Clutter - Easy Ways to Help Seniors Declutter Their Home

We all collect possessions throughout our lifetime. Clutter can make life more difficult for older adults. Some of these possessions are meaningful; others are "stuff" we collect. Over time clutter can endanger older adults and adversely impact their independence. Decluttering is vital to safety.

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Clutter - Easy Ways to Help Seniors Declutter Their Home
5 Min Read October 12th, 2022

Humans collect things, and we have collected a lot of stuff over time. Some of this "stuff" is important and has meaning; other "stuff" is, perhaps, junk. An individual's sense of home is subjective, and the need to keep things in their home differs for each person. 

An overabundance of "stuff" can create problems for people as they age. Too many possessions can create a chaotic and disorderly living space that could be a problem for an older adult. Clutter can make life more difficult for older adults despite easy ways to declutter a home.

It is hard for some people to discard possessions, but it becomes even more challenging for people as they get older and experience changes in their life that they have no control over. With age, we experience loss. This includes losing a spouse or other loved one. We experience changes in our health, our children grow up and move away, and friends become less friendly. These are things we often have little or no control over.

We Control Possessions

One thing we do control is our possessions. For some, giving up our stuff is akin to losing control over our life. Though it may be hard to discard possessions, holding onto too much—especially as an older adult has an increasing need for a safe environment—can have dangerous results.

There are all sorts of possessions that can clutter our homes, and for seniors, for example, the clutter can become dangerous and pose a fall risk. Helping seniors clear out their homes will help promote their overall independence and safety. 

Unfortunately, keeping unnecessary items is common for older people. Some of these small items can get more meaning as time passes, and it's easier for the elderly to attach a specific memory to them. Nostalgia makes it harder to throw away such things, creating a greater mess over time. However, even though keeping memories is nice, it can become a safety issue in a home with elderly residents. When there's a lot of clutter, there's more risk of tripping and falling, and it's also challenging to find things when they are actually needed. 

Creating a safe, mess-free living space for your older family member will make their quality of life more comfortable and enjoyable and promote their overall well-being.

Be Understanding and Patient

Be sure to understand that getting rid of clutter can be challenging for seniors. More items become meaningful as they age, reminding them of happy or sad moments from their past. They might connect such pieces to specific people or events, so you must be careful when bringing up this subject. 

This decluttering project shouldn't be a radical intervention but a positive, sensible way of helping a loved one. Start by talking about this, pointing out all the benefits of decluttering their home and the safety hazards this clutter may present. Be patient and convince them it's best to eliminate clutter to make their home a safer, healthier space.

A person looking through pictures.

Possessions tied to memories are difficult to let go of.

Have a Plan

It’s essential to access the home and make a plan for this decluttering project. The time required, supplies, and effort you’ll have to spend will depend on the size of the household and its condition. Visit each room to see how much work and the necessary supplies that will be required. Making a plan will help you stay organized, so you don’t waste a lot of time.

Also, decluttering room by room will ensure no mess around the house, making it challenging to move around and do other daily tasks safely. Furthermore, decluttering one thing at a time will be less radical for your senior loved one, giving them time to accept the change. Make a strategy, stick to it, and give yourself enough time to access all the rooms.

Let Others Participate

Decluttering your senior loved one’s home doesn’t need to be complicated or sad. You can create a positive atmosphere to make things easier by inviting other family members to participate. Let them join and help you out while reminiscing good times together. This will not only be a worthwhile activity, but it can also be a great way of spending some quality time with your loved ones.

Sort items Out

  • One of the best ways to organize decluttering is to sort unnecessary items into categories. In general, there should be three categories of things that are no longer needed in the house:
  • Garbage/recycle – items that can’t be used anymore or are damaged, outdated, or worn out. If there’s no way to repurpose them, throw them away.
  • Donate – old clothes or similar items are great for donations. Please ensure they are in good condition and take them to a local charity center.
  • Sell – if there are some electronics, furniture, or similar pieces you no longer need or use, try selling them. You can organize a garage sale or take pictures and sell them online. Seniors might have trouble using the internet for these purposes, so it’s a perfect opportunity for you to help your loved one get rid of clutter.

A family looking at a tablet.

Help older loved ones get rid of clutter by selling some of the items on the internet.

Is Your Older Family Member Moving? Help Set up the New Home

It’s common for older people to move to a smaller, more practical home where they can be safer and less overwhelmed by all the housework. Downsizing in retirement is an excellent way of reducing costs and making it easier to maintain the home and maintain independence. One of the main steps in this process is getting rid of clutter and creating more space in the new home. When a senior is moving, you can do a couple of things to help them settle.

Organize the New Space

Help your seniors get around better by creating a new system for storing their items. Use organizers, baskets, and boxes to sort out their belongings into categories. Labels can be used to help make it easier to find things later and to return them in the right place when done.

Organizing their household this way will help them reduce collecting clutter in the future. When all the items have a designated place in their home, there will be less space for keeping items that don’t belong there.

Keep Important Papers Together

Collect all important papers and documents and place them in a safe and secure location. Items like passports, birth certificates, living trust documents, power-of-attorney document, insurance (Medicare supplement policy, long-term care, life insurance), home and care titles, etc. should be together. Consider getting a small fire safe where these documents can be secure and protected. 

Ensure a Smooth Moving Process

Relocating to a new home is both mentally and physically overwhelming for seniors. That’s why you should try to make this process easier by incorporating some of these moving tips for older family members, for example, by decluttering their homes and hiring the right people to help them move. 

Professional moving teams will relocate furniture and other belongings without disrupting them and causing additional stress. Ensure you’ve got a reliable expert who will make this relocation as smooth as possible. Do some research and compare moving teams to ensure you hire a trustworthy team with experience relocating senior clients.

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About the Author

Jane Stinson is a relocation specialist who has worked with many seniors over the years. Having seen how hard some of them have taken it, she has decided to start blogging about helping seniors, and younger generations, move to their new homes. Jane aims to make the whole experience more comfortable. In her free time, she enjoys reading and gardening.

LTC News Contributor Jane Stinson

Jane Stinson

Contributor since March 26th, 2021

Editor's Note

Life marches on, and before you know it, you're approaching retirement. Are you ready for the challenges that aging can bring to your family and finances?

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