From mementos and cute little knickknacks to household receipts and items we once wanted but no longer use, we tend to collect things throughout our lives. Unfortunately, this tendency to collect often comes with an unwanted side effect – clutter. According to Psychology Today, these teetering piles of paper and stuffed closets can disrupt our ability to move and think and decrease our overall satisfaction with life.
The task of decluttering is something that many of us face eventually, but decluttering can be overwhelming, particularly if you're a senior with a lifetime's worth of accumulated possessions. Fortunately, there are ways to make decluttering as painless as possible. Here are a few simple tips to start the process.
Put it on the Calendar
Just as you would schedule an appointment with your dentist or hairstylist, set up a time to declutter. Designate a start and finish time, allowing yourself a manageable slot to work. Dedicating two or three hours a week to household organization tasks can keep the process from becoming overwhelming while ensuring enough time to make a dent in the clutter.
Everything in its Place
Decluttering doesn’t always mean discarding. Many households simply need better organization strategies. To maximize your available storage space and ensure that your belongings stay neat and easily accessible, try the following:
- Make use of vertical spaces with peg boards, over-the-door racks, and shelf risers.
- Streamline by storing similar items together.
- Use attractive boxes or baskets to corral daily-use items such as remote controls and keys.
Evaluate and Sort
It's helpful to create three piles as you sort your belongings: keep, donate, and trash. Keep a supply of trash bags ready so belongings designated for donation or trash can be bagged up immediately and taken out to the curb or car. If you're struggling to decide what stays and what goes, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I use this item?
- Does this item give me pleasure?
- Would I choose this item if I was shopping today?
If the answer to these questions is no, then the item most likely should go.
Embrace a New Way of Thinking
It's easy to view our belongings as an extension of ourselves or to equate possessions with the memories attached to them, making the process of letting go challenging and emotionally draining. It’s important to remember that getting rid of an item doesn’t erase the memories attached to it. If you're struggling to give up items that have sentimental value without practical use, here are a few ways to make parting easier.
- Take a photograph of the object, or yourself with the object, and create a scrapbook to preserve memories.
- Gift sentimental items to family members and friends.
- Donate to a cause that's near and dear to you. Churches, women’s shelters, and charity-related thrift stores are often happy to receive donations.
Whether it’s family vacation photos or artwork the kids made when they were little, a great way to hold onto precious items without cluttering your home is to digitize. Invest in an inexpensive scanner or bring items to a local print shop to create digital files of your cherished mementos. Not only will you reduce clutter, but you’ll have convenient access to view or share the images whenever you want. Just be sure to back up your files to avoid loss.
Make Some Money
It’s easier than ever to sell secondhand items. While local consignment shops can be great, there are a number of other simple ways to get cash or store credit for used merchandise. Book and electronic buyback sites often provide free shipping and pay out quickly, while online garage sales provide a means of selling locally. There are also dedicated sites for antiques and collectibles, many with experts available to help price your item appropriately. Plus, the money you make can go toward something special, such as treating your family to dinner out or maybe even an indulgent weekend trip.
Ask for Help
Don’t tackle decluttering alone. Enlist your spouse, your kids, and grandkids or a trusted friend. Not only will you have emotional support when the time comes to sort through the tough stuff, but having a decluttering partner can turn the process into something fun and uplifting.
Whether you're a senior trying to streamline in preparation for the transition to assisted living or an adult child wanting to help your parents create a safer living space, decluttering is time well spent. Chances are, you'll come away from the process with a cleaner, healthier home and feel more in control of your life.