After 20 years in the same house, my recent excavations have been daunting. A “category 2” packrat, i tend to hang onto things that may have future utility, but toss out newspapers, broken things, many “sentimental” items and donate any knick-knack that is ugly or useless (or both) to charitable thrift stores. Periodically purging things like college class notes, financial info and unused clutter.
Mom has lived in the same 1500 square foot home since 1960, and is a world-class “category 5” packrat, a true child of the Great Depression, unwilling to throw out anything. That would be nearly fifty years of newspapers, plastic flowers, church bulletins, family heirlooms, desiccating school projects, collectible decorative items (ie: bells, eggs, plates, spoons…). Co-mingled — wheat, chaff and goat hair macrame – and randomly stashed into boxes, bins, bags, piles and every available space in a 2 car garage.
Over the years, we’ve tried to help her de-clutter and organize, but she has an unhealthy attachment to “things”, even at the expense of human comfort and dignity. Mom will be 80 next month, and is fiercely independent – to help maintain that independence, i got her a “Life Alert” system last January. After bypass surgery she’s accepted that she is very dependent on others for her daily activities – primarily my niece, DQ and her husband BJ, who live next door to her.
DQ and BJ are planning to move. In an on-going series of discussions, i’ve been going over options with Mom:
a) Stay in the house, deal with the solitude and make do as the house falls down around her.
b) Stay in the house, invest in repairs/excavations and be willing to allow professionals in to assist her (cleaning, medical, etc).
c) Move to an assisted living community, where she can dial-up additional support as needed and take more time with the excavations/repair of the house.
d) Take DQ and BJ up on their offer – to build a “mother-in-law” suite on a new home in the country, and bring her with them.
She’s sick of her cluttered, messy house, and is terrified that it will collapse around her, so she’s ruled out option (a). Adamant about not allowing “strangers” into the house*, she is not willing to invest in the repairs and cleanout required for option (b). Getting back to that “strangers” thing, she doesn’t like the idea of being in an apartment alone – even if she has friends nearby, so the assisted living option is out of the question.
That leaves one choice – and she has thrown the dice, offered to purchase the land in the country to get the ball rolling. And away we go…
Looking out for Mom’s best interests, including the financial side of the enterprise, will be squarely in my lap. Managing the “family” perceptions with siblings – assuring that there is no exploitation, real or perceived as DQ and BJ build a house from the ground up, with Mom as the financial “underwriter”, buying the dirt and securing construction loan.
My recent “purge and move” adventure was just the teaser for the main event. In this case, however, my first stop will be for legal consultation to make sure Mom’s interests are protected. Then we can get on with the fun of wading through soul-crushing piles of plastic butter tubs, partial decks of playing cards and fossilized christmas decorations***.
There is hope that she can get out from under the rubble, have some peace and tranquility surrounded by family and nature**. This is the “future” she’s been squirreling away funds for most of her adult life… let’s hope she gets to enjoy it! If she does this right, her last check should bounce…
* After it was clear that he was making the final circle of the drain, Dad’s preference was to be at home, rather than in the hospital. Embarassed by the clutter, and protective of her privacy, Mom wouldn’t allow “home health care” staff in the house, so it wasn’t possible to bring him home. She also ruled out “hospice” care. She was under the incorrect impression that in order to get hospice support, one had to sign over all personal assets…
** even though she’s a bit anxious, she is looking forward to being out in the country, having a vegetable garden, and riding around the property on a golf cart! better warn the critters and drain the pond… or get her new glasses.
*** not to mention spiders. oodles of leggy, hairy, juicy spiders. did i ever mention that i HATE spiders?