9 Practical Decluttering Tips for Seniors in Your Retirement Years

9 Practical Decluttering Tips for Seniors in Your Retirement Years

Today’s post is filled with 9 simple, practical & realistic decluttering tips for seniors.

Your senior and retirement years are often a time when you want or need to declutter and/or downsize. And whether you are downsizing, moving or just want to live more simply, the tips in today’s post will help you do it!

Many reasons to declutter in your senior years

There can be many different reasons why you need or want to declutter as a senior.

Sometimes the reasons for downsizing and/or decluttering can be more challenging. Or for reasons you may not always feel positive about.

Like when you need to move and downsize quickly and are faced with sorting through a lifetime worth of possessions. Or if a health crisis means a move must happen. Or if your health is failing and the process of decluttering simply feels overwhelming and daunting.

Why declutter as a senior?

But other times decluttering and/or downsizing in your senior years is a positive choice you can make.

As you enter this new stage of life you have a chance to live lighter and be less burdened by “stuff”. You also have a chance to take control over your belongings and do what you intend with them.

Make life easier at home

You may choose to declutter to simplify your life and free up both time, space, energy and money to focus on your retirement goals.

Perhaps you want a lower-maintenance lifestyle with a home that’s easier, less time-consuming and safer for you to maintain and live in.

Spending less time taking care of your home, yard and “stuff” means you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy your retirement years.

Decluttering to be proactive

A clutter-free home is important to reduce tripping and fall hazards as well. Allowing your home to be safe and accessible if you’re planning to stay in your home as long as possible.

You might want to be proactive and declutter well before a move is required or a health crisis happens and you no longer have the time, health or energy to declutter the way you want.

Retain control over your decluttering decisions

Another really great reason to declutter as a senior is so you can make your own decisions about your belongings and what you want to do with them.

You can take action now to ensure you won’t leave your family with the burden of clearing out your home. Or guessing at what you might have wanted to do with certain things. Or guessing if certain items were particularly special to you, while others weren’t.

You can take the opportunity to talk to your family about things you would like to pass on to them. Or even pass those things on right now if you’d like.

And even more important, ensure the things you are saving for your family are things they will actually want! Allowing you time to re-evaluate if you want to continue saving items at all.

9 decluttering tips for seniors

No matter the reason behind why you are decluttering and/or downsizing, the decluttering tips for seniors in today’s post will help.

These tips break the decluttering process down into simple, manageable steps. Focusing particularly on the unique challenges that many seniors face when decluttering.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #1 give yourself plenty of time

The first decluttering tip for seniors is to give yourself plenty of time, if possible.

There are circumstances, such as a sudden illness or required move, that don’t give you a lot of time to prepare. But if you have the choice, start decluttering as early as possible.

If possible, start decluttering well before you ever plan on moving or downsizing.

Not only will this give you plenty of time to declutter without worrying about being rushed or trying to declutter while dealing with health issues. But it will also mean if an unexpected change in your plans or health does arise, you will be prepared and not scrambling to declutter and get rid of things.

Declutter a little bit at a time

Giving yourself plenty of time to declutter allows you to pace yourself. To do a little bit of decluttering at a time without wearing yourself out. It also gives you time to make thoughtful and intentional decluttering decisions you will feel good about.

Decluttering can be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. Planning to tackle the work a little bit at a time, maybe for 20 minutes a day or one day a week makes it less exhausting so you can avoid burning out.

Remember, it likely took years to accumulate what is currently filling your home. So don’t expect to sort through it all and declutter what you no longer need in just a few days. Instead, go slow, pace yourself and be patient as you work on decluttering.

Give yourself time to reminisce

Another benefit of giving yourself plenty of time to declutter is you have the opportunity to reminisce as you sort through things.

Take time as you declutter to look through things you’ve saved and reflect on the memories. Enjoy the process of sorting through your belongings.

Taking this time to remember is a great way to process and eventually get to a place where you feel ready to let go.

Taking pictures of things before letting them go can help hold onto special memories without keeping the physical item itself.

Write down or share stories and memories with your loved ones as you sort through things and reminisce. The history and significance of the life you lived will be a wonderful keepsake and treasure to share with your family.

Give yourself a decluttering schedule

Decluttering is something that’s easy to put off if you don’t have a plan for when you’ll do the work. Knowing you’re giving yourself plenty of time, set a schedule to follow to get the work done.

Decide what and where you’ll work on decluttering, and when you’ll do it, to know you’ll be able to follow through and get the work done.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #2 ask for help if you need it

If you know you have a lot of work ahead of you to declutter and are feeling overwhelmed, or just know you won’t be able to do it on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

You might have a family member or friend who is willing and able to help you declutter. If not, there are professionals available you can hire to help you through the process.

Many professional organizers in Canada and the United States will help seniors with decluttering and downsizing. And there are also certified relocation and transition specialists available in many areas to help seniors downsize and/or move.

Another great resource to take advantage of is organizations that will pick up donations and things you are decluttering right from your home. You can often leave items for donation on the porch for pickup. Or schedule the organization to haul items directly out of your home.

It’s always worth contacting local organizations in your area to discuss the options for porch or in-home pick-up.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #3 make practical decisions first

As you’re decluttering, and especially if you’re downsizing or moving, start by dealing with the practical decluttering decisions first. Practical decluttering decisions are often easier to make compared to the more emotional decluttering decisions for your sentimental items.

Build up your decluttering confidence and momentum by making these easier, practical decisions first.

If you’re moving, know exactly what you’ll need and have room for in your new space. Get the dimensions, the number of rooms, etc. so you know exactly what will fit and be needed and what you won’t have room for.

For example, if you’re moving from a 5 bedroom home to a 2 bedroom condo, you know you will only need bedroom furniture for 2 bedrooms. Keep your favourite furniture to furnish those 2 bedrooms and get rid of the remaining pieces. Do the same thing with bed linens. Keep what you’ll need for 2 beds and get rid of the rest.

Remember to be realistic, especially if you’re moving to a smaller space. It will likely be a big lifestyle change you’ll need to adapt to. But make it easier by first focusing on the practical, logical and realistic needs and space of your new home.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #4 start in an easier space

This is a great tip for anyone decluttering, not just seniors!

Starting in your most difficult space to declutter often leads to frustration, difficulties, burn out and giving up altogether!

Instead, start decluttering in an easier space. Ideally somewhere more utilitarian where you can make more logical, less emotional decisions.

Starting with easier decluttering projects lets you build up your confidence and momentum. The more you declutter the easier it gets and the better you get at decluttering.

Places like the bathroom, the kitchen pantry, a coat closet, under the kitchen sink, your cleaning cupboard, etc. are all great places to start decluttering in.

Decluttering Tips for Seniors
Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

Decluttering tips for seniors: #5 tackle one space at a time

Decluttering an entire house can feel overwhelming. Instead of thinking about decluttering your entire home, break it down into smaller, more manageable spaces.

Focus on one room or space at a time. Complete that space before moving on to the next to help you stay focused and make consistent progress.

For example, break your home down into spaces – bathroom, bedroom 1, 2 & 3, living room, kitchen, garage, storage room, etc.

Then break each of those spaces down even further into little steps you can work on one at a time. In the kitchen, for example, break it down into each cupboard, drawer or shelf you need to declutter. Then tackle it one task at a time.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #6 recognize lifestyle changes

Another important aspect to take into account when decluttering as a senior is that you’ve likely had some lifestyle changes in your retirement years.

For example, you may no longer have children living at home. Changing the needs and functions of certain spaces in your home.

Or you may have retired and no longer need work clothes, uniforms, etc. Giving you the opportunity to simplify your wardrobe.

There may be activities or sports you used to do or be involved in when you were younger that you no longer do. Giving you the opportunity to get rid of those supplies or equipment.

Make sure the things you are keeping in your home reflect your current lifestyle, needs, wants and preferences. Not those of previous lifestyles or seasons of life.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #7 recognize changing trends

Another important thing to take into account when you’re decluttering as a senior is the changing trends and lifestyles of the younger generation.

What was important for you to have in your home, may no longer be something the younger generation uses or values.

For example, having a beautiful set of china dishes might have been important to you. But recent explorations have found china dishes are something many younger people are no longer interested in or value. In fact, it can even be hard to give a set of china away sometimes!

The same thing goes for furniture styles, clothing styles, etc. Trends, styles and preferences are always changing. Learning to accept this can make letting go of things easier when you’re decluttering.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #8 make decisions and sort items

As you’re decluttering, make a decision and a plan for each item.

It can be helpful to have bags or boxes for each of the following categories to add things to as you declutter: keep, toss, sell, donate/give away & give to family.

As you’re sorting through and making decisions and/or a plan for each item, it’s also a great time to make detailed notes about anything you’re keeping but would like to go to a certain person after you’re gone.

Having a detailed list will make it easier for your family to feel confident knowing they are fulfilling your wishes. And you can feel good knowing it will be easy for things to go to the person or organization you intend them to go to.

Decluttering tips for seniors: #9 trust your gut

As you’re decluttering and making decluttering decisions, trust your gut about whether to keep or get rid of something.

Usually, you’ll have an initial reaction telling you whether you want or need to keep something or not. Listen to that reaction instead of letting yourself talk yourself into keeping things or thinking up reasons why you might, maybe, someday, might possibly need something.

A good example of this is boxes in the corner of your basement you haven’t opened or needed in years. If you haven’t used or needed it for years, you likely don’t need it.

It’s ok to sort through the stuff and reminisce. Just keep reminding yourself that if it were truly special or important, it likely would not have sat untouched and gathering dust for years until now!

Decluttering tips for seniors

I hope these tips will be helpful if you’re a senior decluttering in your retirement years!

If you are a senior who has decluttered and simplified your own home or are someone who has helped a loved one downsize and declutter in their senior years, what did you find most challenging during the process? Was there anything that helped simplify the process? Leave a comment and share your experience below!

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14 Comments

  1. When mom was downsizing from a big house to a small independent living apartment, my siblings and I took turns to help mom. I was the first one on the job & I was there for a week, so of course my goal was to be very efficient and get as much done as we could. It didn’t take long to realize that mom needed a lot more time to make decisions and we had to go at her pace😘

    1. Good for you for noticing this and being sensitive to what your mom needed. It’s a hard transition for sure, and I think when possible, it helps to be able to go a little slower. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience 🙂

  2. When we moved, I put all the things I did not need to keep that had been passed down through the families in several rooms. Then I give each kid their own set of different colour stickers to put on anything they would like. They were told if two or three people want the same item , we can discuss. The left over items were then sold off.
    I am about to do the same again just as I am starting to declutter. It was a wonderful thing as now, when I visit their homes, I see everything again and know it has a good home. Even my 8 year old grand daughter just has taken a chair that was her great, great grandmother’s.

  3. Hi Melissa!! Very good and helpful, practical advice. Started this week–what a coincidence–will keep your tips in the forefront!! Thanks again, Carol

  4. Thank you, Melissa, for such a thoughtful, timely post. Even though it’s difficult, I am so excited about having starting this process – both for me and for my kids. It’s really easy to get caught up in all kinds of emotions at this stage of decluttering and it was nice to read a post aimed at my phase of life. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to hear it was helpful for you, Denise! I agree – decluttering can be a really emotional process. But I love the way you are working on your home so intentionally to simplify. You’re doing a great job! Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. After spending over a year cleaning out my in-laws home & storage buildings after my they had passed away, my husband & I decided we would not put our adult children through this after we’re gone.
    When I retired in 2020, I started the process of decluttering. When I come to something that I think one of our “kids” might want, I send out a group text. I’ve asked them all to respond so I don’t have to wonder if they got the text, if they’re thinking about it… etc. just a simple yes or no so I can keep moving. A few treasures have been claimed, but most have received an across the board “no”. This has made it so much easier to purge unwanted items from our home, guilt free!
    I’ve still got a couple of rooms to go, but getting my kitchen (the most disorganized & cluttered room in the house!) decluttered and organized last summer has made me enjoy my kitchen and cooking so much more!
    Thanks for addressing the problem of senior decluttering. I think I have been through every one of the 9 problems you addressed! Right now, I’m taking a breather getting ready for the next hurdle!

    1. Wow! It sounds like you’re donig such a great job. I love the idea of the group text. What a great idea! Good for you for being so proactive and getting to enjoy your newly clutter-free home too! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience 🙂

  6. I am in the process of decluttering my home. I have no children and very few relatives. So my issue is that I have many nice things. Where do I sell them? send them? give them? Antiques, jewelry, furniture that’s fairly recent. Clothing I donate.

    1. That can be challenging for sure. I would recommend contacting an antique dealer for the antiques. A great place to sell other items, like furniture, is on Facebook Marketplace. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

  7. Thank you for the tips. We are retiring to another state and downsizing. I started the process a couple of weeks ago and thought I should tackle the stuff in our storage first which was mostly my children’s schoolwork, art, and sports memorabilia. That was a big mistake! I got completely stuck and overwhelmed and even a little sad. I will set that aside for now and deal with the less personal items and do that last. Thanks again!

    1. I’m glad it was helpful for you. You’re definitely not alone feeling stuck, overwhelmed or emotional when tackling a big decluttering project like your storage area. I always find it helpful to start with the easier stuff first, so you build up your “decluttering muscles” and feel more confident when it’s time to take on the tougher categories of stuff. Thanks for reading and good luck with your move!

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