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Tips for Helping an Elderly Loved One Declutter Their Home

For many seniors, their home contains a lifetime of belongings. While some of these items are cherished heirlooms, sentimental, or useful, it’s common for people of any age to continue holding onto things they might not necessarily need.

But all those unneeded items taking up space can make daily life more difficult than it needs to be. Decluttering an older person’s home can be physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging – but it’s worth it.

And with a plan, you can help your loved one get their home in order.

The Benefits of Decluttering for Seniors

Clutter affects safety and mental well-being, and there are many reasons why seniors should declutter:

  • Decluttering reduces the number of tripping hazards or obstructions in the home.
  • The home will be easier to clean with less clutter around.
  • It will be easier to find things, both when the senior homeowner is looking for an item, or when a family member or caregiver is looking for something for them.
  • Clutter has a negative effect on mental health, and reducing it can provide a sense of well-being.

The Emotional Side of Decluttering

The hardest part of decluttering for anyone, and maybe especially for older people, is decluttering items to which they have an emotional attachment. There are ways to navigate this side of decluttering, but it requires patience and empathy. Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on the memories, not the objects themselves. Maybe there’s a large piece of furniture that isn’t being used or doesn’t fit with your loved one’s life anymore, but it has sentimental or emotional value. Try to get your loved one to talk about why that item is meaningful to them. What memories or people are associated with it? Collect this information and take photos of the item from multiple angles. This information can all be added to a scrapbook or journal.
  • Find a good home for the items. If an item is meaningful to your loved one but needs to go for health, safety, or space reasons, try to help them find a good home for it. See if a friend or family member would be interested in the item. If not, talk to your loved one about charities they want to support; many organizations take donated items to give away or sell.
  • Get your family involved. Decluttering doesn’t have to be drudgery. Get a few key people together on a particular day and go through the decluttering process together. It can be a time to reconnect, talk, and share memories while making your loved one’s space safer and more streamlined. Have a meal together, take time to chat and have fun while making progress on clearing out all those excess items. It’ll be a nicer experience for everyone, and there will be fewer hurt feelings later if, for example, one sibling was hoping to have something that you ended up deciding to donate.

Decluttering Tips for Seniors

Depending on how much there is to declutter, as well as your loved one’s health and energy level, this process can take a while. The goal is to have your decluttering be as effective, efficient, and pleasant as possible.

  • Start small. Focus on a single room. If that feels too daunting, focus on a cabinet, a drawer, or a particular box. Move on to the next area if everyone involved feels up to it. If not, tackle it another day.
  • Use the “three-box method” to make decisions easier. Get three boxes. Label one “keep,” another “donate,” and the third “trash.” As you go through the items, place them in the appropriate box. When the decluttering session is over, put the “keep” items where they belong and remove the “donate” and “trash” items from the home.
  • Try the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule. If an item hasn’t been used in a year, consider donating it. This may not work as well for decluttering sentimental items, but for things like kitchen gadgets, clothing, or décor, it can be a big help.
  • Schedule plenty of breaks. Take time to have a cup of tea or a little snack. Spend time with your loved one and get re-energized before diving back in.

Help for Aging in Place

One of the main reasons to declutter is that it can give seniors and their families peace of mind, especially if the senior is planning to age in place. In the end, older persons will appreciate living in a home that’s organized, uncluttered, and easier to navigate. But it doesn’t have to stop there.

If your loved one could use a little extra help around the house, including light housekeeping and assistance with daily living, get in touch with your local Homewatch CareGivers. Call (888) 404-5191 for a free consultation, or contact us online. Our professional caregivers are ready to help!

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