You may not think much about running out of the house when you’re late for an appointment or walking in with an arm full of groceries. But, when you’re older, walking out the door and coming back inside start to become a challenge.
Sore joints, mobility issues, and difficulty maintaining balance start to interfere with an older person’s ability to get through the door safely. The aging-in-place entryway sees too many avoidable trips and falls when it’s not properly remodeled to eliminate common obstacles.
See my article ‘Tips for Making Doorway Thresholds Safe for Aging in Place’ if your parents’ or loved ones’ entryway thresholds need a safety upgrade.
To the long list of doorway hazards, I’ll add a lesser-known evil – entryway clutter. Yes, clutter piled up around the front door, the door leading to the garage and the back door leading out to the porch can create just as much of a safety issue as thresholds and steps.
Decluttering Your Aging-in-Place Entryways
The problem with doorway clutter is that no matter how many times you put coats and shoes away, they always seem to find their way back out. They love to live out in the open right in the middle of the floor.
Luckily, the trick with entryway clutter is a pretty easy one – have a home for everything you need when you head out the door. Make it so easy for your parent to put things like car keys, gloves, and sunglasses away when they walk inside that it becomes a habit.
Like with every decluttering project, I have a few simple rules. These rules apply to each entrance your parent uses to walk in and out of the house. To start, focus your safety upgrades on the spaces they use most. In this case, start with the doorway most traveled through.
Here’s what to consider as you declutter your entryway along with plenty of product suggestions to make it happen.
Rule #1: Don’t Try to Solve the Problem of Entryway Clutter by Adding More Clutter
Here’s what I mean. Entryway clutter often includes small items – gloves, hats, keys…that sort of thing. Most people’s natural inclination is to run out and purchase a big entryway table or tall shelf to house each item. Be careful here, though. While, yes, your parent or loved one needs a place to put their things, don’t swamp one hazard for another and buy a big furniture piece that ends up cluttering the entryway.
The right solution depends on the width of the foyer or hallway the door opens into. But a good rule of thumb is to choose a thin table that sits against the wall facing the opening of the entryway. It’s the ideal place to keep your car keys and some of those other small items.
In other words, don’t put an entryway table behind the door. Your parent needs to put the keys down, and anything else they’re holding, before closing the door behind them.
Here are a few excellent aging-in-place entryway tables.
This is a great entryway table for a lot of reasons, especially because of its depth. At under 12-inches deep, the table extends less than a foot from the wall taking up less floor space.
I like this table option for its oval shape and rounded corners. The corners won’t create any pain if your parent brushes alongside as they walk by the table. And, while it’s not as slim as the Oxford, this table only sticks out 14-inches out from the wall which should give you a good amount of clearance in most entryways.
If your entryway isn’t as wide as you’d like, a corner table is another option. If so, take a look at this table by Safavieh. Despite being a corner table, it’s compact with enough tabletop space for your parent’s keys and one or two other essentials.
Rule #2: Have a Dedicated Place for Keys
This is a little trick I learned a while ago when renovating an aging-in-place home. The car keys should have their own spot in the entryway. Why? Because you do not want your parent ruffling around through a pile of odds and ends just to find their keys – or, throwing their keys on a table and forgetting where they are.
Make finding the keys easy–especially if your loved one’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be or if they tend to misplace things around the house. Personally, I think a dedicated bowl for keys next to the doorway makes a great visual cue and is the way to go. Another great solution, though, is a key hanger that mounts on the wall by the door or above the entry table. Choose whichever works best for your parent.
If you go the bowl route, make sure the bowl you choose won’t break if it gets knocked off the table. Otherwise, you’ll end up creating a whole new safety hazard.
Here are a few key holders and hangers I recommend for your entryway.
Simple and safe, this wooden bowl is small enough for just your parent’s keys and won’t break if it slips off the table.
This small stainless steel bowl will shine bright on your entryway table – your parent will notice it every time they walk through the door, never forgetting to place their keys inside. It comes as a set with a larger bowl which you can use to display fruit in the kitchen or any other number of uses.
This key hanger doubles as a small shelf for sunglasses, a wallet, or any other small item. And, it has a handy slot for mail. This is a great, safe addition to an aging-in-place entryway.
If you really want to keep it simple or if your parent is going for a modern look, or both, check out this stainless steel key hook. It’s strong enough to hold heavier items and can easily keep a few sets of keys by the door.
Rule #3: Add a Simple Coat Rack and Bench for Winter Gear
Having scarves, gloves, coats, and hats at the ready is maybe the biggest culprit of entryway clutter during the winter. You probably store all of your winter gear in bins either in the front closet or the mudroom. That works great for keeping things tidy and out of the way in most homes.
In the aging-in-place home, however, hiding winter gear in bins isn’t the answer. The challenge is to keep each of your parent’s winter accessories close by and within reach while also making sure they don’t end up cluttered on the table or floor.
The solution? An entryway coat rack and bench set that places everything front and center while keeping it organized and looking nice.
This entryway coat rack and bench set has it all. Just make sure your entryway is wide enough to handle it. The front of the bench shouldn’t come within less than a few feet of the doorway or you may create a tripping hazard.
I like this entryway set for its bench – not for sitting, but for open-top bins to hold gloves, scarves and all of your parent’s other winter gear. This lets accessories stay out in the open and easy to find while still having a permanent home.
If you need a shallower bench, this industrial option isn’t as deep as the first and still gives your parent lots of space to hang coats and scarves, and store gloves and hats. Sit open-top bins on the bench so keep winter gear organized and off the floor.
Get to Work and Get Your Aging-in-Place Entryway Decluttered in a Just a Day
Decluttering is critical to aging-in-place safety. But, it’s also a simple and easy day job that any DIYer can tackle. Follow my rules, get your hands on these products, and you’ll have the entryway decluttered in no time.
If you have questions about any of my favorite decluttering products for the aging-in-place entryway, send me a note using the comments section below.
Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project!