For many older adults, their home literally contains a lifetime's worth of memories. And by that, I mean lots, and lots of STUFF! Photos, children's artwork, and out-of-style clothes in the attic; holiday decorations, knickknacks, and dusty toys in the basement; furniture and spider web-covered bikes in the garage. And that isn't even mentioning the closets, drawers, and under the beds!
Time well-spent in the long run
There are several good reasons seniors should consider decluttering and cleaning out their homes.
It is a labor of love.
Anyone who has had to clean out a loved one's home following an unexpected illness or death knows what a difficult task it is, emotionally and physically. Of course, during this process the adult children or other family member often will find a few cherished family keepsakes. But wouldn’t it be better to share that special moment with them now?
You'll be ready to put your house on the market.
Whether you decide to retire to a smaller home, a retirement community- such as an active adult community or continuing care retirement community, or hope to live out your days in your current abode, the reality is that eventually, your house will likely need to be sold. And houses that are clean and tidy are exponentially easier to sell.
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Prepare to downsize.
As we discussed in a previous blog, there are many advantages to downsizing your home during retirement, but doing so often means less space, which means fewer possessions. Cleaning out your house now is a step in the right direction.
Psychological studies have shown that clutter exacerbates anxiety, depression, and generally just makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed. Cleaning, on the other hand, is often cited as a stress-reliever…and it also burns calories!
Get a tax deduction.
You know what they say about one man's trash, so if you don't need or want it anymore, consider donating it to a charitable organization and getting a tax write-off. Homeless shelters can often make use of gently used furniture or toys, and schools might just love some vintage clothing for their next theater production.
Reduce dust and other allergens.
Infrequently used items are often festering with environmental allergens. From dust and dust mites to pollen and mold, eliminating clutter and its associated contaminants can improve the air quality in your home. You may just find you breathe easier after a clutter clean-out!
Roll up your sleeves
So where to begin? A major home decluttering project can seem like an incredibly daunting task, so most organization experts would suggest making a plan…
- Set aside a day (or a weekend!) and choose one area to tackle. The attic often is a good place to start.
- Stock up on the necessary supplies like garbage bags, empty boxes, tape, markers, paper towels, and cleaning products.
- Go through every single item in your chosen area and sort things into four categories: Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash. A good rule of thumb: with few exceptions, if you haven't opened a box or used an item in a year, it probably is not a necessity.
- If you are unsure about an item, place it in the Keep box for now, but plan to revisit items in that box again in a month to see if you have more definitive feelings about them–likely you will be able to then decide that either it is a must-keep, or perhaps you will realize you can live without it.
- Make it fun. Put on some of your favorite music…the peppier the better. Ask a friend to help. And consider a reward at the end of the day: maybe ice cream or dinner out?
- Consider inviting adult children to assist in the sorting process–maybe they will even claim some of the items placed in the Sell or Donate boxes!
While no one would suggest you ditch priceless mementos or family heirlooms, most people find that after they do “the clean-out,” they never even miss the things they got rid of. Plus the huge sense of accomplishment can make a major decluttering project feel even more satisfying!