Need major help

tennisgalcaSeptember 15, 2005

Hi, I haven't posted for awhile. My mother passed away last week. Prior to her final stay in hospital, she was in a nursing home for the last two years. My father spent every day with her from the morning until evening. As a result, he did not have time to look after their home, a bungalow. It has been sadly neglected for the last 2 years, partly because my dad had no time and partly because he's a guy and didn't know what to do. I was over there recently and realized that a major clean up is required. I also found evidence that there is a mouse infestation. Eeeek!!!

What should we do first? Clean everything and clear all the clutter out or call the exterminators first and then do the clearing. I would also appreciate advice on how and where to start as the whole task seems overwhelming.

My time is limited too, as I have a DH and 3 teenagers and home to look after and also work part-time! And I'm an only child, so no siblings to help and very limited family here as the majority are in Europe.

I know that all of you will have great advice and I thank you in advance.


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First let me say I'm sorry for the loss of your Mom. While one might say at times, things that happen are 'a blessing', regardless its never easy. Hugs.

Regarding your parents home, first I would get an exterminator in to deal with the 'mouse challenge'. Then I would get (as its only you and you appear to have a full load as it stands) a "cleaning team" in to do some basic clean and tidy. I'd call these 'first steps'.

You don't say if your Dad is planning to remain in the family home and certainly that would affect what steps would be 'next steps' and perhaps he would want some input into this if he's to remain there.

Giving consideration to your Dad's wishes, perhaps after doing the above you can tackle 'one room at a time' --> babysteps.

Certainly I wouldn't allow the mice persons to move in in even greater numbers so I think this is likely a numero uno step.

Warm regards and many hugs for your loss.

Ciao H

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 12:17AM
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Joanne, so sorry about the loss of your mother! I lost my MIL two years ago and faced similar circumstances (minus the mice, though). My FIL had done absolutely nothing in the house during the year she was in the nursing home and we had quite a project to tackle. In our case, he moved into a condo about six months later, so we had to empty the whole house and prep it for sale. If your dad plans to stay, you can pace yourself.

What we did to get his place livable again was to tackle the kitchen first. In your case, I'd call in the exterminators first, then work on the kitchen. My MIL was a big fan of those plug-in mouse/insect repellent noise thing-a-ma-bobs. I don't know if they really work or not, but since they had no mice, we left them in place. Then it was baby-steps with the kitchen. We hoped that if he had a clean, inviting space to eat in, he would. After that, we tried to just go room by room.

I think it's hard to get cleaning people in right away because you do have to de-clutter a good bit first. But I'd definitely take advantage of any hired help you can get, especially with floors and bathrooms (my least favorite things to clean).

If you're at all acquainted with FlyLady, she advocates the use of a timer when you're cleaning and I've found that this helps a lot. It's amazing what can get done in 15, 30, or 45 minutes. Then, once the timer goes off, you stop so you don't get burnt out. Eventually, it will all get done. It's important that you take care of yourself, too.

I hope some of this helps. Good luck to you!


    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 9:21AM
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My sympathies on your loss.

Is there outside help you can recruit in the form of folks at church, or any other group?

And you have 3 teenagers, remember. They certainly can scrub a bathroom, sink, etc. And follow your directions for what to lug out to the garbage, etc.

My vote, first call the exterminator, and ask them whether you should clean or declutter before they come. They may say you'll get a more effective job if you remove anything that might feed or house them. I have no idea how cluttery the house is.

Or, if it weirds you out too much to think you might run into one, then get the exterminators in first even if it means you have to get them back once you're done.

I like the "start in the kitchen" part--that's a room he'll use everyday, and maybe it'll be easier than other rooms, bcs it's possible he doesn't have as much clutter there. The only easier room is the bathroom, which is hopefully mostly a deep clean (and a medicine-cabinet declutter, which can go surprisingly fast! Esp. w/ that two years, just throw everything out and go buy the basics fresh).

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 10:52AM
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I agree with Talley. Especially on the medicines. Get your mother's meds and any out-of-date OTC meds, your father's old meds in the trash. Also, when is the last time your dad had a physical? Lastly, I'm sorry you lost your mother and am glad you are there for your precious father.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 11:17AM
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Thanks everyone for your replies. I think you're right in that I should call the exterminator and ask if they should come in first or after we have done the decluttering. I also agree that tackling one room at a time is the way to go and I too think that the kitchen should be done first. I'm sure there are boxes and jars of old food and staples that should be tossed. Also I think that anything we buy new should be placed in a "mouse-proof" container. I will elicit family help as I can, but it's hard for the teenagers as the oldest is starting his sophomore year at a new university, and my middle child, DD, is beginning her final year of high school and has all the stresses that that entails. I'm hoping my father-in-law, who is in good health (and a real work horse), will help us out.

Regarding my father's plans, I haven't dared to bring it up yet as I think it's too soon to broach the subject. I don't think it really matters at this point, as the house needs to be cleaned up in any case, and any decluttering that gets done now, will only make the job easier, if my dad decides to sell and move at a later date.

I'll let you know how things are going. I'll call the exterminator today or early next week.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 1:45PM
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Good luck, Joanne. Was gonna offer advice, but it seems as though you've gotten some good, useful ideas already.

Let us know how it's going. I'm sorry about your Mom. I lost my Dad four years ago and bless his heart, if it had happened in the other order, I can only IMAGINE what shape the house would be in.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 10:36PM
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I've been through this several times:

Do it room by room - usually the kitchen and baths give you the most immediate results. De-trash first, then get rid of usable but unused things on a second sweep.

1 - Throw out all "trash" ... but quickly sift through stacks of papers to make sure nothing important is in them. Old bills, old newspapers and magazines, etc.

2 - clean out all the outdated food and medications.

3 - check all the books and pocketbooks and coat pockets before you send them to charity ... my grandmother was notorious for stashing her earrings in her coat pockets.

4 - remove ALL drawers and look inside the furniture and at the bottom of the drawer for items.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 10:39PM
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My sympathies too -- excellent ideas and suggestions above:

We have been through this stage too -- although we did not have the mouse (or mice) problem! -- so get that problem out of the way -- and meanwhile clean and de-clutter anything that would tempt them to come back. Do invest in good storage containers -- and a Brother P-Touch Label Maker -- VERY handy to label EVERYTHING!

Yes -- the kitchen and bathrooms are the best place to start -- and do yield great results. When we cleaned up -- it was amazing the sheer amount that we were able to throw out! And we did the whole house -- and even re-arranged furniture and artwork -- and created a nice fresh family photo wall for my mum.

We also added safe handles to the bathtub -- and create large print lists of phone numbers that we taped nearby phones.

My Dh and BIL also added safer hand railing to the stairs just outside the back door. And trimmed back the bushes for a better view all around the yard -- and even moved the bird feeders for easier filling -- and viewing.

My mum finally sold her house (about three and a half years after my dad died) -- and she now lives with my sister and BIL in a gorgeous townhouse. All the prep work we did after my dad died really really paid off -- both in time, safety concerns and finally -- in money for her -- when we sold the house.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2005 at 9:05AM
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I can't add much to the good advice you've already received except to include my sympathies. I, too, am an only child, and my parents lived 1500 miles away. When the time came to sell their house I was helped immeasurably by my dad's organization skills, which unfortunatley I failed to inherit. He was never rigid about order, but I found he had made all sorts of lists to help me in my task.

Anyway, I'm sorry about your mom, and I know what the responsibility of an only daughter feels like.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2005 at 11:00AM
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I too am sorry about your loss. I went through this a few months ago. My mother had moved to a residence a year before she passed away so we all were able to go through everything with her. The only things that were in her room at the residence were the ones that were important to her.

If I had to go through all of my mother's belongings, I would have kept much more than she did. I don't envy the task ahead of you. Perhaps your father would like to be involved in the decluttering. Like my mother, it might give him comfort to go through the memories.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2005 at 3:09PM
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Thank you to everyone for their condolences. It is comforting to know that some of you have gone through this before. Right now the tasks ahead loom like climbing Mt. Everest, but I will try to remember to just take things 1 step at a time, and to break things down into small manageable chunks. Having gone through the last couple of weeks, we are all emotionally exhausted and that translates into physical exhaustion and lethargy. Just getting up and starting seems so difficult. I hope to begin early next week.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2005 at 4:12PM
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I remember that someone once posted about renting or receiving a small dumpster after the death of a parent. You might check your local laws about dumpsters in a residential neighborhood. This motivated that adult child to really dejunk since the dumpster was in their drive way for a limited amount of time, like a week. All in all, it seemed like a very good thing for that family.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 7:32AM
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