Over a long period of time, it's pretty normal to find ourselves accumulating "stuff"--the realization hitting a little too late and you're faced with a huge downsizing project.
It's no easy task! Some of our items we hold near and dear to our hearts, like photographs, gifts, and other treasured keepsakes. However, sometimes we have to declutter our living space and clean out clothing that's either too small or too worn, accumulated Tupperware containers (where do those things come from?), and other items that get in our way more than we use them.
We see the need for these projects quite often in the senior living world. Often, residents move into our communities and, for lack of a better phrase, can't seem to let things go.
Smart organization of a living space is very important in a senior living environment. In our Senior Solutions Management Group communities, we want all of our residents to be able to hold on to their treasured keepsakes, but also be able to use their living areas in ways that make them feel at home and keep them safe and healthy at the same time.
Even if you are not planning a big move for Mom or Dad, sometimes it’s just good to do a little bit of Spring Cleaning!
When helping your elderly loved one declutter, it can be easiest to first decide which items are on the “Do Not Toss” list.
Often, these items can include photo albums, treasured gifts, and other keepsakes. It is important for your loved one to be able to hold on to these items if he/she can. Especially for our residents with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illness, memorable items that a resident can see and touch can have a huge impact on overall memory health and mental wellbeing.
If your loved one is having a hard time deciding what to include on this list or seems to be including a great number of things, you might want to consider putting some of those items on a “Maybe” list, to go through at a later time.
What serves a purpose?
This list (or pile, or box, depending on your methods) is usually an easy one to work with. What are items that serve a purpose in your loved one’s day-to-day life? You can easily plan to keep important, necessary items such as bathing supplies, mobility tools, and bedding.
However, don’t forget items that serve a purpose for your loved one’s overall mental health. Does your mother often enjoy waking up to a cup of hot tea? Keeping some of her favorite mugs might be a good idea, then. Does your father enjoy writing handwritten letters to people? Definitely keep those pens and stationery sets.
By looking at items with this perspective, you can help your loved one decide what he/she really needs to keep on hand. Since our senior living communities all have restaurant-style dining, for example, our residents really don’t need to move in with a full set of dishes.
Overall, be realistic when thinking, “Is Mom really going to use this?” If you don’t think she will, and the item is not considered a keepsake, you might want to go ahead and get rid of it.
Smart Storage and Organization
Whether your loved one is a minimalist…or tends to be a bit of a clutter bug…it’s never a bad move to be smart about how things are stored and organized. Not only can you help your loved one keep track of where everything is, but you can also keep things cleared away, lowering the chance of hindering mobility.
Consider looking through the Home & Organization sections at your local retail store. Often, you can find plastic storage pieces that will help utilize storage space in bathrooms, closets, or cabinets.
If you decide to organize using storage tubs, like for packing away clothing that is not in season, be sure to use easy-to-read labels on the bins so your loved one won’t have a hard time finding items down the road.
Stick-on wall hooks are also a popular way to hang accessories, like scarves and purses, on the wall instead of taking up room in a closet or dresser drawer.
Consider your loved one’s mobility level when organizing his/her living area. Don’t store things that are too high to reach, or too low if he/she has a hard time bending over.
Now that you’ve taken an inventory and decided what goes into the “Toss” pile, what do you do with it?
Please don’t throw it all away! Check with family and friends who might be able to use some of the items. With anything left over, consider donating to charity or a senior living community. While the items might not be useful to your loved one, they might come in very handy for someone else.
No matter how big or small the job is, use this project with your loved one as an opportunity to connect. While deciding what stays and what goes, use the time to reminisce over different items you come across and help it be an overall positive experience. You never know: your loved one might share a long-forgotten memory with you that you had never heard before!
Are you considering a senior living community for your elderly loved one, but unsure how to handle the daunting task of deciding what items to move? We’re here to help!
Contact us today for a no-obligation tour of any of our communities in Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. We can also talk to you about your unique situation and help you come up with a list of items that your loved one should and should not bring on Move-In Day.