Do you need a declutter to make your home more accessible?
21st December 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Possessions are important as mementoes of past experiences, they may remind people of the loved one who gave the item to them, the holiday where the item was bought as a souvenir or the time that has been spent collecting items of that sort. However there comes a point when a person can have too many possessions and they are no longer nice trinkets but become a hazard instead.
Knowing when a house is too cluttered can be difficult, but throwing away treasured possessions is often even more of a struggle. Enlisting friends to support the process and decluttering regularly are the best ways to stay ahead of the mess.
Know when to declutter
People often avoid decluttering for as long as possible, sometimes because it feels like an enormous task and other times because they are not ready to get rid of any of their possessions. Chrissy from Organise My House understands that stuff could be affecting your mood more than you know:
“Decluttering is needed when the "stuff" around you starts to have a negative impact in your life. You may feel overwhelmed by it, annoyed by it, or just a little irritated - but it won't do you any good to stay in that state - so decluttering is the answer.”
A cluttered home could be having a negative impact, and these are the areas that can be most affected.
Not understanding why you feel stressed or fidgety while at home in what should be the most relaxed environment is often a key sign that you need to declutter. Caitlin from the Born Again Minimalist blog thinks there are key times when you realise this feeling:
“If you're stressed out when you think about buying something new because you're not sure where you'll put it, or you get stressed looking at your possessions or storage areas, this is a big sign you may need to minimize. Even if all of your stuff fits in your home, it can still cause stress or anxiety if you have more than you mentally want to deal with. For me, this manifests in not wanting to do the household cleaning, because I just can't imagine where to start or how to get everything cleaned in a timely manner (this is related to depression too, and it's worse in the winter when Seasonal Affective Disorder is rampant).”
This is both the most obvious and dangerous impact that clutter can have, especially on an older adult with mobility issues. However while your home may not have any trip hazards or items of furniture blocking an easy access bath, if you cannot easily tidy, clean or put away, the amount of stuff you own may be too much of a strain. Caitlin explains that a full life can lead to outgrowing your living space:
“If you're shoving things into drawers or bins, or if you have a lot of junk drawers or even junk rooms (for me, that's our home office, which I'm currently in the process of downsizing), you've probably outgrown the amount of space that can accommodate your possessions and it's time to downsize.
“If you have physical ailments that limit your mobility or strength, you may want to downsize to reduce the amount of clutter and possessions in the home that you have to deal with or put away on a regular basis. Maybe you can get rid of all garments with buttons, if you have trouble buttoning shirts.”
Understanding the life people lead and perhaps the hobbies they are no longer able to participate in due to mobility problems is the best way to identify unnecessary clutter. Caitlin knows that a person’s interests change throughout their life and so should their possessions:
“If your interests and hobbies change, the possessions you keep in your home should change too. I once helped declutter the home of a woman who played piano professionally. Her closets were filled with ball gowns she wore to performances, and while she never wore the same dress twice to events, she also never got rid of them. Her home was packed with fancy clothes she no longer needed or wore. This is an extreme example, but it can be true of many aspects of your lifestyle and interests. For example, I love to run and exercise so I have a drawer full of running gear and workout clothes, as well as a few pairs of athletic shoes. If I gave up running, I'd expect to give up a lot of that gear too.”
As people get older, their role within the family changes, and thus the possessions they need also change. While once upon a time, as the parents, people would often experience large family gatherings around significant occasions, if they have recently downsized, this will no longer be viable. Caitlin believes holding onto items for the sake of others is a signifier of a clear out:
“Another thing that might be causing stress and conflicting with your lifestyle is the stuff that we accumulate for other people's (or even our own) expectations. An easy example is entertaining: I used to keep wine glasses and nice serving platters, but the reality is that we don't entertain often and I had no reason to hold onto all these dishes that never saw the light of day. The fact of the matter is that if you're holding onto something because somebody else thinks you should keep it in your home, that's not a good enough reason. You have to want the item there too.”
Where to start
Knowing where to start can often be the greatest hurdle that people overcome. Once they have identified the problem, finding the motivation to tackle it can feel almost impossible. Chrissy suggests tackling high impact areas first:
“Decluttering can feel like a massive task - but in order to use your time efficiently you should start where it is hurting the most. Wherever is your main pain point, you will then see massive rewards by making this space decluttered.”
Caitlin agrees and thinks there is two ways to approach the task: “If you have limited mobility it makes sense to do one room at a time, keeping a box for things that are destined to be put away in another location. But there's a great case for doing things in a category approach too (assembling and sorting through all of the clothing in the house at once, all the books at once, etc.) if you have the space and time to gather everything up.”
Make a plan
Keeping on top of progress is important to help people stay motivated. Making a schedule for the room or category of item that people want to be sorted will also help keep them on track. Caitlin suggests time management is the best way forwards:
“For effective time management tips, I recommend people set timers and make deadlines for when they want to have a certain room or category done. You can tidy as much or as little in one go as you like, perhaps decluttering for 15 minutes with a commitment to filling up one grocery bag with items to donate or remove. Or you can plan a weekend and work an eight hour day, taking breaks every hour for a mental break so you keep your motivation up.”
Keep up the good work
Unfortunately decluttering your home is not a one time job, as people continue to acquire possessions throughout their lives, though the initial push will be the hardest. Chrissy insists it needs to be an ongoing task:
“Schedule in a little time each day/week (whatever your schedule allows) - but make it a necessary item in your diary just like any other appointment. This is important - and once you've decluttered you'll have so much more time to spend on other things because you'll have less to sort, less to clean, less to maintain etc... - and that sounds good to me!”