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Senior Couple Organizing Belongings

Declutter and Downsize: 4 Tips for Older Adults

Retirement is the start of a new chapter in life and an opportunity to enjoy living on your own terms. It’s common for older adults to seek to simplify their lives so they can focus on the people and activities that mean the most to them. One topic that often comes up during this time of transition is downsizing.

Some experts on aging refer to this process as rightsizing because it aligns your goals with your needs. Do you really need a big house now? Would you be better served by downsizing and freeing yourself from the burdens of keeping up a home?

The process of downsizing frequently starts with decluttering. If you are considering moving to a smaller home or a senior living community in the months or years ahead, getting rid of unused items now can make a future move easier.

Benefits of Decluttering

Even before organizing expert Marie Kondo gained international attention last year with her quest to tidy up our households, mental health experts were lauding the benefits of decluttering. Whether or not it is done in preparation for a move, decluttering is energizing and uplifting.

The benefits of decluttering your home during retirement include:

  • Lower fall risk: Falls and the injuries that can result from them pose a serious risk for older adults. In fact, they are the leading cause of disability for seniors. Getting rid of stacks of old magazines, outdated clothing, excess furniture, and general clutter can make it easier to safely navigate your home. It also frees up space so you can store the items you use most often in easy-to-reach places.
  • Improve mental health: When your home is full of belongings you don’t really need, it can leave you feeling stressed and anxious. People might not even realize how much the excess clutter is dragging them down. When your home is tidy and clean, you’ll likely feel calmer and in better spirits.
  • Reduce allergens: Clutter causes allergens like mold and dust mites to accumulate in the home. That decreases air quality and can even contribute to health problems, such as asthma and other respiratory conditions. By decluttering, you reduce allergens.

Here are a few steps you can take to tackle the clutter around your home or a senior loved one’s.

4 Steps to Decluttering Your Home

  1. Start with the easy stuff

Most of us have things we can get rid of easily in each room. Grab a trash bag or box and pack those items up. Making a quick sweep of rooms can give you the push you need to get started. Have one box for items to recycle and another for those you want to donate or give away. Dispose of everything else.

  1. Conduct a paper purge

Another easy task that can help rid your home of clutter is to purge paper. People accumulate a shocking amount of it. The longer you’ve lived in your home, the worse it probably is. Old catalogs, outdated receipts, and past utility statements are a common sight in many houses. Shred or dispose of those you won’t need again.

Junk mail is another constant battle for many households. Unless you are vigilant, it can easily pile up. To lower the amount you receive, sign up for the National Do Not Mail List. You can also email catalog companies directly and ask to be unsubscribed from their mailing lists.

  1. Clear out the closets

Closets can harbor possessions you haven’t laid eyes on in years. Linen closets and master bedroom closets are often the worst. Apply the 12-month rule to every item in your closets. That is, if you haven’t worn or used something in the last year, you likely don’t need it.

Box up clothing, linens, and accessories you haven’t used and make frequent trips to donation sites. (Just be sure to call ahead as some charitable organizations are limiting donations due to COVID-19 concerns.) Don’t put off making these drop-offs. Doing so might result in items working their way back into a closet or drawer.

  1. Downsize holiday décor

Whether it is patriotic décor or Christmas ornaments, holiday decorations accumulate. Many of us periodically buy new decorations and leave the old ones boxed up in the basement or in a storage closet. Go through every box and be realistic about what you will use and what you won’t. Donate the latter. Veterans centers, nonprofit preschools, and domestic violence shelters are a few places that might appreciate receiving these items.

Downsize to the Rightsized Housing

If you feel overwhelmed at the very idea of downsizing, know that you aren’t alone. In fact, seniors and their adult children often cite it as a reason for delaying a move they’d really like to make.

Fortunately, senior move managers are experienced professionals who can assist older adults with every step of a move. Visit How Senior Move Managers Make Transitioning from Your Home Easier to learn more. You can also call a Clearwater Living community near you for a list of local senior move managers.

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