has assisted many families with this life transitions and would be pleased to assist you as well. Contact us here for more information or to have any questions answered.

Organizing and Downsizing with Seniors: A Case Study – Final

unhappy seniorsDuring our last session with these clients we had completed the organization of their closet. The next focus for these wonderful clients was their guest room.  Unfortunately, over the last few years this room had turned into a catch-all for anything and everything that made its way to the second floor of this home.

The goal for our clients was to get the room in shape so that in the event family and friends were visiting and stayed over there would be a comfortable and safe place for them to sleep.  This included their much-loved grandchildren.

Another health hazard

From the amount of dust that had accumulated in this room it was clear that it had been impossible to clean with all the items that filled the room.  Dust was literally caked on most surfaces and the carpeting and was not only a health issue but it was clearly in dire need of a good cleaning.  Staining from spilled liquids was evident in many sections of the room.

Working with an organizing assistant we methodically sorted and categorized all items.  We brought in our working table and placed it in the hallway adjacent to the guest room, using it as a staging station for smaller items.  When working with older clients it’s very important that we don’t require them to continually bend to review items.  Therefore the table works very well for easy review of items we sort.

There was quite a bit of furniture in this room and many drawers to empty.  There was also a closet which required emptying as well as desks and side tables.

Anger and sensitivity

At one point Mr. X came up to the room needing to have a talk with me about Mrs. X.  She was apparently quite angry with him over the state of clutter in the home and in this room in particular.  She was feeling embarrassed by the dust and debris and Mr. X was feeling the strain in their relationship.  He was sincerely concerned about the level of anger expressed by Mrs. X and asked me whether that level of anger was “normal” in these situations and whether I had come across this type of behaviour before.  He stated that he had never seen Mrs. X this angry and he was quite worried about it.  It was also evident that he did not know how to deal with it.  My assistant, sensing the sensitive nature of my discussion with Mr. X, quietly left the room so that we could talk without Mr. X feeling embarrassed.

Organizers are often called to counsel clients as well

It’s not unusual that in my role as a professional organizer I also play the role of confidant, counsellor and teacher.  While Mr. X. shared his personal concerns I listened attentively, providing reassurance and understanding.  Only when he asked for advice did I actually provide him with some solid ideas to communicate with Mrs. X. in an open and understanding manner and help him to understand what was behind Mrs. X’s emotions.  He found this very helpful and later in the day he spent some time with Mrs. X working through some of the issues.

In the meantime, rather than be downstairs with Mrs. X., Mr. X preferred to give her some breathing room and time to cool down so he decided to stay upstairs with myself and my assistant.  It was as if being with us was a safe haven for him at that particular time.  It was easy for me to sense this by his actions, verbal and non-verbal clues.  I therefore provided him with some simple tasks for him to complete, keeping in mind his physical restrictions.  I did not want Mr. X. working in the guest room directly due to the thick dust and his respiratory issues so I made him comfortable in an adjacent room with a task that would keep him occupied and feeling useful until the air had settled between him and his wife.

By the completion of this session we had not only transformed the guest room into a functional space for visitors but also created various zones in the room for the storage of children’s toys, storage for Mrs. X and storage of extra linens. And just as important, Mrs. X. was thrilled with the results and was joking, teasing, smiling and cuddling up with Mr. X quite nicely.  He had a great big smile on his face when we left!  All was well once again.  Another happy client!

Organizing And Downsizing With Seniors – A Case Study Part 3

Organized_office_roundedIn my last post being Part 2 of this case study, I talked about how the organizing projects I do with my clients are like Disneyland for me.  I get quite excited going through the various spaces with my clients knowing that the changes we make will be transformational.

Continuing with the tour

Moving along with our tour of the issues of concern for my clients, the third room was a spare bedroom that had been taken over with a variety of household items. This room had become a dumping zone.  It’s not so unusual that, after getting home from busy day you drop items off wherever you happen to be and then forget about them.  The issue is that if this is done repeatedly over a long period of time, a space can slowly fill up to the point that you cannot even clean the room, dust or vacuum.  This then becomes a health issue.  This is especially true if you suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues. My clients wanted this room to be able to be used for grand children when they visited however it was absolutely impossible at the moment.  Clutter and dust littered every surface.

Safety issues are a real concern

Next up on the tour was the basement.  Going down the stairs we had to be careful because items had been placed on the sides of the stairs.  This is a real safety issue, particularly for older couples that may be challenged with mobility issues.  Tripping and slipping on items is a real concern.  Mrs. X. stayed upstairs while I toured the space with Mr. X.  There were pathways in which to make your way around the congested finished basement area however it was often necessary to step over items and manoeuvre.  It was evident that the basement project alone was a large undertaking, one that I was excited to dig into.

So the tour of the spaces was completed and we settled back up on the living room to talk about time estimates, costs and next steps.

Next steps

The scheduled session to begin the project focused on the closet space with the overflow pantry items.  During the consultation, in my mind I had estimated 3 hours to complete the organization of this space.  However when I returned for the actual session and opened the closet it seemed to me that there was at least another foot of items piled on top of what had already been there.  Either that or I had forgotten exactly what it looked like, which is entirely possible.  Often times I take photos of the space we are working on, not only for my own reminder purposes but also for education and training for my staff.  In this instance our client had asked that photos not be taken so we of course honored and respected that request.

Fast and furious to sort and categorize

I knew I had to work fast to completely empty the closet, sort and categorize all the contents and then work with the client to make decisions on what was to stay and what was to go. I worked crazy fast that day wanted to ensure I was out and finished in 3 hours as scheduled, but as I plowed through more and more items I discovered there was a bevy of alcohol bottles hidden on shelving so I had to move carefully.  When I reached the bottom of the closet several pop bottles and cans had leaked and burst so there was quite a sticky mess on the floor.

I’ll carry on with this case study in my next post and will talk about the final stages of the closet project and where we went from there. Stay tuned!

I wonder if any of you reading this post have every discovered a wet mess on the bottom of your closets?  Write in and let me know how you handled it.


Helping Older Adults & Seniors Downsize

downsizingEvery year thousands of older adults and seniors face the decision of whether to downsize to smaller living accommodations or to stay in their existing homes.  For some the decision to downsize is made for them due to serious illness or perhaps the death of a loved one.  Sometimes the comfort and safety of people comes into play. But regardless of the reason, the upheaval and relocation can be traumatic.  My experience in this industry has clearly indicated that it is even more so for seniors.

I received a call from a gentleman whose mother was living alone and had recently injured her leg falling over piles of newspapers that she had collected.  He was concerned for her health and safety due to the amount of belongings and clutter that she had accumulated.  He wanted to move her into a condominium and was looking for assistance in helping to sort through a lifetime of her possessions.

Safety First

Safety is usually the first thought that comes into mind when considering downsizing.  Home location and its construction are very important issue to consider.  A few questions you may want to ask yourself are: (i) is the home easy to get around in? (ii) can the maintenance of the home be easily managed by the occupant? (iii) how close is the home to local shopping centres and banks?

Limitations regarding the physical abilities of the people in the home are also relevant and need to be considered.  Can basic personal hygiene be handled?  What about manoeuvrability in and out of the bathtub or shower?  What about memory issues as it relates to safety?  Leaving a burner lit on the stove or a pot boiling over can be a potentially dangerous situation.

Let the idea of downsizing marinate.

If you know an older adult or senior who should consider downsizing, it’s best that you introduce them to the idea slowly.  Many well-meaning family members may push too hard resulting in more resistance.   Sometimes it’s helpful to suggest  to your parents that they may wish to make the decision of moving to a smaller home when they still can.  Sometimes illness or injury, like that of my client, ends up making the decision for you and you are then forced to move when perhaps you don’t feel ready.

Emotions play a role.

Often times adult children don’t play an active role in the downsizing process due to other family and work obligations.  The stress and tension can be very high for all members of the family and often times it’s best to call and hire an experienced professional organizer to assist and make the process run smoothly and without trauma. In addition, adult children often feel a lot of turmoil when long time family possessions are sorted and pared down.  I have personally seen the upheaval of emotions cause conflicts among family when these conflicts could easily have been minimized by initiating a few simple organizing and downsizing strategies to be prepared.

For me, working with older adults and seniors is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.  I don’t just work for my clients, but with them, side by side, hands on coaching, motivating and encouraging.   Working collaboratively I have helped clients make decisions on what to keep, what to pass on to family or others, and what to be discarded.

Senior couple

One way I like to encourage and motivate my clients is to suggest that the preparation of a move to a smaller home is the first step of a fresh start, a new chapter in their lives and perhaps an even greater adventure!  Preparation is key to a successful downsize so that precious memories can still be treasured while streamlining for a simpler and more efficient lifestyle.