Killing the Clutter Before It Kills You

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Home is a place we enjoy comfort, joy, family and friends, but did you know that it’s one of the most dangerous places for seniors? According to the National Safety Council, home-related deaths in 2021 numbered128,200. Nearly a quarter of the home deaths were due to falls and over half due to poisonings. So, what can be done to keep our homes safe to live in?

Clutter is a huge factor when it comes to home accidents. That pile of newspapers may not only look messy, it can cause a fall. Over-packed closet shelves are also dangerous. Many seniors end up hurt from items falling on their heads. A cluttered garage makes it dangerous just to get to the car. Hairdryers too close to water sources may give you a shock you won’t survive from and a medicine cabinet with outdated drugs often causes accidental poisonings.

Take Charge of Your Clutter

Experts tell us that keeping your home safe and free from clutter is an ongoing process. Attempting to tackle all of the clutter all at once will leave you feeling overwhelmed and you’ll probably throw in the towel. It’s much better to start small and make de-cluttering a regular weekly chore. You might even want a buddy to help you get started. Chances are they also need to de-clutter their home and you can return the favor.

Have at least three boxes handy when you begin. Mark one as “Garbage,” one as “Donate,” and one designated for gifting to friends and/or family members. I keep another box handy for books that aren’t on my bookshelves. Mine seem to wander all over the house.

If you’re like me, the older I get the less attachment I feel to possessions. I know you’ll be surprised how good it feels to get rid of the extra junk. It’s amazing how wonderful a de-cluttered home looks once you’ve tackled a few areas.

Keeping Your Paths Clear and Safe

The floors of your entryways, hallways and staircases should be free from everything. Also be aware that electrical cords across hallways and well-used paths are extremely dangerous for causing falls. Keep your entry steps swept and make sure your porch lights are working. While de-cluttering your stairs, make sure handrails are in good shape.

When in Doubt – Throw it Out

In each room I like to start with the closets. If you haven’t used or worn something in a year, it’s time to let it go. Keep your boxes handy and be sure to store them out of your way when you are finished. Giving away items to friends and family are a good way to get them to visit and they might even lend you a hand! Be sure to call Goodwill before you fill too many boxes or they might become a home hazard as well.

I also want to caution you on throw rugs. Please throw them out. They are one of the worst items to cause trips and falls. If you can’t live without them, then make sure to purchase some double-sided carpet tape to hold them in place.

Extra Safety in Baths and Kitchens

Be extra vigilant in bathrooms and kitchens. Bathrooms are notorious for falls, so keep items to a minimum in yours. Make sure your tub has adequate grab bars and non-skid mats. While working in your kitchen, make sure hand towels are a good distance from the stove and your small appliances are unplugged when not in use. Most fires start in the kitchen and are deadly.

Extra Hands Lighten the Work

No matter where you are working, do not climb ladders without a buddy and make sure your stepstools and ladders are in excellent shape before you use them. My best friend took a spill recently and fractured her pelvis in two places.

When you’re done de-cluttering your home, it will probably be a good time to tackle the garage. If any of these chores are too much for you to handle, enlist the help of your family and friends. You may also consider a professional for the job. Most will not only clear out your clutter, but make sure all items get to where you want them to go.

This article has been updated December, 2023 since it was originally published in March, 2016.

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