I want my parents to clean up their house but they refuse to throw anything away

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female company employee in my 30s. My parents, who are in their 70s, hate throwing anything away. My parents’ house hasn’t quite become a trash heap, but certain areas — generally places that can be hidden — are overflowing with junk. Whenever I suggest they clean up or offer to help them clean up, they look disgusted by the idea and tell me to do it after they’re dead.

Currently, both my parents are in very good health. I want them to live a long life, but at the same time, I’ll get older, I’ll get weaker and I won’t have as much free time or disposable income. So, I feel terrible when my parents tell me to clean up after they’re gone.

In addition to the main house, there are also two large sheds that need to be taken care of.

I think we should start cleaning as soon as possible — while my parents and I are still healthy — but I don’t know how I should bring it up. I would appreciate any advice on how to help my parents think positively about cleaning or throwing things away.

— Z, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. Z:

As I am around the same age as your parents, I understand how they feel. Since we grew up with nothing after the war, it is difficult for us to throw things away. Even if we don’t immediately need it, we will safeguard it because it might be useful in the future.

It’s not a character trait, but instinct. Others might consider it junk, but your parents see it as having extra. I hope you can understand that.

It doesn’t seem like you live with your parents, and that’s why you’re concerned, right? When you lived together, you probably didn’t care that much, did you? Your parents are cleaning up in their own way as they keep their things in places where others generally don’t see them. It’s not fair to force them to do something they don’t want to do.

Or is it inconvenient for you? People tend to think it is virtuous to throw things away, but it’s important to think it through very carefully.

It’s fine if you decide to throw away your own belongings, but you should view the belongings of others as their own, even if those people are your parents. When you view it that way, you’ll realize that you can’t thoughtlessly recommend throwing things away.

— Tatsuro Dekune, writer