Everyone has the tendency to hold onto things longer than we need, so imagine how this can look after decades of doing so – it’s the reason that so many elderly people have a lot of clutter around their homes.
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook a clutter problem, as it can accumulate slowly over time and only becomes an obvious issue once the person is much older and less capable of tidying around the home, be it mental or physical limitations.
As a caregiver, it’s important to help clear out clutter before it becomes too much of a problem, as there are various risks for seniors that are living amongst too much clutter in their home.
Why Seniors Struggle to Declutter
There are many reasons why seniors struggle to part with their belongings. The most common reason is sentimentality, which is completely understandable and something most adults can empathize with.
Whether it’s old photos, clothes, ornaments or fine china, seniors like to keep things that hold sentimental value, and this can unfortunately add up over the years.
Another reason is that they are from a different time where conserving things was not just a pastime but a way of life. Many seniors grew up in a period where day to day items we take for granted where at a premium, so making things last well beyond their years was commonplace.
This is why some elderly people reuse teabags, sew over holes in old socks, and keep countless partially broken items because they slightly work. A good way around this issue is to donate to charity, as it gives them a sense that the stuff isn’t going to waste – if its going to a good cause it’s usually easier to part with.
Finally, age can just make it harder to keep on top of cleaning and organization around the home. From having little energy to clean to being physically incapable of doing so, when a senior sees a drastic change in their well-being, clutter can quickly build up.
Why It’s Important to Declutter
Clutter poses various health risks to elderly people. Tripping hazards are possibly one of the biggest risks, along with items that could fall from shelving when they try to grab something overhead.
Any clutter lying around can be easily tripped on, causing a fall that can lead to serious health problems like broken bones, bruise, or even internal injuries. If an elderly person attempts to clean clutter, it can also cause them to lose balance, fall and then insure themselves.
Furthermore, a build-up of clutter on surfaces can cause hygiene issues, often leading to dust, grime, mould and bacteria growth. This creates a very unhealthy living environment that can exasperate things like asthma, and even attract unwelcome pests.
Tips for Cleaning Out the Clutter
Clear a Path – One of the first things to do is clear away clutter that is blocking a path throughout the home! Eliminate all tripping hazards, even if its just something they might bump into, and focus on clearing entrance ways.
Evaluate the Furniture
An often-overlooked part of decluttering is the furniture. Not all furniture is safe for seniors, so try to evaluate what is suitable for their situation. For instance, if they have poor balance and mobility, low lying furniture should be removed as they may struggle to get up from it.
If you clear up space while decluttering, you may be able to move furniture around so that it is less of a hazard or just how of the way completely, such as storing it a spare room.
Provide New Storage Options
Just because there is a lot clutter doesn’t mean you need to throw everything away. Sometimes adding new storage like extra shelves, a new bookcase, and new storage containers can help to quickly declutter without causing them too much stress.
Make an Inventory of Valuables
Ask them what items they consider most valuable, such as heirlooms, antiques, and jewellery, and then make an inventory of it all.
Get them to check what items they might be persuaded to part with, encouraging things like donating and handing down to kids and grandkids. Make sure they feel included in this, as it makes it easier to part with more sentimental items.
Take it One Room at a Time
Trying to declutter decades worth of stuff in an entire house is overwhelming, so don’t take on too much too soon. Always start slow, approaching it on a room by room basis. Dedicate a set amount of time for each day you plan on decluttering and try not to overdo it or you may end up stressed and frustrated, which isn’t going to make the process easier for them.
Don’t be afraid to enlist help to clear out the clutter! Ask for assistance from friends and family, even suggesting to relatives of the person to take a few items for themselves, which should make it easier to part with, providing the senior has given their blessing!