The Women's Journal

Helping Seniors Get Organized & Declutter

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By Frank Demarinis  


Each year, top New Year’s resolutions include eating healthier, exercising more, and losing weight. Getting organized is rarely mentioned, but we often hear, “I need to get organized!” or we have talked to older adults who need to declutter or downsize their homes, but don’t know where to start. 

January is National Get Organized Month! The following are some tips on how to help loved ones or friends, take small steps to organize better.

  • Resist the urge to go into a home and try to get it into shape in a couple of hours. Start with smaller things such as asking if you can take some newspapers for recycling. Then work up to bigger items. Organizing is a two-step process: sorting and deciding what to do with an item and then disposing of an item.
  • Praise small victories such as, even if all you’ve done is clear off a table, a chair or a room, celebrate the accomplishment together.
  • If a friend or loved one has 100 empty plastic containers, you can suggest donating some to a school for a painting project. If they are given to someone who needs them, they may not feel bad about letting them go.
  • Remind your loved ones that too much clutter can keep them from being safe in their homes, which could jeopardize their ability to stay there. They could trip over papers on the floor or lose bills and medications.
  • Agree. For example, agree to box up unused clothing or other items. Carefully list what’s in a box and track that for six months. If your loved one does not use the items at that time, suggest they donate them to a charity.
  • Clutter is all about control, but so is being the one to decide where stuff goes. Remind your loved ones if they don’t decide where something will go, down the road someone else will do it for them.

Another strategy is to deploy the “4-box method.” This is a system that can help make the process of de-cluttering and re-assessing less daunting. The system boils down to creating four spaces (or literal boxes), where you divide up whatever’s been keeping your loved ones from organizing a particular room or space.

The boxes are:

  • Keep until I die – for items of sentimental value, such as family heirlooms, personal letters, wedding china, and photo albums.
  • Appraise and sell- for unwanted items of value.
  • Keep with me – for unsentimental items, such as furniture and art.
  • Garage sale/donate – for unwanted items.

Go room-by-room with loved ones, sorting possessions using this system. This shouldn’t be done in one day or over a weekend but rather is an ongoing process done over weeks or months. When all else fails, and you don’t have the time or energy to take on this type of assistance, know that professional organizers can help you through the process.

If you or your loved one is considering a move to senior living, make preparation this year’s resolution. Organization is necessary prior to selling a home and deciding what to put into trust and estate planning. Being proactive in an upcoming transitional need is always preferential to having to be reactive in a medical crisis or trigger event.  

Organizing your POA documents and emergency response authorization is one critical element to organize whether you are moving OR want to stay safe at home on your terms! Contact us to see how we can help. Grants available for medically at risk seniors. 


Advanced Directive, LLC is a Non-Profit 501c3 Initiative, advocating for senior independence. Live life on your terms . . . Don’t let lack of planning dictate your options. For more information, or for assistance with Medicaid, medical directives, or care planning, contact Frank Demarinis at 1-800-564-0173.   

Our non-profit grant program has free consultation and grant slots for 85+ who are at risk, have had a recent nursing home stay, or who would benefit from an Assigned Power of Attorney (Health or Financial), or who are at risk of frequent re-hospitalization.


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