Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Aging Loved One

Dear Joe:

I will be visiting my mom who lives in Columbus later this month. One of my goals for the trip is to help her with spring cleaning and de-cluttering. Since my father passed away a few years ago, Mom has become something of a hoarder. She just won’t get rid of anything!

My brother and I hope that starting the process of downsizing will make it easier to talk with our mom about moving to an assisted living community. While she is still fairly healthy, we both think she is lonely. She only drives to the grocery store and her doctor’s office. Friends pick her up for church each Sunday. Beyond that, she doesn’t get out much.

Do you have any advice that might help us with this process? We aren’t quite sure where and how to get started.

Kind Regards,


Tips for Helping a Senior Organize Their House This Spring

Dear Marci:

Your plan sounds like a very proactive approach to helping your mother stay healthy and engaged with life. Clutter can have a negative impact on an adult’s mental and physical well-being.

On the physical side, clutter puts older adults at risk for illness or injury. Piles of newspapers and magazines, for example, can be both a fall hazard and a fire hazard. It can also lead to an infestation of bugs and rodents, and be a trigger for allergies and respiratory problems.

The emotional side of clutter can be complicated. Depending on how much clutter your mother has in her home, she might need to seek help from a mental health professional to determine the reasons behind her behavior.

Clutter is known to create anxiety, agitation and depression. Getting rid of it can literally make a homeowner feel lighter and happier.

So how do you actually begin this process?

We can share a few tips:

  • Begin in the rooms your mom uses least. This makes it easier to get started.

  • Round up boxes and extra trash bags. You will likely need a lot of them!

  • We encourage families to sort through things with four categories in mind: belongings your mother wants and needs to keep, items other family members might enjoy having in their homes, items that can be donated to a local charity and items that need to be discarded.

  • Be patient with your mom. Try to avoid rushing her when it comes time to make decisions on what can stay and what she needs to get rid of.

  • If you can’t agree on what to do with things, create a special box for those items. Store them in the garage or basement. If your mom hasn’t used them by the time you are ready to help her move to an assisted living community, she might be more inclined to get rid of them.

  • Once you have the clutter cleared away, you can begin the cleaning process. Keep in mind that cleaning products with strong chemicals can be tough for older adults, especially if they have respiratory conditions. Most grocery stores and discount stores sell green cleaning products that are chemical free.

  • Another resource you might find to be helpful is the FlyLady. She has a variety of resources for downsizing and de-cluttering you might find helpful.

  • One final tip is take time to enjoy each other’s company and to reminisce about the memories some of her belongings bring back. We’ll share a few ways you can do that on this blog next week!

I hope this information is helpful to you Marci!

Joe Warner
Environmental Services Supervisor