Mum recently had surgery. Before heading home Mum and Dad’s house required reorganization to make it more comfortable, practical and safe.
I decided to tackle this rather daunting task in the same way I would conduct an Information Architecture project for an intranet. I consulted with all stakeholders: doctors, physiotherapist, occupational therapist & GP who contributed valuable information and helped define the requirements.
This is a 35-year old family home where my parents raised their children, celebrated many occasions, toiled and created a beautiful & bountiful garden, and cooked and shared hundreds of meals with family and friends.
I had to now sort out this house full of STUFF:
- Practical stuff
- Extra stuff (that belongs to my sister and I)
- Once upon a time stuff
- Use occasionally stuff
- Memories stuff
- Other stuff
To allow them to continue to live happily in the home they love. To simplify, reorganize & declutter their house. To make their house more relevant for their lives and needs today; and to make it easier for them to live in their home.
They refuse to move to a smaller more relevant house – I had to make this one work.
Mum now needs a walker to move around, she cannot go upstairs to her bedroom, she cannot bend, she needs hand rails, and Dad needs a dedicated home office because he manages her care and the home.
Mum does not like change – relearning is not easy even if it is better.
The first thing I did was I emptied all the cupboards onto the floor and sorted. I clustered the like items with each other, I created logical groupings, dinner plates all together, pots and pans in a group, glassware in lots etc. I removed unnecessary duplicates and threw out broken or lone teacups and saucers. I did 4 x car load trips to the Opportunity Shop of mainly clothes and linen. It’s a big house.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
I assessed rooms and their function, I considered layout and location of furniture, I reviewed the relevance of appliances and whether they were safe/practical.
I drew a plan of the new layout & design. I hired a couple of removalists for the day. They moved stuff around, they took stuff away.
The lounge room is now Mum’s bedroom, a chest of drawers, a wardrobe and her bed have been relocated from her old upstairs bedroom. The old chest freezer is gone – it has been replaced with a new upright one. The cupboard under the stairs that was full of everyday stuff has been emptied and relocated to a more practical safe area in the laundry. Hand rails have been installed in the downstairs bathroom and a ramp installed at the front porch. I removed unnecessary accumulated furniture to make it easier to move around with her walker.
A lot of the stuff in their house had been in the same spot so long that it had effectively morphed into ‘wallpaper.’ I leaned in and touched this wallpaper and lifted off 3 dimensional stuff. I held books from the World Book Encyclopedia edition 1979 in my hand and realized they had to go- they no longer served a purpose. I removed these unnecessary non-functional books from the bookshelf and created shelf space to use. I decluttered and styled the house in a more minimalist and practical way to make it easier to manage day to day.
I ripped away the old wallpaper and redefined design and space.
EDUCATION & TRAINING
Mum came home on Monday. She walked around the house with her walker and re orientated herself. I made her a cup of tea and we talked. Later that day we walked around together and I showed her where things now were. I explained the logic I had applied in grouping like things together. I told her where things now were, and explained she could call me any time to ask if she could not find stuff. I assured her that nothing she needed was gone, nor was it too far from where it once was.
ENGAGEMENT & USER TESTING
Mum liked some of the changes, others things she was not so happy about. Mum smiled and frowned and later that day, after I had gone home, she called and complained. This is a difficult time, it very uncomfortable for her – she feels disorientated and her home feels different, but she understands it’s all for the better.
Again, I explained why things needed to change, I explained to her that the needs she now has have defined this whole re organisation. Mum is slowly accepting her physical state, the need for the house reorganization and for the improvements that have happened.
It’s now a lot easier to have a shower, it’s a lot easier to cook a meal in the kitchen, it’s much easier to get to the pots and pans, and Dad loves having his own home office. It’s going to take time for her to settle into the new improved home– I need to continuously reassure her. Like rebuilding an intranet; it takes time, it takes consideration, and it takes some ruthlessness. But in the end, to have somewhere that serves you exactly as you need makes our lives better, and is so worth it.
Now to deal with my own cupboards…
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