Declutter to Age in Place Successfully

Approaching older age with a positive and proactive mindset is crucial to aging well and in addition to regular exercise, a healthy diet and social engagement, studies have shown that decluttering the home can also contribute to healthy aging.  Not only does removing clutter around the home reduce the risk for falls leading to injury but the task of making meaningful choices about the possessions that are useful and valued can help reduce anxiety and promote cognitive well-being. 

According to a recent article in the Alexandria Times, the process of decluttering can help older adults retrieve and share happy memories and look forward to a lighter, more streamlined future.  By proactively approaching downsizing one’s possessions, decisions about where a lifetime of possessions should be donated or distributed can be made thoughtfully.  As Marie Kondo suggests, each item can be evaluated for its usefulness and whether or not it sparks joy.  If an item does neither, it’s easier to let go. 

For seniors planning to age in place, decluttering the home is an important part of making the home safe.  Clutter on surfaces and floors not only creates disorder and possibly frustration, but it can also be a tripping hazard that may lead to falls.  Falls are the leading cause of hospitalization among elderly adults and injuries from a fall can lead to a loss of independence and hasten a move into assisted living. 

The process of decluttering can create mental calm; the act of going through items can help older adults process their past and prepare to move forward.  A 2016 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that clutter has a negative impact on feelings of well-being as well as a sense of security and safety at home.  A messy home is less restful and calming and can contribute to elevated stress levels and depressed mood. 

Organizing the kitchen, the heart of the home,  to keep frequently-used items within easy reach is an important safety step.  Bathrooms too are a common hazard for falls and can be made safer by removing throw rugs, installing grab bars and improving lighting.  And families will appreciate a well-organized filing system with a full medication list, financial information and end-of-life wishes clearly labelled. 

Learn more about how an organized living space can improve cognition and reduce stress by following this link to the Mayo Clinic website.   Need help?  A professional organizer can not only help clear clutter and implement organizational systems, but they are also able to offer emotional support to help clients make difficult decisions about what possessions they should keep and meet their goals for a more calm, efficient and organized home.