My old friend is closing up the house in which her children grew up. There are timetables she must honor which do not fit the inclinations and schedules of her far-flung offspring. But she’s a resourceful mother well-accustomed to forging excellent compromises with them.
I think the most wonderful example of this I witnessed was her walk through the house with a pack of post-it notes and her laptop connected to Skype, while her youngest looked over the furniture and made decisions from halfway across the country about what he wanted to keep. They’d already figured out the bit about moving the stuff to storage until it can be transferred.
Recently I ran into another friend whose mother is a bit of a packrat. This friend is experienced at calming frantic professionals (me, not the least of them) while solving their technical problems. She couldn’t wait to tell me how she had finally worked out the way to deal with her mother’s clutter. “You can put this in your blog!” she exclaimed.
She recognized that her mother could only concentrate on sorting for short short periods, half an hour or less, and only with her participation, so she began to make little trips over to sort through memories. But then the questions was how to get her mother to agree to let anything go, quite another issue…
…until my friend hit upon the phrase, “Oh! That would work really well over at MY house!” Immediately her mother would happily release the item (and we may all imagine, although perhaps it’s best not to say out loud, what happened after it arrived at my friend’s house.)
But my excited friend went on to relate that after many of these trips down memory lane, one day she found that her mother had pulled out a box and begun to sort through it on her own. That was a day for the record books!
My own experience… After months of watching me sort the clutter left by folks who’ve passed on, my husband (who, without a word of complaint, and some expressions of delight, has been moving all the boxes and bags of already sorted stuff out of the house for me) began to take responsibility for the sorting he needs to do himself.
“One box a day,” he decreed a few weeks ago, “At a fixed time every morning.” And he remains faithful to this commitment.
So we must be willing to work alongside them. We have to make allowances for their availability. We must honor their attention spans. We must exercise exquisite patience! But once they have tasted life in bright, open, cleared spaces the folks who need to be involved do begin to get into the game.