Decluttering for older people

By Cynthia Salter and Claire Lincoln

If you’ve lived in your home for a long time, the thought of decluttering can be overwhelming. But for many older people decluttering is an important issue: they may be moving to a smaller place or just worried about safety hazards.

Here are some tips for older people, and for their friends and families:

•  Start the decluttering process well in advance of any deadline – it always takes longer than you think, and deadlines make everything more stressful.

•  If you are helping a relative or friend, allow them to retain control and make the decisions.

• Don't plan too long a session – the physical side of decluttering and the thought processes involved can be very tiring as you get older.

• Keep your work area clear and safe; identify areas where you are going to store items for sorting, keeping and disposal.

•  Concentrate on one cupboard or one room at a time.

• Think about the effect you are trying to achieve in your current or new property – think forwards not backwards when deciding what to keep and what to re-home.

• Allow time for reminiscing – you'll come across all sorts of things that will prompt memories. (It can be a very emotional process.)

• Be sensitive – one person’s clutter is another person’s treasure.

• Make sure you leave everything safe – nothing to fall or trip over.

• Put furniture back to its usual position

Cynthia Salter and Claire Lincoln are professional declutterers who specialise in working with older people and their families. Go to for more information.