Organization is a challenge for people of all ages. After decade upon decade of living in their homes, though, seniors often accumulate mass amounts of clutter and sometimes find it nearly impossible to scale back and organize. Three in four seniors want to age in their own homes, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), but this sometimes becomes impossible when excess clutter becomes a safety issue. Falls are a leading cause of injury-related deaths among Americans who are over the age of 65, and a disorganized home that is filled to the brim with excess stuff can increase the risk of such accidents.
If there is a senior in your life who needs help with organizing and decluttering, you may be unsure of where to start. After all, asking someone to simply throw away a lifetime worth of treasured memories and prized possessions is both unfair and impossible. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of less drastic measures that can be taken to help seniors organize and declutter their homes. Keep reading to learn more.
Tackle the Living Room First
For many seniors, the living room is where they spend the vast majority of their time. This room is where they watch television, read, work on crafts or other hobbies, or socialize with friends and loved ones. If their mobility begins to decline, this room may be transformed into their bedroom, too.
Since most seniors spend so much time in the living room, it’s only natural that this room tends to become cluttered. Knickknacks overwhelm shelves, tabletops are littered with papers and mail, and excess furniture occupies every square inch of the space. Sound familiar? A cluttered living room is difficult to navigate—especially for someone who uses a walker or wheelchair—and is often nonfunctional. Starting with the living room ensures that the space one uses most frequently is safe and functional even as you work on clearing out other rooms in the home.
Consider What to Do with Excess Furniture
Your grandmother may have needed a sofa, loveseat, and several chairs when numerous kids lived at home. Now that she is on her own, though, she probably doesn’t need to have nearly as many sitting areas. Consider relocating furniture to different rooms or parting with unused pieces altogether. Folding chairs can be stored and taken out when visitors show up.
Help your loved ones determine which furniture pieces they absolutely need. Ask them to think about which pieces they use most and which ones mean the most to them. They’ll likely be able to identify several pieces that they are willing to part with or move to another part of the home.
Install Storage Solutions
Shelves and curio cabinets provide a safe place for storing knickknacks, souvenirs, and photos. You can also create storage space by swapping out something like a plain coffee table for one with built-in storage. You can also replace a regular ottoman with a storage ottoman or bench. There are all sorts of products out there that are designed to double as both functional furniture and extra storage space. Investing in a few could create room to store some of the excess “stuff” that is currently cluttering up space.
Take Care of Cables
Having cables lying around creates a serious tripping hazard. Whether it’s the cord for the television, wires for a computer, or any other type of cables, having them run throughout the home—especially on the floor—is dangerous. Using cabling solutions clears up some of the clutter and makes the home safer.
Create a System for Dealing with Mail
Unsorted mail is one of the leading causes of clutter in many homes. When you receive several bills, catalogs, and pieces of junk mail throughout the week, it doesn’t take long for all of that paper to start piling up.
Help your loved one create a system for dealing with mail as soon as it comes in. Consider setting up “In” and “Out” bins for incoming mail that needs to be sorted and outgoing mail that needs to be sent. Help them determine where to place bills that need to be paid, important paperwork that needs to be filed, etc. And, of course, encourage them to put the junk mail in the recycling bin or trash as soon as it arrives, to keep it from accumulating.
Clean Out Medicine Cabinets Regularly
A medicine cabinet that is loaded with expired and no-longer-needed medications puts seniors at risk. This is especially true for seniors who have cognitive or memory problems. Help keep them safe by cleaning out these cabinets frequently. Ensure that all old and unneeded medications are disposed of properly, and keep current meds in their original containers. Make sure that all necessary medications and frequently used products are neatly organized and within easy reach.
When it comes to helping seniors organize and declutter, their safety should always be the primary concern. Clutter poses a serious tripping hazard, and it can make it difficult for people with mobility issues to navigate their homes. Decluttering can be difficult, but, by starting with items that don’t hold a lot of sentimental value, you can help them downsize and clear out the excess.
Helping them organize is important, too, as it ensures that they know where everything is when they need it. From keeping daily medications close at hand to coming up with a system for dealing with the mail, taking small steps to improve organization can make a big impact in an elderly person’s life.
With patience and understanding, you can make it easier for someone to remain in their own home as they age. Follow the tips listed above. Listen to what the person you are helping has to say. You may find that they have some really great ideas!
By Halle Summers
Halle Summers is a Marketing Coordinator for FASTENation Inc., a premier global manufacturer, technical converter, distributor, and designer of adhesive based fasteners and tapes. Halle enjoys sharing her unique perspective and knowledge through her blog writing. When she isn’t writing articles, she enjoys spending time in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and all the amazing food her hometown has to offer.
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