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Decluttering for Seniors

One of the great privileges of ageing is the wealth of experiences we accumulate across the years – the people we meet, the places we see, the goals we kick, and the adventures we seek. Memories. Threads of the life we have lived sown together to become the person we are.

Often, as we are busy creating these memories, we collect objects and mementos connected to them – a first pair of footy boots, a daughter’s beloved tutu, a ‘No. 1 Dad’ coffee mug, a grandparent’s family recipe book, castanets from a holiday in Spain and a traditional gong from a work trip to Borneo. Reminders of the people and places that have shaped our lives.

After decades of collecting these cherished memories and mementos, it can be difficult to let them go when the time comes to downsize your home or just declutter and refresh the one you live in.

According to professional declutterer Julianna Poplin, the best advice is to go easy on yourself.

“Take the time you need to say goodbye to the stuff you’ve been holding onto– but keep your goal in mind and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Julianna offers six tips to make decluttering for seniors easier.

1: Set goals

Setting a clear, achievable goal is a great way to stay focused.

“By setting a clear goal for what you’re hoping to achieve and keeping the reason why you’re decluttering in mind, you’ll have a much easier time staying on track and making progress.”

2: Tackle one small area at a time

According to Julianna, one of the biggest mistakes seniors make when decluttering is trying to tackle everything at once.

“Focus on one small, specific area of your home first. It could be a certain room or even just a wardrobe or a shelf. Complete that one area before moving on to the next.” 

3: Pace yourself

Decluttering is a marathon, not a race.

“If you try to move too quickly, you’re going to get tired quickly, and you might even give up,” warns Julianna. “Whether you can spare one hour a day or need to dedicate your full attention to the task on weekends, it’s important to go at your own pace.”

4: Ask for help

While seniors often need help with physical tasks like moving large objects or furniture, Julianna says calling in the troops shouldn’t be saved just for heavy lifting.

“If you’ve got a friend willing to help you, take advantage of the company. Having someone else around helps the time pass more quickly – and makes it a lot more fun.” 

5: It’s OK to keep some things

Naturally, there are going to be things you want to keep. And that’s OK! However, Julianna warns that when it comes to nostalgic items you can easily find yourself on a slippery slope.

“It can be tough to part with things that are part of your history, but I find setting a limit upfront is the easiest solution. It could be a specific number of items or a specific space like a box, a cupboard, or a shelf.”

6: Don’t hold onto stuff for others

Holding onto things for the kids? Julianna says this is another way to quickly derail your best laid plans. She suggests working with your kids to determine what they want – and what they don’t.

“Let them know when you’re decluttering and see if they’d like to come by and help. Or set the stuff aside and ask them to call in and grab whatever they want to keep. But make sure you give them a decluttering deadline, after which it will be donated.”