I always tell the DIYers I work with that once your renovations are complete, the job of creating a safe aging-in-place home has just begun.
Why? Because all it takes is one whirlwind of clutter sweeping across the living room to reduce your parent’s ability to stay safe. Keeping clutter at bay is as important to safe aging-in-place living as just about any other project you’ll tackle.
Living Room Clutter is More than Just a Pair of Shoes Left Out on the Floor
The perfect storm of living room and dining room clutter emerges when two forces collide:
When items like books and knickknacks don’t have a home and end up laying around the room…
…when too many chairs, floor lamps, end tables and over-sized pieces of furniture clutter the floor, leaving little-to-no space for your parent to walk around the room.
If most of your parent’s living room and dining room floors are hidden underneath furniture, knickknacks, or both, it’s time to declutter and clear the way so they can move about the house and safely age in place.
Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Living Room
Most older adults spend a lot of time each day in their living rooms. So, not surprisingly, that’s where you’ll find most of the items they use each day. It’s also where overstuffed sofas, big TV stands, multiple end tables and lots of chairs like to hang out.
Think about your parent’s house – is there enough floor space for them to safely walk around the room without tripping over a table leg or having to squeeze in-between the couch and the coffee table?
I’m willing to bet you could remove a few pieces of furniture and never miss them.
Decluttering the aging-in-place living room takes some planning ahead. You can follow my three rules for decluttering the aging-in-place living room along with some of my favorite products to help you get started.
Rule #1: Choose Small-Footprint Furniture
Replace the oversized sofa with a smaller, comfortable couch. Aging-in-place sofas shouldn’t be too deep or your parent may have trouble standing up once they’re seated. But, a stiff couch can make their legs and back sore when they sit for extended periods of time. Find a balance in a sofa that doesn’t hog floor space.
A few smart living room sofa options:
This couch is designed for small spaces but still offers soft cushions with plenty of comfort for your parent.
The Vasagle is another shallow sofa that’s firm yet comfortable.
If you’re looking for a great aging-in-place loveseat, check out this low-profile sofa from Divano Roma. Like the others, it’s not too deep and takes up minimal floor space.
Rule #2: Knickknacks Belong on Wall-Mounted Shelves
Get small decorative items off the floor or keep them from cluttering the coffee table by placing them up onto a wall-mounted shelf.
A few smart wall-mount shelving options:
Make smart use of corner space with a shelf set like this one from Greenco. I especially like its rounded-corners – much safer than a harsh-angled shelf sticking out from the wall.
These shelves have a railing to keep knickknacks from falling off once they’re in place – a great aging-in-place feature.
Swap floor-standing bookcases for wall-mounted bookshelves for even more floor space.
Rule #3: Keep Cables and Wires from Becoming Trip Hazards
A maze of cables and wires around the living room creates a major tripping hazard. These tools offer a few ways to keep cables and electronics from adding clutter to the aging-in-place living room.
Eliminate the need for a media console by getting the TV and all of the wires that go along with it neatly hung on the wall.
Wrap TV cables together so they’re neatly contained rather than laying around the floor.
Attach this organizer to the end table in the living room to keep the cords from each of your parent’s devices from creating more clutter.
Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Dining Room
Dining rooms tend to end up stuffed with big pieces of furniture lined from one side of the room to the other. There’s the long dining table, chairs and large china display cabinet…and that’s not counting the extra chairs stored in each corner in case unexpected company stops by.
Like with the living room, creating an aging-in-place dining room that stays clear of clutter takes some thought and a few good pieces of low-profile furniture. Here my two rules for decluttering the aging-in-place dining room along with my favorite products to help your parent live clutter-free.
Rule #1: No Large Dining Room Tables Allowed
A big dining room table was great when the kids were young, but now that big table is taking up precious floor space. Instead, look for a smaller dining room table that can expand to accommodate dinner guests. This is the way to go when you’re trying to declutter and minimize without losing the ability to entertain.
I also like smaller dining room tables for aging-in-place living because they offer less space to collect clutter. Look for tables that seat four but expand to six seats. Dining tables with rounded edges are a great choice because there’s less of a chance your parent will hurt themselves on a sharp corner when sitting down.
A few smart expanding dining room table options:
This table gives you lots of table top space while still being fairly compact for a larger dining space.
I love this table because of its leaf feature. The leaf is built-in so there’s no need to store or lift a heavy leaf when it’s not in use.
This table ranges from highly compact to spacious giving you the best of both worlds.
When you set up your new, smaller dining table, remove any extra dining chairs from the room. Extra chairs that sit in the corner are, without a doubt, going to end up as storage spots for piles of clutter. The only chairs that should be in the dining room are the ones that sit at the table.
Rule #2: China Cabinets Must Be Low-Profile
China cabinets and buffet tables are also notoriously large pieces of dining room furniture. As your parent downsizes, go through their collection of china and see what can be donated or passed down to children or grandchildren. Keep a set of china large enough to host the whole family at the holidays once a year and try to find a new home for the rest.
The china your parent does decide to keep deserves a special place in the home. You can pretty easily find a china cabinet worthy of your parent’s finest china that doesn’t take up too much space in the dining room.
A couple of low-profile china cabinet options:
I love this cabinet for the aging-in-place dining room. The glass doors make it easy to find what you need and the tall base means your parent doesn’t need to bend down to open the doors.
This low-profile cabinet is large enough to hold a full china set. And, its doors slide so there are no knobs for sore hands to pull or turn.
For even more decluttering tips as you organize your way through your aging-in-place home, check out some of my other decluttering articles.
- “Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Home”
- “Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Kitchen”
- “Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Bathroom”
- “Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Bedroom”
If you have questions about any of my favorite decluttering products for the aging-in-place living room and dining room, send me a note using the comments section below.
Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project!