Helping Seniors Declutter

Are you helping a senior with some “spring cleaning” this year? Spring cleaning that includes decluttering has special benefits, especially for seniors. Decluttered environments are safer to navigate, less stressful, and can even help reduce allergies. And for seniors planning a move to a senior living community or assisted living community, decluttering is a necessary task that will enable them to move to a new space more easily.

However, decluttering can be a challenge. Seniors, especially those with physical limitations, may feel overwhelmed working by themselves.

Often, the hardest part of decluttering is just getting started. If you’re helping a senior declutter, here’s how to keep you – and them – from getting overwhelmed.

Start Small

Start by picking one area to declutter, like the dining room, or one category, like mail or food. Decluttering an entire house may feel like a daunting task, but breaking the job into smaller tasks will make it more manageable.

Start Easy

Begin with an area or category that doesn’t have too much emotional attachment, like piles of mail. Seeing results helps build momentum, and will make it easier when it’s time to sort through more emotionally weighted items, such as clothing or memorabilia.

Set Limits

Set a time limit that won’t be overwhelming to you or your loved one. Be sure to leave enough time to clean up. For example, set a time limit of three hours. Using a timer, work in twenty minute increments, take breaks, and leave the last twenty minutes for clean up.

Be Prepared

Be ready with three large bins or boxes: one bin for items to keep and put away, one for items to throw away / recycle, and one for items to donate. Some people like having a fourth box for items to repair. If your loved one has a tendency to hang onto broken items to fix them “someday,” the bin for this category should be small.

The items to keep and the items to let go of will be different for every person, but there are some items that should be discarded, no matter what!

  • Expired medications. Follow disposal instructions on the container, return the medication to a “take-back” program at a local pharmacy or hospital, or visit the FDA website for further instructions.
  • Expired food.
  • Expired / old cleaning products. Look for corroded tops, products that have changed color, and items that clearly have not been used in a while.
  • Cosmetics. Throw away cosmetics that are more than one year old.
  • Other safety hazards. Look for safety hazards such as appliances with broken plugs, or piles of magazines or books on the floor. This is also a good time to move items that are too high or low to reach, or are blocking a hallway or stairs.

Professional Assistance

For many families, a professional decluttering service or senior move manager may be the right choice. If the space being decluttered is very large, or the task is likely to cause tension in the family, a neutral, experienced third party can make the process move more quickly and easily. If you are planning a move for your loved one, ask local senior living communities to refer a senior move manager, or check with the National Association of Senior Move Managers.


Decluttering is hard work, so take time to enjoy a newly cleared space with your loved one. Relax, and enjoy the benefits!

The all new Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall Township, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Memory Care and Skilled Nursing.

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