Caregiver Question | 04/06/23

Mom is moving to Assisted Living and I’m overwhelmed by the thought of cleaning out her house. 

DEAR CARALLEL: I’ve been caring for my mother for about six years now. She’s 84 and mentally sharp, but struggles with being overweight and has slowed down quite a bit since last summer.

She has also become more isolated in the process. Mom used to go to bingo and volunteer at our church twice a week but she doesn’t do that anymore. It’s even hard to get her to go out to eat with me, which she always loved to do.

The good news is she has finally agreed to move into Assisted Living on the other side of town. It’s clean and close and I like all of the staff that I’ve met. It will be a good thing for both of us once she is settled.

I should be excited but I’m not. I’m nervous about her transition but think that will be ok in the end. It’s the thought of cleaning out Mom’s house that I’m dreading. She is a hoarder and every drawer, closet and even parts of the hallway are just filled with stuff.

She knows it needs to happen but I’m afraid of how she will react when the time actually comes. On top of that I’m overwhelmed by the idea of cleaning the house out. Where do I even start?!? — Leslie in Newark, OH 

DEAR LESLIE: I’m happy to hear that your mother has agreed to move to Assisted Living. And how wonderful that it’s close by!

I also feel for you and am glad that you wrote in.

Hoarding Disorder is a mental illness and I’d recommend seeking professional help for your Mom if you haven’t already. Her doctor would be a good place to start as they likely know your Mom and should be able to point you to local specialists qualified to provide the assistance you need.

Professionals can also help you understand what drives your mother’s disorder and give you strategies to work with her to make this move, and the clean out, a success. 

Now as for the actual clean out of the house, here are my thoughts…

Bring in outside help if you can 
This can limit the emotional toll for you, spare you the physical challenge of the actual clean up, and free emotional space for you to support your Mom through the process.

If you’ve read any of these emails before, you know I am a big fan of local Area Agencies on Aging. I’d pay them a visit or give them a call to see if they have recommendations of organizations in your local area that can help. 


If you’re not sure where your local Area Agency on Aging is, you should be able to find it on the Eldercare Locator here or by calling them at 1-800-677-1116.

There are also lots of fee-for-service companies that offer organization and/or clean out services. To find a professional organizer in your area, consult the National Association of Professional Organizers at www.napo.net. The website allows you to choose someone with a specialty in hoarding.

If outside help isn’t an option
Here are a few things to keep in mind if outsourcing this work isn’t an option. 

  • You won’t be able to do it all at once and that’s ok
  • Don’t forget protective equipment like gloves and a mask
  • Enlist family or friends if possible and divide up the labor
  • Set small goals and plug away at them 

Lastly, this article has a useful infographic on tackling ‘clutter zones’ and it’s worth a look. 

l feel for you Leslie but know that you can get through this.

All the best,

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate

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