By Isabel Malgarejo
Hello Seven Client | Professional Organizer, KonMari Consultant, Founder of The Tidy Coach
When Isabel started her home organization business, she noticed that most of her clients felt overwhelmed and out of control. Particularly clients in a caregiving role. Because when you’re busy taking care of a loved one, it’s easy to slip into a pattern of neglecting your home…and yourself. Isabel shares tips on how to provide care without burning out—and how to make your home feel like a sanctuary.
I got married 3 years ago and moved to the USA. This change was one of the toughest I had ever made in my life. I went from running an almost 7 figure business and having a very active social life to not doing much. Everyone told me it would be good to have some time off to take care of myself, set my home in order, and enjoy the wonderful months after getting married with my loved one. Obviously, nobody was expecting COVID to happen and I was definitely not expecting to be in limbo for a year and a half.
Once I had everything in order, I opened a home organization business and gave myself a new job title: The Tidy Coach. During COVID lockdown, families were struggling to figure out how to eat, sleep, relax, study, work, and exercise at home. Many people felt disorganized and cramped—trying to fit their whole lives into one space—and I wanted to help.
After visiting dozens of clients,I noticed some patterns. Many of them were in a caregiving role—providing care for a parent, grandparent, or another loved one, or supporting grieving family members after someone had passed away. And, many clients didn’t know what to do with their loved ones’ belongings. “What do I do with all this stuff…when it’s not even MY stuff?”
I remembered my grandma and how she struggled to take care of her own mom. Everything felt overwhelming and she never had time for herself.
I started doing research about caregivers and their roles. Around 60% of caregivers believe no one will do a better job than them when taking care of their loved ones, but 95% of elder abuse comes from a family member. This makes total sense. When the caregiver is a family member, often, they have no time off, no time for vacations, and become responsible for solving absolutely everything. And, when caring for elderly parents,you also have to consider your siblings' opinions and negotiate with them.
Caregiver burnout is so common. It happens gradually. You start by helping a loved one run errands. But then, you have no idea what the next day will bring and there’s always something else that needs to be done. Over time, you take on more responsibility until caregiving becomes a second (or third) full-time job. You might not even notice how much you’re doing. Before you know it, your calendar—and your home—is completely cluttered and there’s no space to breathe.
As Benjamin Franklin said, ”By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail”.
If you’re a caregiver, and you feel like your home (and life) is becoming out of control, that means it’s time for a new plan. Here are the steps I recommend:
- Talk to your parents and understand how they would like to live.
Have a conversation about the activities they would like to do and the people they would like to share their time with. Once you understand their wishes, this helps you feel more confident when making decisions on their behalf concerning their health, home, financial planning and legal considerations.
- Talk to your siblings.
Make sure your siblings understand your parents' wishes, too. Create a plan to divide caregiving responsibilities so that you can rest more and you’re not overloaded with tasks. Consider scenarios that are likely to arise in the future and create a plan together. Planning ahead allows you and your family to determine the best path, and gives you plenty of time to negotiate and find different alternatives that will work for all of you.
- Claim your space.
As a caregiver, you cannot provide effective care if you are depleted. You need to claim time for yourself to rest. And, you need to claim your home and set up a space that you love. If your house is very full right now because you have parents (or other loved ones) living with you, then start with one area like your bedroom. Create a bedroom that feels like a sanctuary—calm, tidy, and orderly. That way, even on very difficult days, you will always have a private place where you can close the door and retreat.
If tidying your home feels like yet another task on your endless to-do list, get help. Get a friend or sibling to do it with you, or work with a professional organizer like me.
What I’ve learned as a home organizer is that when we’re talking about physical stuff…it’s never really about the stuff. It’s about illness, grief, loss, longing for the past, fear of the future, and complicated family dynamics.
Organizing your home can be difficult even under the best circumstances. It’s even trickier when you’re a caregiver and you’re already giving so much of your energy to others. But no matter how stressful things feel right now, you can feel calmer—and it starts by figuring out a plan.
About the Author
Isabel Melgarejo is the founder of The Tidy Coach. She’s a home organizer serving the Dallas – Fort Worth area. If you feel overwhelmed about tidying your home, you’re navigating a complicated transition like helping your parents downsize or move into a care facility, or you have hundreds of items from a deceased relative and don’t know what to do, Isabel can help. Learn more at www.TheTidyCoach.com