DECLUTTERING TIPS FOR SENIORS
Decluttering can be exhausting, physically and emotionally and can test our time, energy and levels of fitness. Here are some decluttering tips for seniors to help you clear clutter more easily in later years.
Decluttering your home has many benefits. Not only does it make your home easier to keep clean and tidy because you have less stuff but your home will also become calmer, more peaceful and a pleasure to be in. You’ll spend less time and energy looking after your home, managing and maintaining it and have more time, space and freedom for living life to the full – in whatever way that means for you.
A clutter-free home is also more spacious, with more flow and ease of access from room to room without having to walk round or risk tripping over piles of books and stuff. A decluttered home is also likely to function better for you, it’s easier to find things and you’ll have less stuff stacked away in difficult-to-access places such as under beds, high up on cupboards and in the garage or attic.
Decluttering is a wonderful way of getting rid of stuff that doesn’t serve a meangingful purpose in your life and add value to your life in some way and making your home and life more full of things that matter (and easier to access them too!).
BENEFITS OF DECLUTTERING IN LATER LIFE
I’m sharing this article because not only does decluttering have some wonderful benefits for everyone, but it’s also a wonderful tool for later life – to help you make space, carve out more time and make life generally easier. All of the benefits I mentioned above are even more important when it comes to our senior years.
Our physical health may not be as good as it was, we may be restricted by mobility, poorer vision and dipping energy levels. A clearer, tidier and more organised home helps all this.
1. Creates more time
Time is valuable and we don’t want to spend our later years struggling to manage our homes, keep up with the cleaning and general maintenance. I’m sure many of us would prefer to spend our time connecting with friends and family, having fun and living life as fully as we can. Although looking after our homes and being house-proud is important, there might be many more things we would like to do too in our senior years.
2. Retain your independence
In addition to the benefits I’ve mentioned above, it may be that a decluttered home is a home that you can continue to manage without requiring assistance. A clutter-free home is easier to clean so you might be able to retain independence for longer if you’re not having to mountaineer over piles of clutter or struggle to reach the back of your cupboards.
3. Less stress
When we have a lot of stuff, our mental health can suffer. Clutter has been found to raise levels of stress and cause anxiety and lack of focus. In later years, it’s important to look after our body and mind as well as we can. Practice positive mental wellbeing, mindfulness, gratitude, slow living and being present in the moment can all contribute to better physical and emotional health. A clutter-free and calmer home will help with all of this.
4. A safer, more accessible home
I mentioned this briefly already, but a decluttered home is often a safer home. No trip hazards on the floor, no over-reaching or straining to get to the top of a cupboard or bookshelf, no reaching down to find things under the bed. A clutter-free home can be organised so that everything is easy to see, easy to reach, use and put away. It’s safer for you and can give peace of mind to relatives and loved ones who may worry about you.
5. Easier for relatives
One of the worst tasks following the death of a loved one is having to go through their stuff. Most of us expect to do this at some time or other but it’s particularly difficult when you’ve lost someone who has a lot of stuff – clothes, books, mementos and so on. Decluttering your home as a senior will make this horrible job easier and less stressful for the loved ones who have to deal with your estate. You get to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of and you can enjoy the benefit of this for as long as possible, safe in the knowledge that you’ve not passed the hard task down to loved ones to deal with whilst they’re still grieving for their loss. Decluttering and grief is an emotional and challenging combination.
6. Take control over your decluttering decisions
Decluttering as a senior can often be through circumstance. Maybe friends and family are encouraging you to declutter, maybe you have to downsize or maybe it’s for accessibility and safety. We’ll explore all these reasons throughout this article.
However, decluttering in later life isn’t just about decluttering because you have to. It can also be a good way to take control over your decluttering decisions. If you’d like to, you can be involved in and participate in the decluttering process including making choices over what you’d like to keep and what you’re happy to let go of. You might feel this is an important part of retaining your independence for as long as possible and staying in control of your stuff and what happens to it.
WHY DECLUTTERING CAN BE DIFFICULT FOR SENIORS
Decluttering can be physically hard work. We often have to scrabble around on the floor, reach up high, carry heavy items and boxes, get rid of them out of the house and to sell, donate or recycle. Decluttering also usually involves organising what’s left in suitable furniture, storage and containers and finding a home for these items.
Decluttering is also tough emotionally. Our stuff, although just stuff, can hold enormous power over us. It reminds us of people, places, events and times in our life. We remember the old times, the people we’ve loved and lost, holidays and exciting adventures. As we get older, the past becomes even more important and our stuff reminds us of these times.
We may also become more housebound as we get older so the stuff in our home becomes our safety net and security blanket from the outside world. It’s a place where we feel safe, comfortable and secure when the outside world becomes more inaccessible, fast-paced and daunting.
Decluttering can feel overwhelming for many people. We don’t know where to start, how to make decluttering decisions, build confidence and find motivation to carry on. Add to these problems the extra challenges of decluttering as a senior and it’s no wonder that so many people in later life feel stuck with their clutter.
DECLUTTERING TIPS FOR SENIORS
In this article I’d like to share some helpful decluttering tips for seniors.
1. Be ready to get rid of stuff
Decluttering is about getting rid of stuff. There, I said it. It’s a cold, hard truth that to declutter your home you’ll have to part with some stuff. This may feel difficult at first, especially if you’ve never decluttered. Stuff can build up without us realising and it takes courage and perseverance to get rid of that stuff. Your clutter didn’t build up overnight so it’s not going to disappear overnight either! But, if you get into a decluttering mindset, commit to a plan of action and be kind to yourself, then you can declutter with ease and calm.
2. Start in an easy place
This decluttering tip applies to us all! Decluttering gets easier with practice. The more you practice making decluttering decisions on what to keep and what to let go, the more you build your decluttering muscles and get comfortable with making these decisions. You gain confidence and courage in what you’re doing and this helps keep you encouraged and motivated as move through your home.
Starting in a easy place helps you get used to decluttering and building your decluttering skills. The bathroom is a good place to start decluttering as it tends to be a small space, with finite storage and not many sentimental or difficult to declutter items to hold you up. It’s probably best to avoid decluttering tougher items like old photos or big spaces (the garage and attic) until you feel more confident. Here are some tips on where to start decluttering for ease and less stress.
3. Have a plan or follow a checklist
If you’re new to decluttering or feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering your entire home, follow a plan or decluttering checklist. These break down a big decluttering project into more manageable chunks and you just follow the checklist and tick it off as you go. It’s a great way to track your progress, remember where you got up to and keeps you motivated. Let the checklist guide you instead of relying on your brain and memory! Pop your details in the box at the end of this article to get your free Declutter Checklist.
4. Give yourself plenty of time
Decluttering can take a while for all of us, depending on how much stuff you have and how much time, energy and support you have to clear that clutter. Give yourself plenty of time to declutter so you don’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. Sometimes we can get stuck decluttering, run out of energy or motivation, come up against some difficult to declutter items such as books and photos (we’ll explore some tips for dealing with these later). If you set yourself too tight a timescale you may feel decluttering is too difficult and get upset, frustrated or give up. Be kind to yourself and allow plenty of time to declutter slowly. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve rather than disappointed at slower progress than you hoped!
5. Time to reminisce
The other benefit of giving yourself plenty of time to declutter is that you can also have time to reminisce. Decluttering your stuff often involves decluttering memories and this can be tough. We remember times and people from our past. Decluttering isn’t a cold, exact science. Depending on your decluttering goals, it’s about choosing to keep in your home and life the things that add value and meaning and that you want to have close to you. Time to reminisce and remember is an important part of discovering which of your clutter is just clutter and which clutter truly holds a place in your heart and home. Sometimes this brings up difficult emotions including sadness, grief and anxiety. Don’t force or rush these feelings, they’re valid and it takes time to address and work through them.
6. How to stop feeling guilty or wasteful
The older generations often feel more guilty or wasteful at the concept of getting rid of things. ‘Make do and mend’ was the motto for many and we were taught to look after our stuff so it lasted as well as it could for as long as possible. This approach is often at odds with the disposable society we live in today. Decluttering doesn’t have to make you feel guilty or wasteful. Think about the different ways you could pay your stuff forwards and give it to others in need or who could breathe new life into your unwanted stuff.
7. Don’t try to declutter everything at once
Not only is this probably physically difficult, but emotionally difficult too. Decluttering as a senior requires extra motivation and willpower to overcome some of the physical limitations. Instead of planning to declutter your entire home, break it down into small manageable chunks. Declutter one drawer, one cupboard, one shelf. Do one little bit at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted and commit to continuing at a pace that feels right to you, even if it’s just once or twice per week.
8. Take regular breaks
You won’t win a gold medal for passing the finish line first. Take decluttering slowly, set a timer if you need to to remind you to take a break. Stop for a coffee, a lunch break. Choose the times of day when you’re feeling most energetic in body and mind. If you have a mid-afternoon energy dip, don’t try to declutter at that time. Do it first thing in the morning when you have the most energy.
9. Have your decluttering supplies ready
It can be infuriating getting into the swing of decluttering only to have to stop what you’re doing whilst you grab some more boxes or bags. Before you start decluttering, make sure you’ve got everything you need with you and keep them close so you don’t have to get up and move around more than necessary.
10. Use a chair and table if you need to
Another decluttering tips for seniors and those with limited mobility is that decluttering doesn’t need to be done sitting on the floor or in an uncomfortable place or position. Wherever possible, move the items you’re decluttering to a table so you can stand and sort at a comfortable height or sit on a chair at the table if sitting is easier for you. Move the items you’re decluttering in a small box (small so you don’t fill it up and it gets too heavy) or use a trolley or table with wheels which you can move around more easily.
11. Make a note of where you get up to
If you find it difficult to remember where you got up to at the end of each decluttering session, write it down in a notebook or stick a post-it note at the relevant place. This way you won’t waste time and energy working out where you got up to last time and you won’t double-declutter one section and totally miss another!
12. Get help from family and friends
Decluttering is a great project to do with family and friends. Explain what you’re trying to achieve and why and ask them to help you as much as they can. Choose which decluttering jobs you’re going to tackle on your own and which are best saved until you have some extra pairs of hands to help you. Many hands make light work after all!
13. Make decluttering enjoyable
Decluttering doesn’t have to be this difficult and exhausting exertion. It can be a liberating and empowering way of taking back control of your time, space and energy. Make decluttering more enjoyable (and even fun!) by listening to some background music or your favourite TV programme. Have a warm drink and a tasty snack which you can enjoy at the same time or invite a friend over to help you or provide support and encouragement!
14. Decluttering sentimental items
Decluttering sentimental items is always a tough topic. The chances are that, over the years, you’ve probably accumulated quite a few items that mean something special to you. Be aware and ready for this. Decluttering isn’t easy and you’re going to come up against some difficult decisions. The choice is yours over whether you want more physical and breathing space with less stuff, or whether you’re happy to keep your clutter and deal with the consequences of more stuff, less room and more responsibility when the time comes for your loved ones to deal with your stuff instead.
I’ll share a few tips next about dealing with specific sentimental items and difficult-to-declutter items but the point for now is to be ready and prepared to make tough decisions about your clutter and what it means to you.
15. Decluttering photos
Many of us have photos. Lots stored digitally on our phones and computers but for the older generation particularly, probably many more photos in photo albums and individual prints. I love to look through old photos and in many ways it feels more personal and meaningful when I hold a photo in my hands rather than scrolling through the images on my phone.
I’ve kept a good few albums passed down too from my parents and grandparents. They’re precious and I don’t want to part with them. So, I chose a place for these photos and albums to be kept and use that storage space to define which I’m keeping and which I’m not. I’ve scanned in the photos I wanted to keep in some shape or form so I have a digital record of these and the remainder, in their original albums, photos books and individual prints, I have on a shelf and in a box. When that shelf and box gets full, I’ll sift through and get rid of or scan a few. I decided not to keep everything but chose the special photos that I loved the most.
16. Decluttering books
Books, like photos, are something which many of us build up over the years, especially from before the days of audio books, podcasts and kindles! Books are like old friends to me and I love to keep some of the books that have given me hours of enjoyment. I love to hold a physical book as I read. Just like with the photos above, I allocate a certain amount of storage space to my books (including cookbooks) and don’t keep more than what will comfortably fit on that shelf.
17. Changing tastes and trends
My grandparents decluttered their home when they moved to a smaller flat and couldn’t take some of their larger pieces of furniture with them. They wanted to pass them on to myself and my cousins or sell these pieces because they were lovely pieces of furniture, had stood the test of time and had been valuable when they purchased them. However, times change and tastes change. I didn’t have the space for their furniture and when we tried to sell the items, there was little interest in older, antique pieces (apart from people who wanted to upcycle them!).
The tastes of the modern generation are different and tastes and trends go out of fashion so it may be much more difficult to sell or pass on items than it used to be. Don’t let this hold you up or stall your decluttering progress. Consider what to do with your unwanted items carefully. Selling or passing on the items may not be as easy as donating or recycling.
18. Consider how your lifestyle has changed
When sorting through the stuff in your home, think about how your lifestyle might be different now. If you’re not as active and can’t garden so much, do you really need to keep all your gardening tools? If you no longer work, do you need that uniform? If your vision makes it difficult to read books, do you need to keep them all or could you move over to listening to audio books or the radio? Your home, particularly if space is limited, should be set up for your needs and likes now, not as a constant reminder of what your life or your capabilities used to be like. Think about your current lifestyle and what you need around you to support you best right now.
19. Decluttering to downsize
Decluttering if you’re moving to a smaller home and need to get rid of some stuff is a very real reason for decluttering. It’s not so much about wanting to declutter but having to declutter and this can force emotions on us that are tough to deal with. We may feel a lack of independence, not ready to move into this next chapter of our life, forced out of a long-time home because of financial, health or mobility needs.
If you’re decluttering to downsize, plan what and how much you can take to your new home to make it feel comfortable and special to you. Think about what you’ll need in your new home. Does it have fewer bedrooms, a smaller kitchen, no garage storage space, a smaller or even no garden. The stuff you take with you will depend on the size, plan, layout and functionality of your new home.
Decluttering for downsizing is also time to think about the logistics of moving. Removal companies can do much of the hard work for you including supplying the boxes, helping you pack up your stuff and, of course, transporting everything to your new home.
Get support from friends and family, decide what you need to take vs what you want to take, consider what furniture you might need and how you can maximise storage if space is limited.
20. Decluttering for retirement
Retirement is a time of transition. Without work to provide structure and a framework to your day and week, consider how you’ll be spending your time in retirement. What leisure interests do you hope to pursue, which hobbies? Will you be spending more time at home doing gardening, DIY, cooking, entertaining friends, learning a new skill or are you hoping to be out and about and doing more travelling? How you spend your time, what functions your home has to serve and what you need in your home will help you decide how best to plan and declutter for retirement.
SUPPORTING SENIORS TO DECLUTTER
Decluttering in later life is full of physical and emotional challenges so supporting an older person to declutter successfully is best done with patience and a plan. Discussing why you’re decluttering and what you want to achieve is a great way to start the process. Be open and honest and have their happiness, comfort and safety front of mind at all times.
Decluttering for the sake of it doesn’t work and it will just probably raise defences and make an older person feel stressed and overwhelmed – forced decluttering like this has the same effect on many people, young and old alike! In addition to the decluttering tips for seniors we’ve mentioned above, be patient, be kind, offer help and support and go as slow as they need.
DECLUTTERING TIPS FOR LATER IN LIFE
I hope you found these decluttering tips for seniors helpful. To recap on the tips we discussed, here’s a quick summary:
- Be ready to get rid of stuff
- Start in an easy place
- Have a plan or follow a checklist
- Give yourself plenty of time
- Allow time to reminisce
- How to stop feeling guilty or wasteful
- Don’t try to declutter everything at once
- Take regular breaks
- Have your decluttering supplies ready
- Use a chair and table if you need to
- Make a note of where you get up to
- Get help from family and friends
- Make a note of where you get up to
- Make decluttering enjoyable
- Decluttering sentimental items
- Decluttering books
- Changing tastes and trends
- Consider how your lifestyle has changed
- Decluttering to downsize
- Decluttering for retirement
I’d love to hear your experience of decluttering in later life, or supporting someone else to declutter in this situation. What were the biggest struggles and how did you overcome them? Do you have any other tips to share that might be helpful for others?
RESOURCES FOR DECLUTTERING
You might find these articles and resources helpful for decluttering in later life.
- How To Declutter Craft Supplies for Creativity and Joy
- Decluttering in Midlife: How to Declutter in Midlife With Ease
- How to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed
- How to Declutter Your Home and Life in 2023
- Sentimental Clutter and How to Deal With It
- How To Make Your Home A Sanctuary
- Decluttering Goals and Why They’re Important (+ Free Printable)
- Simplify Your Home – a guide, workbook and checklists to help you declutter your home with ease and less effort. Handy checklists and simple step-by-step instructions, all laid out for you in one place.
DON’T MISS OUT!
I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!