Get OrganizedSo, it’s a New Year and you just found a magazine from 1965 in your parents’ living room and their garage may be housing trolls among the stacks of unused items? 

It may be time to step in and help them get organized.  Or maybe you are the older adult who needs to de-clutter.

The number one reason to de-clutter is for the safety and well-being of the older adult in your life.

Clutter makes it more difficult to get around safely in a wheelchair or with a walker.  Messy surroundings can increase the risk of a fall for those who use assistive devices, as well as for those who don’t.

A dis-organized kitchen leads to greater risk of illness associated with spoiled or unsafe foods.

Just remember to keep your parents at the helm and in charge of the process.  It’s their home and respecting their choices will go a long way in gaining their cooperation and helping the process to go smoothly.

Give the home a once-over and make a list of the areas that need work, prioritize and decide where to start.  Get organized about organizing.

Here are a few tips and areas to give your attention:
  • Remove items from stairways, these should be kept entirely clear. Hang a basket at the bottom and top of stairwells to place items that need to be taken up or down stairs to minimize trips.
  • Donate furniture and reduce the number of pieces in every room to allow wide walkways with ample room for a walker or wheelchair.
  • Make a plan to clean the refrigerator out at least once monthly.
  • Make everything easier to reach, store items for everyday use no lower than thigh level and no higher than eye-level.
  • Check the medicine cabinet for expired medications and dispose of them and get rid of old toiletries and products not being used.
  • Make sure to store bath items such as shampoo and soaps in a secure container within easy reach and not on the sides of the tub where they pose a fall risk if they tumble into the tub.

A sorting method recommended by Next Avenue advocates using a four-box method.  Next Avenue suggests the boxes be:

  • “Keep Until I Die” For items with sentimental value, such as family heirlooms, personal letters, wedding china, and photo albums.
  • “Appraise and Sell” For unwanted items of value.
  • “Keep with Me” For unsentimental items, such as furniture and art.
  • “Garage Sale/Donate” For unwanted items.

Keep it positive!

Laura H. Gilbert wrote a book about this process titled, The Stories We Leave Behind.  She suggests what she calls a legacy-based approach to deal with stuff.  One idea she discusses is having a “Discovery Half-Day Plan”.  This means creating a fun and relaxing environment for exploring your stuff and sharing the important stories that these items bring to mind.  Decide what to keep and what to let go of and make a list and figure out how to distribute unwanted items.  To keep the experience pleasant, stop halfway through the day before involved parties get tired and grumpy.

Make sure to take frequent breaks.  Going through this process will bring up many memories and if you rush through it you’ll miss the opportunity to reminisce or hear some amazing stories.