Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Clutter Is Much More Than Just A Nuisance"

Clutter abounds in many homes and offices. It is a by-product of all the stuff we get and collect. There are several ways that the accumulation happens, and then the biggest culprit is allowing it to remain. It often starts out innocently enough, but over time it can get out-of-control.

We may have the best of intentions when we buy extra items when they are on sale because it is such a good bargain and it is a brand or product that we use. But then, they have to be kept someplace until they are actually needed to be put into service or consumed.

We may like to subscribe to magazines although online publications have made getting magazines a lot easier. Magazines (and sale flyers) are delivered in the mail, and they sit because who has time to sit down and read the entire issue when it comes? Or maybe there's an article or two that we want to read again later. So we keep it - neatly at first and then pile begins to grow.

When we need a screw or a bolt to repair something, we turn first to the many jars or junk drawers where screws, strings, fasteners, and other small hardware items are kept - just for times like this. When we can't locate the exact item we need - even though we are fairly certain we have it - we finally give up and head to the store to get another one. However, most of the time you can't just get a screw or two - you have to get a package of several. As for the extra ones, they go back into the jars or drawers - adding to the eventual clutter and overload. 

Packaging contribute to clutter also. Buy a new appliance, tool, computer, or something else somewhat fragile and look at all of the packaging that comes with it. On the off-chance that you might need to return the item during the period of time allowed by the merchant for you to change your mind, or you discover the item is defective in some way, you keep all of the packaging. After you determine that you are keeping the item, the packaging has a strange way of just remaining - more clutter and accumulation of stuff that is not contributing to our quality of life.

Clutter does not just affect us as we get older - although we may have more items lying about than we did at an earlier age - it is present throughout life. It is a safety and navigational concern in our homes. Some people can deal with it and keep it under control better than others, but as aging-in-place consultants and providers, we need to be aware of the discord that clutter can cause inside the home. It is disruptive. It causes people to step around, over, or on top of items that have to place to be other than in the way or under foot. For people with balance, coordination, or perception issues, clutter can be disorienting and challenging to their personal well-being.

It's not just a matter of having too much stuff and having to navigate around it inside the home. It can present health and safety concerns. Storage of the loose items in a home is a good start, but in most cases it requires actual scaling back of items. People generally have too much stuff that they are hanging onto - many time items that they are not going to use again or that have lost their significance. Storage and organization can only go so far. Then it's a matter of getting by with less stuff.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.