For caregiving, living in the sandwich and multigenerational living that is. Is this type of situation looming in your future? Having lived in a multigenerational household for a number of years, and having taken care of aging parents at the same time, I can say that it’s not easy. But there are things you can do to make it easier – lessons learned the hard way. And I’ll warn you right now – you’ve heard this before and you know you should do it, so get busy and get it done. My two guiding principles are:
- Life is about people, not things.
- Simplify and organize.
These two guiding principles actually make sense for life in general and not just in situations where you might be a caregiver, a multigenerational household member, or a part of life in the sandwich. After all, each one of these can come in various forms. You could be the elder needing care. You could be the adult child in a multigenerational living arrangement, you could have single parents in your household (you may be one). You could be two couples in one home. You get my point.
Since I’m a planner at heart, let me start with the second principle; simplify and organize. Clutter is a stressor and interferes with getting things done. In your living situation you do not need to add to the stress of caring for someone else, maintaining your space, and managing your own daily activities. Get rid of as much stuff as possible, organize the rest, and always put things back where they came from. That last one is a real sticky wicket but, if you don’t do it, things rapidly become disorganized and remain so despite your best attempts to organize. You’ll just end up repeating the process and you don’t need to be doing things over and over again. If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it over, hmm?
Simplifying doesn’t mean get rid of everything. It just means keep the quantity of your stuff down to what you can comfortably manage so that it doesn’t interfere with the other principle. One of my favorite bloggers, Glenn, lives in a beautifully converted VW Vanagon containing all his worldly possessions except for two tubs stored with friends, and he has empty cabinet space! He works out of his home on wheels from anywhere he chooses. And he still has quality family time through the year and has a large and growing circle of friends.
Other friends are empty nesters and live in a large home on acreage with an outbuilding and a pool. Their life and home are uncluttered and organized and they are actively involved in their church and outside organizations.
Organize also means getting your personal affairs in order. No matter what your age, if you’re an adult you should be managing your finances and your legal affairs; i.e., powers of attorney for health care and general use, will and trust, estate planning, and retirement planning. It doesn’t matter if you’re 21, 52, or 83; this is essential. It keeps things simple for you and for your heirs, particularly as you age and transition from independent living to assisted living to the potential of full time care. We’re living longer these days and we’re surviving longer with serious illnesses and physical limitations. Follow that Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
Now for the first principle: Life is about people, not things. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a hobby or other personal interests. In fact I believe hobbies and personal interests are essential to maintaining your sanity while in caregiving and multigenerational situations; i.e. living in the sandwich. For me, people make life worth living. I love spending time with my wife, my parents and in-laws, my children, my grandchildren, my siblings, and my friends. I enjoy the time I spend working together with my business associates to create successful organizations that fill human needs.
That may sound strange to many family members and friends who know me as quiet and reserved. The real me loves that time together, one-on-one or in small groups building stronger and deeper relationships. But I admit, I’m not a party animal and I greatly value my personal quiet time for recharging. And I prefer a few deep relationships to a large number of acquaintances. I’ll probably never have 500 Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections. Still, it’s about people, not things.
And with multigenerational living, life in the sandwich, and caregiving it is most certainly about people. None of those situations are easy, and if you don’t build strong relationships with the others sharing your situation, life will be downright hard. With strong relationships life can be very rewarding; you can make a difference for other people. I guess when I finally check out I’d rather leave behind a flood of good memories and people who I’ve helped, and not just a pile of junk someone else has to clean up.
Have you simplified and organized? Are you ready to be focused on people, not things? Then you might be prepared for the challenges of caregiving, multigenerational living, and living life in the sandwich. If not, maybe it’s time to get busy.
Getting busy…Pondering Pops