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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

What can I do to help reorganize the house to help my mom?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1472points) 1 week ago

Over the years I’ve become really neurotic about cleaning and reorganizing. This is because my parents are essentially hoarders. nothing to the extent of those you see on TV – but hoarders nonetheless.

I’ve single-handedly reorganized entire rooms over the past several years, clearing out all this junk and gunk and forgotten stuff.

However, with all the work I’ve done, there’s still areas of concern and it’s still showing some ill effects.

Every now and then mom forgets to pay bills – like electric bills or sewage bills. A couple years ago the township sent a guy to just shut off our water. I remember watching him out my window like “Huh, I wonder what that guy’s doing.” Mom has never done this before and, well, it must be age. She’s been more scatterbrained lately. She often takes the mail but then throws it in a pile to look at later, forgetting to check them and thus totally not realizing it’s time to pay bills.

My dad wants nothing to do with any of this. He’s always been stingy so he never wants to spend money on any reorganization efforts. I’ve always been the one to pay for stuff to reorganize the house, like new drawers and boxes, etc. He also never pays the bills. He has an aversion to opening bills and leaves all the “number stuff” to mom, which is the other factor in her slipping recently – just overload on one person.

I’ve been making sure to be the first one to get the mail so I can say “Mom, here’s something really important to take care of right now.” But things still slip through, because a letter today notified us of yet another overdue sewage payment.

Her office is where the biggest mess currently is. There are so many papers and envelopes lying around. Unlike other rooms, every time I clean this one, another wave of junk piles up over time.

There HAS to be an effective system to manage this automatically. I don’t want to do this any longer and I’m at the age when I’ll be moving out soon.

For starters, I’m thinking of saving up money to give her a brand new desktop computer. She hasn’t had a new one in decades (again, because my dad hates spending money). She’s been hitching on my old laptops from college, so she’s been going back and forth between two old laptops. A new desktop computer would greatly improve her efficiency.

As for the mail – she’s fanatic about wicker baskets and I tried before telling her to use one basket for incoming mail and sort it out that way. But it just didn’t stick.

I’m starting to get at a loss here. I’m thinking of what other creative ideas, material or methodical, to utilize.

The closet in her office is filled to the brim with plastic boxes, mostly consisting of old photos. There has to be a better way of storing these instead of in this cramped closet. The last time I tried cleaning out her closet, I found one plastic box at the very bottom totally crushed, since they’re all stacked one on top of the other. She also has a habit of saving boxes – just all kinds of boxes. She keeps saying they’re useful but she never actually uses them for anything. I can understand that boxes for some electronics are good to keep, in case you need to return them, but others are totally pointless. I throw them out when I can when she’s not around or looking.

Any and all ideas greatly appreciated.

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5 Answers

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

First, do you want to come and organise my house?

Second, do your parents mind you taking over and organizing their stuff? Do they want your help? I understand you are trying to be helpful, but your parents have managed to raise you to be the person you are, so they can’t be doing too badly. I’m just concerned they could feel you are being intrusive if you take over too much or that they feel you’re suggesting they incompetent (and perhaps they are becoming so with old age). If you want to help them, they have to want to be helped or you’re wasting your time.

Perhaps a good place to start would be to sit them down and talk to them about your concerns and see what they have to say. Would you be prepared to take over managing their accounts if they are getting on in age? That would be the simplest way to resolve things being cut off. Can you have the bills emailed to you? Most utility companies where I live will now email rather than post bills. If they make you a signatory on their accounts, you can pay the bills for them.

Other than that, keep it simple and try not to get too irate when they don’t follow your plan. You obviously like things neat and they would seem not to care. The not caring might be that it’s all got out-of-control and they don’t have the energy to sort it out. So having that talk will be a good way to figure out what’s happening and if your help is needed or intrusive.

And you are a great son. You obviously care about your parents and want to help them. Good for you.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Your description of the situation would seem to indicate that your hope of escaping your parents to live independently is an unlikely prospect. Someone is going to have to manage things, and as you well know, the odds of catastrophe increase rapidly with every day your folks aren’t monitored. As far as the routine bills are concerned, is there any possibility of having these bills paid automatically from an existing checking account? The same idea should be applied to the source of household income- direct deposit if possible. But these are only tools to ease a burden that must increase with time. If you have siblings, it’s time to enlist them in this effort NOW. Familiarize yourself with local resources and programs dedicated to the welfare of seniors. And acquaint yourself with local networks of people in your situation. You’re going to be pleasantly shocked at the numbers of people facing similar challenges and there are plenty of them that have become rather expert at juggling the difficulties. Such people can save your sanity.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m a little confused. You speak of your parents as if they’re quite elderly, but on the other hand you still live at home and go to college.

How old are they?

jca's avatar

You can arrange to have utility and other bills like car insurance paid directly from your parents’ bank accounts or billed directly to credit cards.

If you just start cleaning and organizing, you are going to stress your parents out. One possibility if you want to help, is doing these tasks when your parents are out of the house. Perhaps a long weekend away will enable you to do some stuff.

As far as storage, if I saved every box for every appliance I ever bought, my house would be full of boxes. Throw those boxes out. For storing stuff, it’s more efficient to have things in plastic containers. That way, if there’s ever a flood, things won’t be soaked.

How old are you and how old are your parents?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I fully understand her obsession with boxes. My Mom did too. You never know when you might need one! So I do keep a few around. I feel the same way about empty glass jars.
It became much easier for me to toss those things when I started recycling. I didn’t feel so wasteful.

Yes, how old are your parents?

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