Help Elderly Loved Ones Downsize

Sooner or later, many Japan-based foreign nationals will be faced with the task of helping elderly parents declutter their possessions. For those with a Japanese partner, it might also extend to assisting in-laws in this country, too.

People in their late 70s and over grew up when much of the world was still recovering from the aftermath of World War II, and in an era very different from today’s consumer society. Along with the security they represent, possessions often hold a lifetime of memories, and the idea of decluttering goes against the grain for many members of this generation.

Nathalie Brantsma offers some tips for helping parents get organized when issues such as advanced age, chronic illness, cognitive decline or the death of a partner necessitate a change in living circumstances.

  • Firstly, recognize and be sensitive to the fact that your loved one is probably experiencing loss in multiple areas of their life: loss of health, loss of partner, loss of friends, loss of memory, loss of familiar surroundings.
  • Allow them to have as much control as possible about what happens to their possessions. Respect their wishes, as forcing decisions upon them is very likely to lead to conflict and resentment.
  • Decluttering the possessions of a lifetime can be an emotionally charged process for everyone involved. Bringing in a professional may be helpful, as they can be nonjudgmental and suggest various solutions based on their experience.
  • If an elderly family member refuses assistance with decluttering, shift the focus to establishing a safe environment for them and make that the priority: Remove cables and clear pathways so there is less risk of a fall; ensure they can bathe and use the bathroom safely; check for any potential fire hazards and so on.


This content is an excerpt from an article for which Nathalie Brantsma, Professional Organizer and Founder of iQuitClutter was interviewed. The author is Louise George Kittaka and you can read the full article on the Japan Times website.