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Time to Declutter!

Peggy Fossen DNP, RN, CNE

We all have ‘things’ that we have collected and cherish, and ‘stuff’ that has meaning and is important to us. While this is normal, when do our collections become too much. And when is it time to declutter?

Does having collections and sentimental treasures indicate a hoarding problem, or have things just accumulated over the years? To assist in differentiating the two please read last month’s blog post on Hoarding. If after pondering this, you decide it is time to part with some of your treasures, or declutter, you may be asking yourself, where do I begin?


Older Adults have accumulated possessions throughout their life, and the thought of parting with some of these treasures can be upsetting. Especially if some of these have been passed down by parents, grandparents, or other important members of family. Combine this with the fact that an overall household can accumulate up to 300,00 items and the task of decluttering begins to feel overwhelming.

It is important to realize that decluttering does not have to be a negative experience. It can be a positive choice with positive benefits. Many of us choose to downsize as we grow older, retire, or for other reasons. Also, be aware that starting the decluttering process sooner rather than later may be beneficial. This will allow you to take the time you need, make important decisions about what you will do with certain belongings, and allow some time for reminiscing. Some items will hold sentimental value and may be more difficult to part with than others.  There are some possessions that can be classified as ‘sentimental clutter’.  This can be anything that does not have a purpose in our life, but we are attached emotionally to it.  You will need to allow extra time to sort through these items, as you will need to ask yourself questions that will help you decide what to keep. If something brings you feelings of happiness, or special memories, you may consider keeping it.

How To Declutter

Everyone will have a different approach to the business of decluttering. Some like to be organized and develop goals and a schedule.  Setting achievable goals will assist in identifying why decluttering is important for you at this time. It will also help in monitoring progress. Whatever your method, it is important to take your time to think about what you want to accomplish and why.

Do not be afraid to ask for help! The task of downsizing can be an overwhelming one. Having someone to help with this task can make it easier, go faster, and may even be fun.  Sharing stories and memories with family and friends about sentimental possessions will have a therapeutic effect and create new memories for you and for those helping.

It can be hard to say goodbye. It is OK to keep some of these special possessions. It is also OK to reminisce and remember special memories associated with special items. But, if you need to part with sentimental items there are options, such as taking a picture of the possession, this will capture the memories in a photograph.

Why Declutter

So, the question is to declutter or not to declutter. What are the benefits of decluttering? It is evident that decluttering can improve the overall quality of life and help improve mental and physical health.  Cluttered living space is also linked to stress, and decluttering can have a calming effect, improve mood, and improve overall well-being.

Obviously, decluttering will make housework and maintenance safer and more efficient. It is always easier to do meal prep in a clean, well-organized kitchen.

There are also safety benefits related to decluttering. The risk of tripping and falling will be decreased significantly.

The benefits of decluttering also include.

  • Improves socialization.
  • Decreases risk of injury.
  • Reduces anxiety and stress.
  • Improves sleep.
  • A healthier environment to live in.
  • Increases productivity.
  • Improves personal relationships.

Remember, acting now allows you to be in control and make your own decisions. Take your time, you do not have to confront everything at once. It is best to focus on one area or a certain room at a time.

So, if you decide it is time to declutter, do what works for you and relax and have fun!


Gordon, S. (2023). The connection between decluttering, cleaning, and mental health. VeryWell Mind.

Paynter, M. (2018). How to declutter sentimental items.

Retires Great. The practical guide of decluttering tips for seniors.

Second Wind Movement. 6 Decluttering tips for seniors.

Senior Care Tips. (2023). Embracing Clarity: How seniors benefit from organizing and decluttering.

Simple Lion Heart Life. 9 practical decluttering tips for seniors in your retirement years.

The Simplicity Habit (2023). Decluttering for seniors: The best tips to make downsizing easier.

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