When our home became a multigeneration family household, I found that the clutter factor exploded. I did want my mom to move in with us–I was glad to have her–but I didn’t realize that she wanted to keep every wadded up ball of aluminum foil and every plastic bowl or plate she had saved from a frozen meal! Along with the family photographs and heirloom came ten pounds of crap. Pardon my language, but what else do you call it? Standing in my kitchen and surrounded by more boxes than a U-Haul could hold, I found myself on the verge of tears. How could I manage a house of seven people, two dogs, and a cat? I had to somehow tame the mess, feed and nurture them all–including me. Little did I know that clutter came hand-in-hand with caregiving.
7 Tips to Tame the Multi-Gen Clutter:
- Throw things out when they’re not looking. You have to. If not, you’ll drown on VHS tapes, plastic cups, and magazines from the 80’s.
- Create a video/dvd/cd archive. Hire your teen or college kid to scan in your photos and then store–or ditch those paper copies. Make a back-up disk and give copies to other family members. Do you know that I have over 20,000 photo scanned now? Crazy.
- Create centers–places where things go–and then become the enforcer! All coats in the hall closet–not draped over the chair. Have a homework center, medicine center, library book center and video game center. Be a stickler about making sure everyone puts their items in the centers.
- Instill a 5 minute clean up time–and do it several times a day. Everybody pitches in–and be sure to do it before bedtime. 5 minutes times 5 people is the equivalent of you doing a 25 minute clean-up alone.
- Tell yourself it’s for a season. Face it, seven people, seven times seven. You’re just going to have to deal with some of the clutter. Having my mom’s knick-knacks sit around wasn’t exactly my choice of decorating style, but it gave her a sense of home–and that matters more. Today, my mom is gone, and I’ve completely decorated to my taste–but I miss my mom.
- Choose one surface that will always stay nice. Put flowers on your dining room table and forbid anyone’s junk/medicine bottles/backpacks/mail, water bottles, etc., fill your one serene space.
- Your bedroom–your sanctuary. Don’t let your bedroom or bath become the dumping ground. Paint one wall a soothing color. Get a new bedspread and decorate your sidetable with things you love–good books, magazines, mints, pens, and few photographs you love. You may not be able to control the whole house, but your sacred space is vital to your sanity, and to your heart.
Stuff is just stuff.
Family is infinitely more important. But you have to be able to locate them…in the midst of the clutter!
Carol D. O’Dell
Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle