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Your Quick & Easy Guide to Helping Seniors Declutter

 Posted by Justin Lavadour on April 25, 2022 at 9:30 AM

Your Quick & Easy Guide to Helping Seniors Declutter

Helping your parent or loved one declutter without stress…is it possible? We’re here to tell you that it is! Try this step-by-step process and some of our tips for keeping stress low and efficiency high when helping a senior declutter.

Step by Step: Decluttering for Seniors

Following a guide or a process can help you feel less overwhelmed about decluttering. Here are 8 steps you can use to get started.

Step 1: Bring it up tactfully.

Maybe your parents have already started decluttering and you know they need help, but they haven’t asked. Maybe they haven’t started decluttering yet and you feel they need to.

Depending on the scenario, you may need to start the conversation. The best way to do this is to offer help without being pushy or judgmental. For example, you could mention that you noticed they’ve donated some items and ask if they need help going through anything else. Or you can offer to bring some snacks over and help them clean out their attic. Avoid calling their items “junk” or even “clutter,” which can be an instant turnoff.


Step 2: Set goals.

Based on when you need to finish decluttering, set some realistic goals. If you have plenty of time, your goal might be five to ten items a day. If your time is more limited, you may need to set weekly goals, such as two rooms per week.

Step 3: Start small.

There are two parts to this step. First, to build momentum, declutter easy things first. Get rid of trash, recyclables, and anything dangerous, like old electronics, broken items, frayed rugs, and expired food and medicine.

Next, work through small areas of the house at a time. Start with one room, one shelf, one corner; whatever “small area” means to you.

If you need to liquidate in a pinch, try a 30-day decluttering challenge. It’s possibly the fastest way to declutter. You’ll still work through small areas at a time while decluttering quite a bit in a month; and you can adapt it to fit your time frame if you have less time than 30 days.

Step 4: Rally the troops.

Whether you could use a few extra sets of hands or you need a professional team to help with a big move and sentimental items, it’s okay to ask for help. You could reach out to family members and friends, or hire a downsizing service like Caring Transitions. We offer compassionate expertise and support as we streamline the downsizing process for you.

Step 5: Schedule appraisals if necessary.

You may need to liquidate quickly. Or you may find some items you’d like to sell rather than donate. If that’s the case, schedule appraisals ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it later.

Step 6: Schedule pickups and dropoffs.

Some donation centers offer pickup services. Use a trash removal service for anything that can’t be salvaged. You can also designate a family member or friend to drop off items.

Scheduling helpers and services for these tasks rather than trying to do it all yourself allows you to be more present to your parent or loved one.

Step 7: Use storage wisely.

Decision fatigue, holding items for family members, or transitioning to a smaller house may prompt seniors to consider paying for storage.

Only use storage if you can afford it and have good reason; otherwise, you’ll just have to declutter all over again. And you may end up having to get rid of something that was supposed to go to a family member. Give relatives a deadline to pick up items to avoid this.

If you are having a very hard time deciding on items, you could try the following “gentle declutter” method before deciding on storage:

  • Put the items aside for a reasonable amount of time.
  • The time could vary from a few days to a few months, depending on your schedule.
  • Make sure the items are relatively out of sight, like in a shed or closet.
  • If you still want the items after the time has passed, keep them; if not, it’s time to declutter them.

Step 8: Say goodbye.

Letting go is difficult, but having closure with sentimental items can help soften the loss. Give your parent or loved one time to say goodbye to things, especially things that are hardest for them to part with. You can also offer to take photos of cherished items and display them once the items are decluttered. It’s a nice way to help the memory live on without taking up as much space.

Quick Tips for Minimizing Stress while Decluttering

Here are some quick tips to make the actual decluttering sessions easier.

  • Consider the senior’s physical ability and make accommodations such as frequent breaks, decluttering while sitting, or hiring someone to lift heavy items.
  • Be compassionate and patient. Showing kindness and putting yourself in your parent’s shoes goes a long way toward making the experience easier.
  • Don’t force it. If your loved one really wants to keep something, you may want to “pick your battles,” so to speak. As long as the item isn’t dangerous, expired, or completely impossible to keep, let them have the final say.
  • Make it fun with food, music, and laughter. Take breaks, reminisce, and try to keep things upbeat.
  • You may want to keep track of where things have gone so you can remember their new home. For example maybe a beloved jewelry box went to a niece; or maybe you donated a piece of furniture to a charity you love. Remembering the items’ new homes can help you feel more closure about letting them go.

Another way to keep the stress low while decluttering is hiring Caring Transitions to help! We are experts in downsizing, estate sales and auctions, and more. Learn about our services.