Decluttering Tips for Seniors [How to Declutter When Downsizing]

Practical Decluttering Tips For Seniors Reaching Retirement

Decluttering Tips for Seniors

Seniors living at home have spent a lifetime collecting memories, many of which come in the shape or form of physical objects. While some seniors manage their own things quite well, and even take the time to declutter and donate unused items, there are others who may need a little extra help.

As seniors get older, it becomes physically more difficult to organize and clean a home. A few adult children may even have concerns that their parents are hoarding items at an unhealthy level, which can contribute to health risks such as falls, injury, and inadequate access to leave and enter the home in the event of an emergency.

Here are a few questions adult children may be thinking about when it comes to decluttering a senior loved one’s home: Where do we start? Is it really a hoarding condition we’re dealing with, or do they just have a lot of stuff? How do we declutter without hurt feelings or causing unnecessary upheaval?

Decluttering Tips For Seniors (How To Declutter Guide)

Do we have to get rid of things or can we just better organize their belongings? What are the best ways to organize and declutter so senior loved ones can continue living safely at home? For seniors and their loved ones, we have prepared 10 tips for how to declutter the home clutter and create a safe living environment at home.

1. Take It in Baby Steps

Don’t expect to get the entire home cleaned out within a day or two. For one, it’s too high of an expectation for both the senior and the family members. Additionally, moving to reorganize a senior’s home at a fast pace takes control away from the senior. Not only would a fast-paced, mass cleaning devastate them, it will make the senior less willing to organize and declutter their home. It is essential for family members to reiterate that the senior has the leading role in the decluttering project because it’s their life and their memories that they are trying to better organize.

2. Make Emergency Access a Priority

Before you start throwing out or donating items, start piling up loose items and moving objects away from all doors and windows. If there are any major piles, furniture, or loose objects blocking hallways and doorways, then the senior won’t be able to leave the home in the event of an emergency (fire, gas leak, etc.). Furthermore, emergency services won’t be able to access the home from the outside if the senior has a medical emergency within the home.

3. Remove Loose Items From the Floor

Any loose items that are lying on the floor with absolutely no purpose, except posing as a potential tripping hazard, must be piled up and moved elsewhere. As seniors age, physical ailments such as vision loss, reduced stamina, and decreased postural stability places them at a high risk for falls in the home. Remove all objects that can get tangled under their feet or block a walker or a cane.

4. Eliminate Fire Hazards

Clear out any flammable objects next to appliances that can cause a fire. For example, remove any dishcloths, paper towels, or random papers that are near the oven, toaster, microwave, heating vents, or any other electrical or gas appliance in the home. Remember to consult with the senior before throwing anything away, including paper products that may seem like garbage to the average person. Some seniors have developed sentimental value for simple things, so it is important for family members to get their permission before discarding anything for permanent disposal.

5. Throw Out the Garbage First

Before you begin assigning items to the donation pile, ease into the process and start with the garbage first. Remember, it’s important to highly involve the senior in the process so let them take the lead on determining what is garbage and what is not. The obvious trash items are old food and perishable items. Then, move your way up through old papers, broken items, disposable objects, etc. Once the garbage is out, it will be easier for seniors to identify and sort meaningful items.

6. Organize Piles of Belongings Room by Room

Just pick one room for the first day, with the expectation that it may take more than 24 hours to sort through it. Organize everything into piles:

  • Items to keep in the home
  • Items to be donated
  • Items to be sold
  • Items to be thrown out
  • Items to be stored

Now that you’ve already gotten past clearing emergency accesses and fire hazards, you and your senior loved one can slow down a little bit and not only sort but enjoy the memories with them as they organize the rest of their home.

7. Utilize Easy-to-open Storage Bins

Make a trip to the store and select storage bins that are easy to open and can reasonably fit in the home. Storage bins are for items that the senior wants to keep in the home but does not necessarily have to access on a regular basis (i.e. memory books, photo albums, sewing kits, crafts, tools, etc.). Make sure the storage bins are reasonably light and can be stored where the senior can safely reach them when needed.

8. Consider Exterior Storage Options

If you and your senior loved one have finished organizing piles and realize that the items they want to keep are in a much larger pile than anticipated, then consider renting a storage space. Start researching storage unit companies to get the best price and a unit that is within a satisfactory distance from the home. Make sure you have two keys: one for the senior and one for a responsible family member. The items that should go into a storage unit are ones that the senior can part with temporarily but don’t want to donate or throw out just yet.

9. Plan a Rummage Sale or Donation Event

If your senior loved one enjoys planning events and is cognitively capable of participating, help them organize a rummage sale, garage sale, an auction, or a donation event at their home. Although donating unused items is a quick remedy to declutter, there is no shame in making a buck off items that are still in excellent shape. The senior should be made responsible for the sales made and all the profits, meaning they get to decide how the earnings are used since it’s their belongings being sold.

10. Seek Professional Help for Mental Health Factors

If you suspect that your loved one has a mental illness causing unhealthy hoarding habits, consult with a medical professional before decluttering their home. Signs and symptoms that a senior is hoarding includes unwillingness to part with items that any reasonable person would throw in the trash and collecting nonsensical items that they don’t need. Talk to a professional and get advice on how best to approach their loved one and to make their home safe.

Although decluttering the clutter is important for maintaining a senior loved one’s safety and health, family members are encouraged to respect their memories and avoid rushing the project. Take the time to sit with them, listen to their stories, appreciate their memories, and then move forward together to a cleaner, more organized lifestyle.



Doha Isleta, L.V.N. has been the Client Care Manager at Justin Villa Care, LLC for over 10 years. She oversees each client case and makes sure that families are confident in the caregiver that they choose. She looks forward to helping you or your loved one live at home safely and independently.

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Justin Villa Care Implements Safety Measures to Protect Clients From COVID-19

Justin Villa Care is dedicated to implementing proactive measures during this difficult time to support our caregivers, clients and families. Here are some of the measures we are implementing to help your loved ones to stay home and stay safe.

Caregiver and Staff Education

Our caregivers and staff have received communication and training in:

  • Symptoms
  • Safety protocols
  • Travel reporting requirements
  • Proper handwashing techniques
  • Respiratory etiquette
  • Warning signs of illness
  • Infection control protocols, including effective cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and hands Following CDC and local health authority guidance

Caregiver and Staff Monitoring

We will not place any caregiver with a client for a minimum of 14 days or until cleared by a medical provider if the caregiver has:

  • Been exposed to a facility where COVID- 19 is being treated
  • Traveled to a location on the CDC advisory list in the past two months
  • Started showing symptoms of the illness
  • We will not place any caregiver who has symptoms of illness on assignment or accept new clients who demonstrate symptoms that are highly consistent with the COVID-19 diagnosis or who have traveled to Level 1-3 areas in the most recent 14 days.

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