There is a definite trend of individuals making the decision to Age In Place – remaining in their current homes through the latter years of their life. With that decision may come the need to modify the layout of your home for safer, easier navigation. But before that happens, clearing the clutter and organizing what remains should be your first step.
Proven benefits of an uncluttered home: removal of tripping hazards, lower risk of injuries, reduced anxiety and stress, and boosted mental clarity. And, when surfaces and floors are cleared, the home is easier to clean and keep clean. Decluttering can also reduce the level of upkeep and maintenance of your home. All of these benefits can extend not only your mental and physical health but also your overall quality of life.
For more than eight years, Assist Your Move has been helping individuals and families downsize,
declutter and organize their homes so they are safely able to age in place in comfort.
Tips to Declutter & Organize Your Home So You Can Age in Place
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Every item in your home should have its own designated place. Without it, clutter can easily build and finding those important items will be impossible. This may mean repurposing some of your current items to make room for more convenient storage areas and solutions.
Begin with the doorway most traveled through and think “clear pathway” in and out. Remove all items in and around this area except what is most needed on a regular basis. Think keys, purse, coats, shoes, hat, gloves, and umbrella.
KEYS: Have a dedicated place for your keys! Make finding keys easy, such as a tray or bowl (unbreakable) on a console/entryway table near the front door.
Flash Tip: Do not put the table behind the front door. You don’t want to wrestle with the door before you’re able to set down your keys or packages.
Another great option is a key hanger mounted to the wall near the front door.
CLOSET, COAT TREE & BENCH: If you have an entry closet or a coat tree, keep only the current season’s items in this space. Store off-season items in a bin and trade out as seasons change. A bench is perfect for the entryway, if you have the space. Remember – it’s for sitting, not for storing items. Favorite shoes can be tucked under the bench for easy access.
Most adults spend a lot of time in their living rooms, so that’s where clutter most likely accumulates. Think shoes kicked off, newspaper on the floor, grandchild’s artwork and mail on the tables. It’s also where you’ll find overstuffed furniture, large TV stands and coffee tables, and an abundance of chairs, floor lamps, and side tables. The result: too much furniture in too little of space.
Taking an honest look around the room provides clues for reclaiming the space and making it suitable – and safe – to age in place.
CLEAR THE SURFACES: Take a look! What’s on the surfaces of your sofa, coffee/side tables, TV stands and floors? Often its knickknacks, decorative items, blankets, books, iPad, cellphone, bills (more on paperwork below), etc., that don’t have a designated place.
As you work through these surfaces, remember that each item you choose to keep should not only have value and function and bring you joy but there should also be a designated space for them. Think back of sofa or chair for the throw you reach for most often, a basket on the table for the remote & your reading glasses and a designated charging station for your phone & computer. Donate or toss all other items.
Flash Tip: Keep clutter off your tables by adding a wall mounted shelving unit for your cherished decorative items & knickknacks.
CLEAR THE FLOOR SPACE: Start with removing all the furniture to determine the true dimension of this space. Then think about what you definitely want to keep and arrange those items so you can move easily and freely between pieces of furniture. This may mean you need a smaller sofa. It could mean that the coffee table goes away but the side tables remain or incorporating only one floor lamp. Safety, ease of movement and comfort is the key to making these decisions.
Flash Tip: Keep tripping hazards in check by installing cord organizers or cable sleeves for your electronics.
This may be the most time-consuming room to declutter, but it’s also the most important. A cluttered and disorganized kitchen makes cooking and cleaning difficult at best and hazardous at worst. If your pantry or refrigerator is stuffed so full that you have to move boxes, jars or cans to get what want, accidents can occur and things – like your big toe – can break!
The key to an accessible kitchen is to remove all excess and unused items. You’ll have less to manage on a daily basis and more time to enjoy the meals you prepare.
Open every cabinet, check under the sink, look in the refrigerator and freezer, and check out what’s on the floor. Assess what you truly need and what you don’t. For instance:
- You may no longer be hosting a holiday dinner so those extra sets of china, silverware, serving dishes & glassware may no longer be needed. If they’re in good condition, donate them; if not, toss them.
- Heirlooms – if there is strong sentimental value, keep them; if not, ask your children or relatives if they are interested in them.
- Unless you’re a professional baker, you don’t need the five spatulas that clutter your drawer or the myriad of baking pans in your cupboard. Keep your favorite one or two and donate the rest.
- Toss unmatched food containers.
- Spices have a way of multiplying and sitting for years without being used or used rarely. Check out the expiration dates and toss any that are expired or you no longer use.
- Cleaning products are the same as spices – toss expired and keep only what you need.
- And so on.
ORGANIZATION TOOLS: Now that you’ve cleared the clutter, think about how you’ll easily access what’s remaining. This could require organizing essentials such as sliding pantry bins, food storage organizers, a utensil crock, or a sliding basket caddy for under your sink for your cleaning products.
Flash Tip: For safety and ease of access, heavier items should be kept in drawers and cupboards at a thigh-to-waist-high level.
MAIL & PAPERWORK: Kitchens (and sometimes coffee tables) seem to be the catch-all for mail and paperwork. The danger in piles of paper is that bills may go unpaid, doctor appointments may be missed, and even new credit cards can end up in the trash.
First, bring all paperwork together and sort through each piece, keeping what you need and filing, shredding or tossing the rest. Then, designate one spot for all paperwork (other than what goes in your file drawers), and use an organizer that can hold mail, paperwork, pens, stamps, etc. This happy solution puts everything in one place where you can find it…and it’s organized!
Like most of us, the bedroom is where years worth of clothing, shoes, handbags, accessories, and more collect. Clearing this space is critical to your safety. Think about getting up in the middle of the night to make your way to the bathroom, only to trip over the laundry that didn’t make it to the hamper.
We recommend you begin with the main bedroom space and clear out all the unnecessary items. This includes items on all the surfaces, window sills, under the bed and on the floor. Use the method mentioned above for what you retain. Remember each items needs a designated place to live. Have at the ready boxes for the items you’re keeping, donating or tossing.
After the clearing, look at the space with a critical eye and decide if you can safely and easily move from the door through the space. If not, you may want to reduce the amount or size of the furniture in the room.
CLOTHING, SHOES & ACCESSORIES: Now that the floor and surfaces are clear, you’ll have space to assess your clothing.
Decluttering your closet and dressers means looking at – and even trying on – each article of clothing. If it no longer fits, if it’s in tatters or is soiled beyond cleaning, it should go. The same for shoes that have seen better day. Toss them. If you’re like most people, by the time you move through this process, you will have half the items you started with.
ORGANIZATION TOOLS: There are so many great organization tools to keep your bedroom and closet neat and tidy. Think Shoe Rack or Over the Door Shoe Bag to keep your floors clear and your shoes in easy reach. For keeping multiple clothing of the same type together, think pant/skirt hangers, belt hooks, and scarf rounds. Dividers for dresser drawers are the perfect way to wrangle your socks and underclothes.
For large and bulky items such as winter sweaters and jackets, use large storage boxes or bags. Depending on your space, you can select from options that fit under the bed or stack. Remember if they go under the bed, they need to be in easy reach.
The key is to keep items you use regularly organized and within easy reach.
According to the AARP, bathrooms are the place in the home where most accidents occur. Keeping the space uncluttered is critical to creating a safe environment.
As with other rooms, first clear the space. Toss expired products and multiples of the same item (Truly, how many combs do you need?). As you look through your linens, keep only those that are in good condition and let go of the rest. A good rule of thumb – especially if you’re tight on space – is one set for current use while the other is being laundered. This goes for towels and bedding.
Flash Tip: For expired prescriptions, the FDA has recommendations on how/what to dispose.
The bathroom is probably the most important space to keep things off the floor. You don’t want to negotiate floor clutter when you’re getting out of the shower or bath. If there are floor items such as a scale, keep it out of the main flow of traffic. A non-slip rug/runner is perfect for keeping you safe.
ORGANIZING TOOLS: Is your bathroom vanity covered with toiletries? Do you have adequate towel racks and places for paper supplies? As with the other rooms in your home, organizational tools will help create a designated space for every item.
Rather than pulling open a drawer and having all your bathroom items laying haphazardly at the bottom, a drawer divider or cabinet organizer will help you quickly find the things you need. If you need extra storage space, there are storage cabinets that are free standing or fit nicely over your toilet. These cabinets can hold extra paper products, towels and even some of your toiletries.
There are organizing items for your shower, too. A shower self with hooks for your washcloths or mounted shampoo & soap dispensers (no more bending to reach for the soap that’s slipped out of your hands!). If a shower seat is used, there are caddys that sit on the floor next to the seat, keeping everything organized and handy.