Getting Rid of Clutter

Whether you plan to stay in your home forever or sell it and move to smaller accommodations, getting rid of clutter can make your life easier and safer.

Here are a few very good reasons to declutter:

• Fewer opportunities to trip and fall. Consider what happens when a senior falls and breaks a bone: hospital, rehab and the question of where to go afterward. Can the senior go home and live independently again? Sometimes the answer is no.

• Organizing makes things easier to find.

• Clutter can be dangerous. If emergency services have to come to your house, will they be able to get to you? Or are pathways in rooms too narrow? Taken to an extreme, holding on to too many possessions can be called hoarding, and sometimes social services will step in to deal with it. Your best bet is to declutter long before it gets to that point.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Magazines and newspapers: Allow yourself three of each. When a fourth monthly magazine or daily paper arrives, throw out the oldest one in the stack.

• Keep incoming bills or correspondence in one spot, perhaps a basket or folder on the dining-room table, until you write checks or reply.

• Instead of viewing it as an overwhelming task, work on decluttering for an hour a day. Sort clothes you don’t wear anymore, tackle stacks of paperwork, make a list of items to give away or donate, such as memorabilia, books or tools. Then arrange for pickup of your donated items.

• If things have accumulated on the floor, start there.

• Ask for help if you need assistance with lifting or hauling things away.

Decluttering is a process. Expect to have to go through things more than once before you reach your goal.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Send email to