Decluttering your Parent’s Home


A cluttered house is an issue that can quickly overwhelm parents, caregivers, and seniors. If left unchecked, a cluttered home can become a hazardous home. Having excess clutter around the home significantly increases a senior’s risk of injury.

The accumulation of clutter doesn’t happen overnight. Many seniors collect and hold onto things that hold sentimental value. Seniors can be reluctant to let go when the time comes. An item that you or another might deem as low value may be very sentimental to the senior.

Many seniors also grew up having to be extremely frugal due to the economic circumstances of their time. Having grown up in the depression era, many seniors are often uncomfortable donating or disposing of items that still have value. Therefore throwing away or donating old clothes, utilities, and furniture – which may still be perceived as holding lots of economic value – can be extremely difficult for them to understand.

There is also a correlation between depression and cluttering behavior. Seniors who are told they need to give up old items can feel as though they are losing control. This can create a strong urge to keep unnecessary items.

Steps to Take:

Take it slow. Do not rush your aging parents to clear out all of their old furnishings, utilities, clothes, dolls, and knick-knacks. Due to the reasons above, this process can be very emotional, and gradual steps must be taken. If possible, start talking to them before too much clutter has built up. It will be much easier if you start talking to them earlier rather than later about donating, recycling, or throwing out unnecessary items.

Recycle everything you can. Remember, many seniors grew up in very tight economic circumstances. Therefore, try to demonstrate to them that some of the items will be reused and repurposed by others. Explain that the metal and electronics in old utilities will serve to make new utilities after recycling, and that old furniture, clothes, and knick-knacks can be given to a family in need.

Allow for some sentimentality. With declining health, it’s hard having to give up treasured items that make you feel at home and comfortable. Getting rid of everything that makes a senior feel at home can diminish the enjoyment of their golden years. So allow for some sentimentality. This doesn’t mean allowing them to keep every broken and unused appliance, but it does mean making exceptions for things that hold a special place in a senior’s heart such as an old coffee table, vase, or knick-knack.