Hanging on to Clutter

Many of us have had the experience of going into an older adults’ home to find clutter and an over- abundance of items they no longer use.  Hanging on to items for sentimental reasons, or thinking that they may need an item at a later date may be partially a reason that decluttering has not occurred. 

Having clutter may increase the risk of falls, lead to unsanitary conditions or even make it difficult for paramedics to reach you in an emergency. 

Cluttering is when people hang on to too many items they no longer need.  It can be too much furniture in a room or food items that are kept past their expiration date.   Both can lead to health and safety issues for the older adult living at home. 

Many hold on to items they acquired, thinking there is value, potential future use, or that their children will want it, to find that most items are not desired or of any value.  Children often worry about the parent’s safety and frame of mind when parents are not willing to let items go. 

The older adult may be embarrassed to have others visit, fearing judgement for the amount of clutter, or the fact that someone may need to move a pile of items in order to sit down.  Making a cup of tea for their guest with clutter in the kitchen may also leave them feeling uncomfortable.  Clutter in the kitchen can result in spoiled foods which may lead to food borne illnesses. 

So what can be done? 

Consider whether clutter has always been a part of the older adults’ life or whether they have entered a new phase.   If clutter has always existed, explaining your concerns may be a first step to help declutter.  Find out what they are willing to part with, and help them remove the additional items little by little.  Every small step is another step to a safer environment. 

If the older adult is overwhelmed by the amount of items they possess, get them involved in what they wish to keep and what they wish to part with.  Tackle one room at a time.  While their physical limitations may not allow them to assist, their ability to be part of the change will be beneficial to all involved. 

In the event clutter may be a new concern, consider whether they are suffering from dementia, or depression.  A trip to their physician may determine if there are medical issues surrounding the issue and allow for taking necessary steps to deal with the issue.

Freedom from clutter is a mood booster.  Everyone feels better when the task is completed and the older adult is safe in their own space.  


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