The four of principal tenets of aging in place well are safety, comfort, convenience, and accessibility. These ideas aren’t mutually exclusive concepts but interrelate with each other. Take what happens when clutter is found in a home. Depending on the degree of it, it can seriously impact a person’s ability to live in their home well.
Clutter – as found in the disorganization of a space, the inability to have sufficient storage places for everything and then to put things away in those places, the accumulation of too much stuff, or the retention of too much stuff that otherwise should have been discarded – can affects people’s quality of life as they remain in their homes over time.
As for the major four concepts of aging in place, a cluttered home can affect an occupant’s safety because there are many potential tripping or stumbling obstacles. Sometimes pathways or safe places to walk or sit are masked by items in those places that aren’t supposed to be there. Of course, this affects accessibility in a similar way. If someone can’t navigate a hallway or stairway, open a closet or cabinet door without challenge, and have a clear path to get into and move around each room in the home, their mobility is going to be limited – and quite possibly their safety as well.
Comfort and convenience are often considered together, just as accessibility and safety are closely related. To remain comfortable in one’s home, there are several factors that can be considered. A desirable indoor temperature, proper lighting, fixtures and controls that are easy to use and that fit a person’s hand well, and a general indoor environment where a person feels at ease and secure are part of the overall concept of comfort.
Convenience has much to do with enjoyment of a living space. In addition to finding many aspects of the the home to be comfortable to reach and use, convenience suggests that they are within easy reach of someone, that they don’t have to exert a lot of physical effort to use or engage them, and that items that they desire to use (in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, or elsewhere in their home) are within safe and easy reach.
This, them brings us back to the discussion of disorganization (clutter) in a home. Clutter, it seems, is all around us and almost inevitable. All of us collect things and tend to retain and hold onto them – some more than others. A certain amount of lifetime treasures help us remember and relive pleasant events in our past. Too many of them, however, and we can feel overwhelmed or stressed just by the sheer amount of them.
As we go through life, we can’t help but amass a lifetime of memories – from our own experiences and those of family members (especially children and grandchildren). By the time we have grown old enough that we no longer look forward to birthdays or even keep track of them, we likely have collected a substantial amount of keepsakes, obsolete items, notes, articles, magazines, things the kids once used, old sporting or camping equipment, and outdated technology products. Many items that we once valued and used regularly could even be obsolete today.
There is nothing wrong with collecting these memorabilia, souvenirs, and keepsakes as we journey through life – unless they get so numerous and abundant that they begin to crowd us and seemingly take over our living space, making it less convenient to live well in our homes. When the closets get so full, or the attic, or basement, or garage, or shed, that we have difficulty locating items that we want of in even using those parts of the home, we may want to think about thinning out some of our possessions.
To our rescue, so to speak, comes the calendar. There are certain times of the year that just seem to be made for cleaning out, throwing out, making donations, and organizing our stuff – what we are holding onto. In some cases, what we have been retaining still has considerable value – cookware, tableware, seasonal decorations, camping gear, books, photos, and tools, for instance.
Everyone is familiar with the concept of spring cleaning. It doesn’t occur on a certain date, but when the freshness of springtime hits us, we feel compelled to air out the house and toss out things that won’t make it through another winter, items that aren’t serviceable for spring or summer, items that we have outgrown, things that are broken that we realize will never be fixed, and some of that really outdated stuff like VHS tapes, cassette tapes, and cameras that use film. That time has already come for this year.
Among other times of the year that prompt us to take stock of what we are holding onto and give us permission to release them are the beginning of both summer and fall, the end of the school year and beginning of the new term (even if we don’t have school age children), the time change in the spring and fall, and the year-end holidays. That is precisely where we are right now. Summer is in full swing, but this is the last full month of it. Also, the new school term is set to begin in the next few weeks.