Ah, spring cleaning. The price we pay for the joys of warmer weather. As we revel in the blossoms adorning newly-revived shrubs and limbs, the indoor clutter we’ve accumulated over the winter months somehow feels less cozy, more confining. Time to put away, give away and throw away.
Of course, if you’re serving as caretaker for elderly parents or other seniors, that usually means you have the pleasure of doing—or at least supervising—their spring cleaning as well. If your parents are still mentally sharp, your responsibility is largely a matter of encouraging and facilitating. If your mom or dad is less-capable of decision making, you may have to—while treading carefully—begin to decide whether the 18-quart roasting oven, the riding lawnmower, and the collection of mismatched punch bowl cups really need to keep taking up space.
Either way, broach the subject of spring cleaning gingerly. Tell your parents about your own adventures in de-cluttering and suggest that they may want to begin unburdening themselves of unneeded or unwanted items. With their cooperation, make lists and consider options. For example:
- Help your parents make a list of things they haven’t used in more than a year and gauge their attachment to those items. If they’ve had a lawn service for the past couple of years, they may be willing to part with heavy-duty lawn equipment. Clothing that no longer fits, or a cache of linens for twin beds that were given away years ago, fall into the category of easy-to-part-with items. With their input, decide whether such items should be sold, given away to friends or family, or donated to charity. Once a decision is made, move quickly to get those items out of the house.
- Suggest that your parents may want to give away some things they aren’t using. Perhaps a sibling could use the heavy-duty roaster since she makes Thanksgiving every year, or perhaps a grandchild—who is making costumes for a school play—could use the sewing machine that’s collecting dust. Many seniors welcome a chance to see their possessions in use and being enjoyed by family members.
- Respect sentimental attachments. Your mom may be willing to part with end tables and side tables that block paths and interfere with her ability to move freely through the house, but her mother’s giant armoire may be non-negotiable.
- Once unneeded or unwanted items get removed, help assess small repair needs. Loose stair rails, falling gutters, uneven sidewalks, and unstable bath fixtures all represent safety risks. Get estimates from professionals or gather handy family members to make repairs.
After excess belongings have been dispensed with and repairs have been made, actual roll-up-your-shirtsleeves cleaning can begin. If your parents are still somewhat active, ask what sort of assistance they’d like. Maybe they just need grandchildren to run things up and down the stairs or straighten disorganized cabinets, drawers and closet bottoms. Perhaps all the bending and stretching involved in cleaning the fridge is just too much. And certainly they’ll want someone to climb ladders and dust ceiling fans and light fixtures.
Again, make lists, assign tasks or hire help for specific chores (like scrubbing and cleaning the lanai and patio furnishings). Set realistic goals and once the work is done, celebrate by going out to dinner, or bringing takeout (with paper plates) to the house. You’ll have spent quality time with your parents and, with all you’ve likely donated and gifted, done more than a few good deeds. For more tips on spring cleaning, check out this helpful article.
We know that every family is different and each caregiving situation is unique. For support with specific adult and senior related issues, call 855-781-1303 to speak with one of our care advisors. We are here to offer guidance and access to local credentialed resources for you and your loved ones. We look forward to hearing from you.