During an aging-in-place home renovation, there are the more obvious areas of the house that need remodeling – bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens are usually at the top of the list.
From renovating aging-in-place homes for years now, I can tell you that those ‘other’ areas of the house – the ones that tend to get forgotten – need just as much attention.
The big ones to keep in mind – the staircase, hallways, basement and laundry room.
These sometimes-forgotten spaces have one thing in common. They’re the victims of constant clutter.
Decluttering Needs to be High Up on Your Aging-in-Place Remodeling Checklist
The staircase usually becomes a procession line of clothes, towels, books – you name it; each item hopeful to find its way back upstairs and to its rightful place.
Household items we don’t quite know what to do with end up lining the hallways. The laundry room ends up looking like a bomb of socks and shirts went off. And, everything else gets thrown into the basement.
There is no mystery why these four forgotten areas become littered with clutter – and make for dangerous areas throughout the aging-in-place house.
Decluttering for Aging in Place Means Looking at the Entire House
I have rules for how to declutter the major rooms in the aging-in-place home, each focused on a particular room’s danger zones. For the stairs, hallway, basement and laundry room, though, it’s all about keeping these spaces clear and organized. That means nothing on the floor and every item organized and put in its dedicated place.
As with every decluttering project, go through each space and toss what you no longer need, whether that’s in a trash bag or a donation pile.
Once you’re left only with the things that are staying, it’s time to find a home for everything. Here’s how to declutter the stairs, hallway, basement and laundry room, along with my suggestions on the top products to get the job done.
Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Staircase:
The goal when you’re decluttering the staircase is to find a place for your things that doesn’t include the stairs. Simple enough. So hopefully, a lot of the work happens as you go around and organize the other areas of the house. If you add a bookshelf in the living room, for instance, you shouldn’t end up with a trail of books lining the stairs.
Now, we all know that your parent’s things are still going to find their way to the staircase from time to time. So, be prepared with a simple solution to make sure the stairs don’t become a major tripping hazard.
This basket is a pretty smart way to keep your things off of the stairs. I like these baskets because they’re large enough to hold socks or books but not big, heavy items that you don’t want your parents carrying up the stairs anyway.
A few things to keep in mind here. If you do add a stair basket, make sure it has handles. This way it’s easy to lift from the top. Also, only add a basket to the steps if you have a very wide staircase. Otherwise, you won’t have enough room for the basket and your parent could trip.
And, if your parent has significant balance issues, don’t add a basket until you’ve installed a sliding chair lift or other device to help them get up the stairs safely.
Decluttering Aging-in-Place Hallways:
Like the staircase, hallways tend to attract the over-flow clutter that belongs in other rooms in the house. It also ends up as a dumping ground for clothes, coats and linens when hallway closet spaces creep towards capacity.
So, if you tame the hallway closet, keeping the hallway clutter-free gets much easier.
If you’re battling clutter on a hallway table, get decorative items up onto the wall with a shelf or bookcase. Tabletops will ALWAYS be a landing pad for clutter, so don’t give it a chance to pile up.
When decluttering the hallways, focus on organizing closets and clearing the tabletops. Here are some suggested products to help you get organized.
These bins are awesome. They’re business in the front, party in the back thanks to a trapezoidal shape that keeps small hand towels organized but still fully in view. Your parent will easily find the towel they need without digging through a pile of linens.
For larger towels or any other linens, these dividers keep linens separated. Towels will stay where your parent puts them.
If the hallway you’re decluttering is near the doorway, adding a mail holder with key hooks will get those items off of an entryway table. Mail, especially, can pile up and create all kinds of clutter. This little shelf can make a big difference in cutting clutter in the front hallway.
For other entryway decluttering tips, check out my recent article, “Decluttering the Aging-in-Place Entryway.”
Add a simple set of floating shelves to put knickknacks and decorative items that take up space on any tables lining the hallway. This set sits close to the wall, making it a better choice than a deeper shelf that may stick out too far from the wall.
Decluttering Aging-in-Place Basements:
Ah, the basement. It’s where most of our things get stored when they don’t have a permanent home. Especially if your parent’s basement is the dark, dungeon-y type, there are probably bags of old clothes that were never donated, boxes and boxes of holiday ornaments, an old crockpot or two…you get the idea.
Especially in the basement, the first step of decluttering is throwing away what you don’t need. This includes anything you think you may need one day but haven’t needed in years. Those items should either get tossed or donated, too.
Decluttering the aging-in-place basement is a big job. If your parent has lived in their home for any significant number of years, sorting through everything will be a trip down memory lane. Make sure you’re honest with yourself about what should stay and what can go. Remember, decluttering is about creating the space you need to store your parent’s things safely.
Once the basement is clean and clutter-free, assess what’s left to store. Every basement needs a good shelf system, so start by finding as many sturdy shelves as you need to get everything up off the floor.
First, go with a plastic composite shelf or a metal shelf with a finish that won’t rust. Basements can get wet and humid which will cause some metal shelves to rust and wood shelves to break down.
If you have a tall basement or have limited wall space, this 5-tier shelf can hold a lot of medium-weight items like boxes of clothes, decorations and anything else that doesn’t tip the scale.
This is a great storage shelf when you need serious storage for a lot of items. It’s sturdy and you can add multiple units together to get the amount of storage space you need.
Decluttering Aging-in-Place Laundry Rooms:
Keeping the laundry room clutter-free is all about organization. You can’t get rid of your ironing board or laundry detergent – this isn’t the room where I typically tell DIYers to throw things away. Instead, finding ways to store and organize what you need while doing laundry is the name of the game.
Here’s how I suggest storing laundry room essentials. Look for ways to keep the floor clear and the things your parent needs well within reach.
I love over-the-door storage tools that make use of the otherwise-wasted space behind the door. This is the perfect spot to hang up the ironing board and iron.
Sorting laundry when you bring it into the laundry room to wash is a great strategy for keeping clothes off of the floor. This simple tool will help your parent stay organized and make doing laundry less of a chore.
For the aging-in-place laundry room, any tool that reduces the number of times your parent has to bend down is a winner. This folding table is a great folding table…it folds down when you don’t need it, and it’s the right height to fold laundry. I like clothes folding tables for aging in place because it takes the strain off of your parent’s back and reduces the chance of them losing their balance while folding clothes.
With Some Time and the Right Tools, You Can Easily Declutter these 4 Spaces
Decluttering your aging-in-place home takes some time, but the safety improvements are well worth the effort. If you have questions about any of my favorite decluttering products for the aging-in-place home, send me a note using the comments section below.
Good luck with your next aging-in-place home project!