Take a walk around your parent’s kitchen. Peek inside a few cabinets, look under the sink, and notice what’s on the countertop. Are you bombarded by clutter? If you are, then you have some work to do.
A cluttered kitchen makes cooking and cleaning more difficult if your parent can’t find what they need. And, it makes the kitchen much more dangerous for aging in place. How?
Clutter on the floor is a major tripping hazard. A cluttered pantry means sore hands and tired eyes need to sort through boxes, bags and cans. And, over-stuffed cabinets can cause plates or glasses to fall and shatter.
In my recent article, ‘Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Home,’ I talk more about the connection between decluttering and safety.
Aging-in-place DIYers usually focus on the big projects that need to get done. But, I’m here to remind you that many smaller projects are just as important to the safety of the aging-in-place home – and decluttering the kitchen is one of them.
So, let’s get to work!
Don’t Mistake Decluttering for Organizing the Kitchen – They’re Two Different Things
First, let me be clear on exactly what I mean by decluttering. When I talk about decluttering the kitchen, I don’t mean reorganizing the pantry. Decluttering is the process of removing items you no longer need. To do it right, set a high bar for what stays versus what leaves.
The original rule of decluttering applies – you either ‘keep it, pitch it, or donate it.’
One by one, go through your pantry and each of your kitchen cabinets and assess what you need and what you don’t. It’s okay to hang onto heirlooms, but if you’re still storing that dish set you purchased 20 years ago that’s barely ever made it to the kitchen table, it belongs in either the ‘throw it’ or ‘donate it’ pile.
Donate any items that are in good shape that someone else could use and enjoy. If you have chipped glassware or bent silverware, throw them.
Fight the Temptation to Hide Items in Cabinets
By decluttering, I don’t mean taking what’s on the counter and making room for it inside a cabinet. Decluttering isn’t about removing unnecessary items from sight. When you’re done decluttering your aging-in-place kitchen, you should have fewer items in the cabinets than when you started.
Over-stuffing a cabinet is also one of the worst decluttering mistakes for an aging-in-place kitchen. You’ll risk those items falling back out and onto your parent the next time they open the cabinet door.
Give Every Item in Your Kitchen a Home
Once your kitchen is decluttered, the next step is keeping it that way. When I’m helping my clients find a home for each kitchen essential, I go back to four basic decluttering rules. Let’s dive into each rule and talk about the best products I’ve found to help you stay clutter-free.
Rule 1: Keep Kitchen Cabinet Essentials Organized
Once the cabinets and pantry are clutter-free, storage organizers will keep all of your essentials within each reach. Your parent should be able to find things quickly without having to rummage through the back of a drawer to find what they need.
Once you’ve gotten rid of any food storage containers missing their lids, and lids missing their containers, keep your storage container drawer from getting cluttered with a couple of food storage organizers. Digging around to find a matching container and lid means more time your parent spends bent over a drawer, potentially hurting their back or losing balance.
Reaching far back into the pantry can also be dangerous for an older adult who easily loses their balance. I like this sliding pantry organizer because it brings cans, jars and spices to you – no reaching required. Pantry items that are heavier – like soup cans – take more strength to pull out from the back of the pantry, so prioritize those items when you fill up each sliding bin.
I wrote a full article on “How to Install a Pull-Out Pantry for Aging in Place” if you’re looking to convert your existing cabinet to a safer aging-in-place pull-out.
Unless you have a vertical bakeware rack, chances are your baking sheets and pie plates are stacked one on top of the other – not a smart solution when you’re aging-in-place. Make reaching for baking sheets easier and safer for your parents with a rack that stacks each sheet side-by-side. These racks are great inside the pantry or can usually fit in a tall bottom cabinet.
Rule #2: Put Closet and Pantry Doors to Work
I love utilizing the backs of closet or pantry doors in my aging-in-place homes. Hangers and racks for cleaning supplies, tools and other miscellaneous items keep clutter off the floor and put supplies at eye-level and within reach. These tools provide a much safer alternative with no need to bend down.
This stainless steel door-mount hanger holds tall tools like brooms and mops, as well as other cleaning brushes that tend to otherwise get lost behind the sink. Now cleaning supplies are always easy to find.
Sometimes the kitchen gets cluttered from items that don’t belong in the kitchen in the first place. If your parent’s kitchen chairs tend to double as coat and hat racks, adding a simple door hanger in a kitchen closet means there’s no excuse not to hang things up and keep the kitchen clutter-free.
Rule #3: Maximize Space Under the Sink
The space under the sink is notoriously cluttered with near-empty bottles of cleaning supplies and sponges that have lived well past their prime. Throw away what’s old and consolidate bottles of the same cleaning solution. Then, neatly organize what’s left so you can make the most of this small space.
We know the space under the sink is valuable storage real estate, but for older adults bending down to reach to the back of base cabinets is never safe. A simple solution is a sliding basket drawer narrow enough to fit under your sink. Once you’ve thrown away old cleaning products and trimmed down to the cleaning essentials, store supplies in a basket that makes them easier and safer to reach.
One of the simplest decluttering tricks is a cleaning supplies caddy. A caddy keeps your parent from carrying too many supplies at once or taking several trips to get what they need to clean. Whether your parent has mobility issues, sore hands, tires easily, or all of the above, a simple caddy makes it much easier for them to clean safely and comfortably. This particular caddy features a comfortable handle and is big enough to fit everything your parent needs to clean.
Rule #4: Keep the Countertop Clear
Every homeowner wants a kitchen with a lot of counter space. And, in the aging-in-place home counter space is an important feature – you don’t want your parent cooking in a tight, cramped kitchen. The downside to counter space, however, is that it tends to attract lots of miscellaneous items that don’t have a home of their own. Here are a few ways to keep countertops organized after you declutter.
We all have the pile of papers, magazines and junk mail sitting at the end of the counter that never seems to leave. A mail bin or organizer that sits on the end of the countertop – or a side table if counter space is at a premium – gives a home to mail, bills, magazines, notepads, pens and more. Go through your pile of old mail and other papers, throw away what you don’t need, and then organize the rest in a mail organizer like this one.
A holder for large kitchen utensils, like wooden spoons and spatulas, is a great way to keep bigger tools out of drawers where they take up a lot of valuable space. A crock like this turquoise one adds color to the kitchen, keeps utensils organized and means less clutter in the silverware drawer.
Keeping Your Kitchen Clutter-Free Makes Aging-in-Place Safer and Easier
Living independently as an older adult isn’t as safe or easy in a cluttered home. If your parent can’t find the bills that need to be paid, they may have trouble handling their finances. If there are too many cleaning supplies stuffed underneath the sink, bending down to sort through the mess is inviting a fall. And, of course, too many dishes and glassware stuffed into an overhead cabinet can lead to broken glass on the floor.
The good news is that, unlike a major aging-in-place kitchen renovation, decluttering the kitchen is an easy job that can happen in a weekend. And, the results will make an immediate difference in the safety of your parent’s home.
If you have questions about any of my favorite decluttering products, send me a note using the comments section below. And, be on the lookout for more aging-in-place decluttering articles to come as I help you tackle the other rooms throughout your home.
Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project!