As your loved ones enter their golden years, their home becomes their sanctuary. But if they’ve kept all the tokens of love over the years, their home is probably too cluttered for them to navigate safely. This can be a health hazard, both physically (tripping and falling over things) or mentally (hoarding).
Here are some tips to help your older loved ones lessen their belongings so that they can remain safe and happy in their homes.
Put safety first: Your elderly loved ones have spent decades with their belongings – especially if they’ve remained in the same home – and they have created an emotional attachment to many of the items in the house. Although each item may have a special place in their hearts, the more items in the house, the more dangerous navigating between the clutter becomes. Help them see the safety benefits of organizing and decluttering so that they will change their attitude about the decluttering process.
Find support: Sometimes extreme clutter means that your loved one has developed a hoarding problem. Healing a hoarding issue takes time and patience, so we recommend you find a good support system for you, your loved one, and the rest of the family. Love, support, and patience are key in decluttering the house. Whether your loved one has a hoarding problem or not, groups like the IOCDF (International OCD Foundation) offer great suggestions and tips for those struggling with clutter.
Take it slow: Always remember to start small. You don’t want to overwhelm your loved ones by renting a dumpster for a weekend and completely gutting their house. Be satisfied with baby steps in the right direction. Try starting with one room – or even a cupboard – so that your loved one can work through the process of decluttering with you. Remember: Patience is always important in these situations.
Put it in a box: Persuade your loved one to handle an object only once. Allow him or her time to look at the object and make a conscious decision about whether to keep it or not. The more the object is handled, the harder it is to make a decision. Make three piles (or have three boxes) in each room: one for keeping, one for throwing away, and one for donating. If your loved one can’t decide whether to throw it away, put the item in a box for up to six months. Then, he or she can revisit the item and decide what to do with it.
Share heirlooms with those who want them: To help your loved ones in the process of decluttering, gather the family together and distribute any cherished heirlooms. Your loved ones will feel secure knowing that the item isn’t going to waste, and you will get to keep something special.
Paring down the belongings of your aged loved ones can be a long and difficult process. But if you remember to keep safety at the top of your priority list, find a good support system, go slowly and steadily, put everything in a box, and keep the heirlooms, the level of stress and hardship will be minimized.
This article was originally published in the Orange County Register. It has been republished here with permission.