Moving from a large family home into a smaller aging-in-place home can be difficult for so many reasons. It’s not so much about the number of items – and all of the memories – you have to sift through as you prepare for the next phase of your life. It’s also about relearning how to live with less space.
When you downsize and find yourself in a small home for the first time in forever, you have to quickly come up with smart, creative storage solutions for everyday items. And, when you’re downsizing to an aging-in-place home, thoughtful storage solutions are not only an issue of comfort and your desire to be organized but also a consideration for long-term safety.
The right creative aging-in-place storage solutions make the most of less floor space, put the things you need within reach, and make downsizing to a smaller home safer for older adults.
My Top Picks for Creative, DIY-Friendly Storage Solutions for Aging in Place
In order to effectively downsize and age in place safely, creative ways to store everything from toiletries to blankets to baking sheets have to be a part of the mix. I’ve compiled my list of favorite storage solutions that you can quickly and easily add to your aging-in-place home.
Don’t get tricked into thinking that adding storage means adding more furniture into a room. Any extra furniture means less available floor space which isn’t ideal for a couple of reasons. One: older adults with mobility issues need space to walk around the room safely. Cramped spaces can create tight corners that make it difficult to navigate. Two: the fewer things on the floor, the fewer tripping hazards.
A great solution for adding storage without taking up floor space is with a floating shelf. You can get a floating shelf in many different sizes and configure multiple shelves together to create any amount of wall storage you need.
Floating shelves are also a great place to store heirlooms or small keepsakes so they’re out of the way and don’t create clutter – another safety issue in the aging-in-place home.
You can read more about aging-in-place decluttering by taking a look at my article, ‘Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Home.’
A few floating shelves to consider:
I like this particular shelf for the railing around the front of each base. Items are less likely to fall off and create tripping hazards below.
With this shelf, you get the added towel bar so everything stays put and your towels are at eye-level.
If after downsizing your home you no longer have the floor space for a large bookshelf, floating shelves make great bookshelves. The depth of this shelf easily holds paperbacks and the metal brackets work like bookends to keep books in place.
Pull Out Pantry
A pull out pantry is a clever way to minimize the amount of floor space your parent’s pantry storage takes up, and it keeps spice jars and cans from getting lost in the back of the pantry, never to be seen again.
Rev-a-Shelf is the company I suggest for any pull out pantry upgrade you’re looking to add to your existing kitchen cabinetry.
I wrote an entire article detailing each step of a pull-out pantry installation to help make this storage upgrade easy. Read, “How to Install a Pull Out Pantry for Aging in Place.”
Here are a few options from Rev-a-Shelf depending on the height and depth of your existing cabinetry.
Depending on the width of your cabinet, this pull out comes in a few different sizes. I like that its shelves are fully adjustable. This is important so you can focus storage towards the top of the pull out and avoid placing items too close to the ground – a fall hazard, for sure. And, the shelf glides with almost no effort so pulling on the pantry won’t cause pain for sore hands.
You can also transform a full-length cabinet or set of cabinets into a pull out pantry with Rev-A-Shelf’s full-sized pull out. This one works just like the base cabinet version but with more storage space for baking supplies.
Storing baking sheets vertically is the only way to keep them somewhat organized. This pull-out organizer, however, brings the cookie sheet to your parent so they can find the one they need.
Another kitchen storage solution is a very simple set of wall-mounted organizers. When you move from a large family kitchen to a smaller one as you downsize, that pile of mail on the end of the counter suddenly takes up more of the total available counter space. Mounting small mail holders and magazine baskets along the doorway or in the kitchen will get that stack of mail off the counter and keep a smaller kitchen much more organized.
A few wall-mounted organizers to consider:
These large woven bins are easy to mount and are a perfect size and shape for mail, books, and anything else you need to get off the kitchen counter.
This storage basket hangs from the wall. You can use it anywhere, but hang one by the doorway for mail and anything else that’s laying around the counter.
These metal baskets are great to put by the front door not only to stash mail, but to put keys, sunglasses, a wallet, or a small purse. Most homes have that table by the door that serves no other purpose than a place to put the house keys. These bins replace the table, freeing up floor space to make the entryway bigger and safer.
Clothing storage isn’t just about packing away seasonal clothing. If your parent’s smaller home equates to downsized closet space, there are ways to better store everyday clothes and maximize the closet, like with a pants hanger.
I love closet hanging systems for aging-in-place that put pants at eye-level – it gets pants out of drawers so there’s no bending down and searching to find what you need.
When you’re looking for a pants hanger, avoid hangers with adjustable clips that you have to pinch to open. Those clips can cause a lot of pain to arthritic hands.
This vertical pants hanger takes up about the same amount of closet space as a single shirt. It’s one hanger holds five pairs of pants.
This hanger holds six pairs of pants and collapses vertically when you need to store pants out of the way. It has an anti-slip design which is also helpful for older adults as they take pants on and off the hanger.
If your parent would rather fold their pants, they can still use a hanging closet organizer to get several pairs stored without taking up too much valuable closet space. Choose one with just a few shelves at eye level so your parent doesn’t store pants on a lower shelf which could potentially lead to a fall.
Bedside Hanging Caddy
A bedside storage caddy does a couple of great things for older adults. First, it keeps essential items close by so there’s less of a need to get up out of bed at night and risk a fall – your book, phone, remote and everything else you need is right by your side. Second, this means you can get away with a small nightstand. Since the nightstand takes up less floor space, this can be a big help in smaller bedrooms and potentially eliminates a tripping hazard.
A few bedside caddies to consider:
This waterproof caddy has eight pockets and comes in tons of colors. It’s a great choice when your parent has lots of items they need to keep close by at night.
This caddy includes two holes for device chargers – one of the smartest bedside caddy features I’ve seen. It puts your parent’s cell phone at their fingertips all night while keeping it fully charged. If there’s ever an emergency, they won’t have to reach over to the nightstand in the dark to find their phone and call for help.
This is the caddy for you if your parent wants simplicity and a space to store a book or magazine at night. No fancy pockets here, just a simple, sturdy caddy.
Storage benches that force an older adult to bend over too far are never a smart choice for an aging-in-place home. This situation puts them at serious risk of losing their balance and falling. A storage ottoman placed in front of the couch, however, lets your parent sit down and easily reach a pillow, blanket or anything they need from a safer seated position.
A few storage ottomans to consider:
This is a simple storage ottoman from Amazon that’s perfect as the main ottoman in front of the couch. It has modern gray charcoal upholstery and keeps things simple with an easy-to-open lid.
This tufted ottoman is great if your parent is downsizing into an aging-in-place home with a traditional design style. I like this one in particular for its shallow depth. The further your parent has to reach, the greater the chance of them losing their balance or falling as they reach into the ottoman.
This is another great storage ottoman option at a shorter length, perfect for in front of a loveseat or any smaller footprint living room. If your downsized living room is on the small side, make smart use of every square foot and keep the ottoman compact.
When you downsize to a much smaller home, find ways to maximize vertical space. The unusable space above the toilet becomes usable with an over-the-toilet storage shelf. These shelves are perfect for storing any bathroom essential. I like to use them to store bulky towels that don’t fit as well in drawers.
These shelves are also the perfect storage item for the aging-in-place bathroom because they keep bathroom essentials at eye level. Bending down into a deep drawer or low shelf is not an option.
I have an entire article dedicated to aging-in-place bathroom storage, “Smart Storage Solutions for the Aging-in-Place Bathroom” that you can read on my website for even more aging-in-place bathroom storage ideas.
A few over-the-toilet shelves to consider:
It doesn’t get simpler than this. With three shelves and an extremely small footprint, this option from UTEX may be all you need to maximize bathroom storage space.
Another simple option, this shelf by Spirich includes two cabinet doors if you want to keep some bathroom items out of sight.
If you need a little more storage and have some extra wall space, the Giantex over-the-toilet shelf gives you lots of storage space with room inside its cabinet for taller items like shampoo bottles.
Easily Add Each of these Downsizing Storage Essentials in Just a Weekend
Downsizing to an aging-in-place home is overwhelming for every senior, but the right storage solutions will make the transition much easier. As you’re making your bigger aging-in-place upgrades, don’t forget that little changes like adding storage can make a big difference in the safety of your aging-in-place home.
As you create your aging-in-place storage solutions, use the comments section below to send your questions my way. I’m here to help you create the safest home possible for your aging parent.
Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project.