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New Beginnings: Dad at Home

The Challenge

Irene’s relationship with her father was strained. He suffered from hoarding behavior, and that made his home unsafe and impossible for Irene to clean. She found animal waste and even deceased pets in the freezer that had yet to be cremated. When Iling tried to declutter, her father’s anger and refusal stopped her. She was overwhelmed. He was unsafe.

First, Compassion.

When I first arrived at his home, Irene’s father wouldn’t let me in. Fearful that I would force him to get rid of everything he owned, he spoke to me through the door until he was comfortable. Slowly, we built trust.  I asked him about his life, about the things that meant the most to him. Gradually, we talked about the future: “What kind of life do you want for yourself? How do you want to live?”  Eventually, he agreed to let me help him.

Then, Action!

I designed a step-by-step decluttering process that allowed Irene’s father to ease into downsizing in phases. Over a 3-month period, we went through every item with care, from clothes to stacks of magazines. I dealt with the hazardous conditions too, like dead vermin and animal waste. We made amazing progress, and soon Irene’s father agreed to move into a condo she’d purchased for him. As their move manager, I designed and proposed floor plans for Irene and her father to choose from. I handled hundreds of details, from condo rules to scheduling restrictions. I even arranged for Irene’s father to be “occupied” on moving day to spare him stress. I knew Irene’s father well by now and attended to details in his new home that would ensure he would be comfortable, like labeling cabinets and drawers so he could find items easily in his new kitchen.


After the move, I organized a housewarming party for Irene’s father. This is how she describes it: “Surprisingly, my reclusive and standoffish father was thrilled to show off his new home and get positive attention from friends!”

We could NEVER have accomplished any of this–much less so smoothly–without Gwen. I had spent over a decade with no progress at all. She was able to downsize him and move him in three months while minimizing stress and work for us. — Irene

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