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Clutter – A Safety issue for Seniors

clutter in garage

Where did all this clutter come from?

The National Safety Council has announced that June is Home Safety Month. The Council’s third focus this month is on injuries resulting from contact with objects and equipment. In workplaces, these objects could be automobiles, heavy furniture, forklifts, or objects found in offices.

In a home where seniors live, there’s often ample stuff they’ve collected while living their daily lives. And it can add up.So what’s the problem with having “stuff’?

The answer is simple: clutter. Often when visiting seniors, I have noticed that many have “trails” that a visitor must follow to get around the house, because there is so much clutter around. Clutter can take many forms: furniture, books and magazines, boxes, plastic tubs, “collections,” you name it. It can cover the floors, stairs, shelves, tables, or just be stacked up in corners, closets, and on porches.

The clutter can become an obstacle and even a danger to a senior or a caregiver.

Clutter barriers and traps

Look for obstacles that block the entrances and exits. The old newspapers, the “yard” shoes, the trash container, and all the other unnecessary stuff there by the back door. There may be a need to leave in a hurry because of an emergency, and all that stuff can become a barrier.

When clutter is really piled high, moving one item could cause an avalanche, falling on top of someone. That’s dangerous.

Is there something heavy that has to be moved out of the way in order to get access to a door or cabinet?

I recall visiting a lady who had an old ottoman topped with a stack of boxes full of heavy dishes in the kitchen. It was “parked” in front of the oven door and had to be slid out of the way to get near the stove or to open the oven.

Inconvenient? Yes. – Dangerous? Certainly.

Was this clutter really necessary? No. She had dishes to use, and did not need these, but no one had ever put them away in cabinets, or removed the boxes for her, and she couldn’t do it herself. So,.. there it sat.

If clutter pins you in when you approach a window, door, or stairway, then it is an obstacle that could prevent you or a loved one from escaping a fire. Or, it could cause you to trip and fall. Or, it could fall on you!

What to do with all that clutter?

  • There are things that your loved one wants to keep, of course. You can find a way to store them, to display them, or put them away in a safe place for her.
  • There may be things that she would like to share with family members, grandkids, nieces and nephews. You could help by sending them off for her and help her to communicate with the recipients.
  • Sometimes, there are things that are no longer used and could be donated to a thrift store or charity. You could help by contacting a charity of choice and have it picked up.
  • Anything that is old and worn-out could be photographed in order to treasure their memory, and then simply discarded.
  • Help your loved one realize that there are other people who could really use some of these things, instead of just filling boxes. It’s much easier to give things away when its helping someone else out. And a simple “thank-you” can really make her day.

“Clear the trail!”

Start with the “trails” near exits and entrances and begin to clear out the clutter, just a little bit each day this month. Resolve to make a decision and take action with just one box, one stack, even one item, each day. It’s a great way to honor “Home Safety Month.” Clearing the clutter can only make your surroundings safer for everyone.

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