As Canadians, we spend a bit longer than do other nationalities hibernating during the winter and are very familiar with the need for a good spring cleaning of our homes come nicer weather. This experience is not exclusive to any age group, all of us seem to confront the need to de-clutter from time to time but when an elder has a home filled with a lifetime’s worth of stuff, the task can seem more daunting! Whether an elder finds themselves downsizing their home as they grow older or moving into a retirement residence or simply aging in place, at some point in time they will find themselves taking stock of all the material possessions that they have acquired in life and conclude, often with the encouragement of their adult children, that it is time to get down to the serious business of minimizing all of the stuff they collected and it can often be a whole lot of stuff! Seniors, especially, have more compelling reasons to pare back their possessions as they age. The American Association of Retired Persons discovered there are four major reasons to take the task to do so, with all seriousness.
1. You intend to grow old in your home
Given the choice, and countless surveys confirm this, most people over the age of 50 want to stay in their home and community as the age for the rest of their lives. The desire to do so is most pronounced as one ages. Adults aged 65 and older want to age in place 87 percent of the time compared to the next youngest demographic, persons aged 50 to 64 electing to do so 71 percent of the time. There are some things to do to get one’s home fit for a long period of retirement. Let’s start with something we can all relate to; decluttering! Decluttering and organizing your belongings while you are young enough to effectively tackle the job allows you to:
- Access what you want more easily.
- Enjoy memories stored in mementos, photos, letters, videos and other treasures you’ve been saving with ease.
- Reorganize possessions to place them within safer reach.
- Maneuver more easily through the home, mobility wise!
2. You may be headed for trouble
Decluttering can help head off these problems that often force elders from their homes:
- Devastating falls. Serious falls can permanently reduce a senior’s mobility and freedom. Reducing clutter opens up space and could reduce the possibility of tripping and hurting yourself.
- Hoarding. Hoarding entails “difficulty in discarding current possessions, urges to save items, and excessive clutter in the home,” according to the Psychiatric Times, hoarding can be an especially difficult problem for older people living alone.
3. You want to leave heirs a lighter load
Estate planning, making a will and a trust and keeping them updated, is a kindness done for your heirs. Likewise, decluttering now protects your loved ones from inheriting the burden of a home full of stuff.
4. You’re downsizing
You may find, especially after children are grown, that you’re weary of the cost and maintenance of the family home, and you’d rather move in with adult children or downsize to a smaller place. The problem is, you can’t cram everything you own into your new home.
While reducing the amount of one’s lifetime worth of possessions can seem overwhelming but unless there is a definitive deadline needed (you’ve sold your home, for instance), think of decluttering as a new, helpful habit to incorporate rather than a mountainous job. As the consequences of aging in place are experienced, the elder and their children will be most grateful!