My mother should at least think about firing me as her organizer…though not as her daughter. In many ways, I am a great daughter. I help my mother in any way I can. I try to help her simplify so she can remember things better, and I live by some of her rules, like making my bed every day.
My mother won’t let the family hire any in-home help beyond the every other week cleaning lady. Her house, her life, her rules. I respect that. So when I visit I gather like items and organize them in homes that work for her, I get rid of old food, and when we are out shopping I remind her of the things she already has plenty of.
So why should she think about firing me? Because I can’t be neutral like I can with clients. I get frustrated and even a little angry, and I know that it shows. I question and judge her choices. I know in my professional organizer brain that her aging mind and body are really struggling, but my daughter brain and heart just want her to be her previously organized self…or at least maintain things I do for her.
My mother should think about firing me because even though I am helping her in some ways, we spend time together having fun, and the no-charge price is great, the stress it puts on our relationship may not be worth it. I often see people turn to family and friends for help de-cluttering and organizing. Sometimes it works great. More often than not, it fails. It is hard enough to help another person make decisions and work at a pace and style that might not match our own. When you add in all the emotions involved in a family or friend relationship, everything gets more complicated.
So what do you do if you are in a situation like mine where your family member won’t accept outside help or if you are the one trying to decide whether to use the help of family or friends?
1. Look for a good match of personalities. If the helper is likely to express judgment, work at the wrong pace for you, or has their own agenda, look for a skilled professional organizer.
2. Keep planting seeds about the value of using an outside person. Every now and again I tell my mother how having a paid person means she can have someone help her on a regular basis.
3. Respect a person’s right to choose what is best for them. When there are risks of falls, fires, or other health problems you may have to go against their wishes to maintain safety.
Unless and until my mother decides to allow someone else to help or her safety is a factor, I will do my best to make helping her fun, to look for opportunities to learn more about her, and to keep my emotions in check. If I am truly trying to help her, it is not about me.
Are you trying to help a family member? What do you do to make it work?