More Than a Chore

Why and how to help your parent with spring cleaning. 

Spring is here. The birds are coming back. Trees are starting to bud. And we’re starting to feel that familiar urge.

No, not that urge.

I’m talking about the primal urge to sweep out the cave after a long winter — the seasonal ritual we call spring cleaning.

This year, consider building on that tradition by offering to help your parent with their spring cleaning.

Not because you have the time. (Who does?) Or because this would be even more proof that you are more thoughtful, giving, and caring than your brother. (You are!)

Do it because helping mom or dad with spring cleaning isn’t just about scrubbing, vacuuming, and opening windows. It’s also a great way to better understand how their needs are changing, address safety issues, and open the door for deeper conversations.

Helping your parent with spring cleaning is more than a chore. It’s an opportunity. Here are some tips to make the most of it:

Collaborate on a plan. This isn’t a spring cleaning takeover or makeover. You are not cleaning up after a teenager. 

Ask about and respect your parent’s preferences. Focus on one room or task at a time. And be patient. Don’t expect to do everything in a day, or even a weekend. 

Start by helping dad declutter. Prioritize areas where clutter creates fall hazards, fire hazards, or makes it more difficult to leave quickly in an emergency. 

While you’re at it, check the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. And look for other common trip hazards, such as electrical cords, loose throw rugs, and pet toys.

Remember to check the refrigerator and the pantry. Toss expired items and take stock of what’s left. Is dad eating well? Or are you looking at mostly takeout containers and bags of little chocolate donuts?

Mind the medicine cabinet. Shelves cluttered with old and expired meds, and different doses of the same meds make it hard to find and take the right ones. Clutter and confusion can also lead to dangerous drug interactions.

Watch for signs mom or dad may need more help. Are they steady on their feet? Are they getting winded on the stairs? Are they straining for items on high shelves? Is the laundry piling up?

Plan conversation breaks. Sorting and cleaning together can lead to reflective moments and deeper conversations. Taking breaks helps create space for that possibility. Some open-ended questions to consider:

  • How is where you live working for you? Are you comfortable? Do you feel safe?
  • Have you thought about where you’d want to live if you needed more help?
  • In case of an emergency, where can I find your estate and planning documents?

If your parent doesn’t want to engage, back off. You’re not trying to ambush mom with a topic she isn’t ready to talk about. What’s important that you’ve planted a seed. Give it time to germinate and try again another time.

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Thanks for caring,

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