As we enter the summer season, many people are reorganizing and reorienting their living space – locating and unpacking summer-related items and clothing. Let’s stay focused on organization so we don’t lose anyone. Clutter and simplifying a living space by removing clutter is closely related to organization, but people generally don’t want to hear or talk about how much stuff they have or how they should pare back and get rid of a lot of what they have retained over the years.
Besides, what we, as aging in place professionals, deem to be unnecessary stuff that people have retained – that is littering or congesting a living space -are seen by the occupants of that space as valuable life mementos. It chronicles their life and provides a visual history of them and their family. They value and attach various amounts of sentiment and emotional ties to what they have retained. Some of it actually is junk and should be discarded – broken appliances, obsolete games and electronic equipment that no longer functions and can’t be repaired or restored because technology has bypassed it, spare parts to items that have survived the items themselves because they are gone but the parts remain, instructions and warranties for items that no longer exist, and items of clothing that are in such bad condition that they aren’t even candidates for a yard sale of the thrift store. We would have no trouble making such a call, but the owners of this stuff might seriously object. They claim that everything is important, or they admit that some of it can go – they just aren’t ready to make that determination.
Each season brings with it various items that pertain just to that season – clothing, sporting goods, furnishings, decorations, and other accessories. Summer is an outdoor season, generally with the fewest layers of clothing to be worn and light colors – shorts, tee-shirts, and flip-flops or sandals, for instance. The time for jackets, boots, corduroy, gloves, and other cold-weather items has passed for a few months – so they can be placed in trunks, closets, bins, dressers, or other out-of-the-way places to await their turn in the seasonal rotation of items. In a few months, the items people are locating and using now will be tucked away for another year.
The summer season (roughly Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend) means outdoor activities, so people look for, locate, unpack, and place back in service their portable barbecue equipment, yard sprinklers, water skis, personal flotation devices, swimming apparel, yard chairs and umbrellas, lawnmowers and garden tools, bicycles, rollerblades, tennis equipment, volleyball or badminton nets and equipment, golf clubs (along with shoes, clothing, any other accessories), softball or baseball bats, balls, shoes, and gloves, and similar warm-weather items.
Finding the summer-related items is much easier for ourselves and our clients if prior organization has occurred. Instead of trying to remember which items are stored where or needing to move several boxes, crates, or cartons to locate the summer items, people can go right to them. Maybe all of the summer items are stored in the same colored containers. Maybe they are all stored in one spot in the basement or garage. Maybe they are kept in an offsite storage facility, Where they are stored is less important than being able to locate them and place them back into service with relatively little effort. The space that the summer items are vacating could then be used by spring items so that a separate space for each season would not be required. As one season’s items are taken out of storage and placed into use, the retiring season’s items can take their pace in storage – whether that happens to be. The exception could possibly be holiday decorations – 4th of July, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween, for instance, that might require more and separate storage space due to the size and complexity of the items.
We can perform a valuable service for our own households and those of our clients by focusing on organization our clothing, sporting goods, yard equipment and supplies, accessories, and other items by season and then labeling each container for the season, if not for the general contents in each one. In addition to being stackable in some organized fashion, they can be located quite easily when needed for that season. A pre-season check can also be done (because the containers can be located and inspected easily) to identify missing or broken items that had been forgotten about since the last time they were used to make sure that everything is ready for the coming season of use and enjoyment.
Clutter needs to be controlled, but the first step in having a safe, comfortable, enjoyable, and manageable home environment is the organization of seasonal use items. This facilitiates aging in place well.