October 30, 2020
Reading Time 4 min.

Why a Minimalist Lifestyle is Best for Aging Parents

Is a minimalist lifestyle a better fit for your aging parents?

Are you worried about the sheer volume of things in your aging mother’s house?

This is a common problem for those with aging parents.

Most of the time we don't understand why they keep trinkets and things around. But in reality, it might be their way of keeping the memories alive.

This article will discuss it is important to start a minimalist lifestyle as soon as possible.

This is not a solution for significant hoarders.

If your parent falls into the category 2-5 of hoarding listed here, professional help is needed.

See if her primary care physician can refer to someone who specializes in dealing with that. We can help reduce the normal accumulation of items over a lifetime to improve her safety within the home. 

So, is a minimalist lifestyle the best for our aging moms?

Truth is, she doesn’t need to free herself of all worldly possessions and completely change who she is.

But it's always a good idea to declutter and clear away what she doesn't need.

Stuff, junk, clutter, knickknacks, and heirlooms tend to accumulate as we age.

It is usually due to one feeling that an item is valuable or will be needed in the future.

And most of the time, getting rid of them is also an emotional process.

As we age, we begin to outlive relatives. Many of whom have left their heirlooms and trinkets to us.

This may be when you see items within the home becoming excessive.

Often your mother will feel a responsibility to her family to keep the items they felt were important or worth saving. This is the time to step in. If Mom’s home is already full of furniture, suggesting a one piece in, one piece out (donated) is a good policy. 

A minimalist lifestyle is a safer option for our parents aging in place


A quick story first.

I was working with a man one time who was in need of physical therapy before returning to his home.

Due to his significant COPD, he was unable to walk around his home without being very short of breath.

Because there was so much clutter in the home, he was unable to use a walker or a wheelchair.

He bought a “shop stool” and was using this to scoot around his home. This very unsafe behavior eventually resulted in a fall off the stool and a broken hip.

Try not to let the clutter reach the point of significant danger.

There are many reasons to reduce the amount of items in one’s home.

As furniture begins to take more and more floor space, the pathways for walking become more narrow.

While mom can navigate these narrowing pathways now, what happens when she steps off a curb wrong, twists her ankle, and requires a walker to get around.

If she can't use the walker at home, she is likely to try cruising (touching the walls and furniture for support) which increases her chance of another fall and more significant injury.

As furniture blocks wall space, electrical outlets are more difficult to access. The fix often used is an extension cord.

While this will solve the issue of inaccessible outlets, it creates a separate risk of tripping.

In addition, more furniture and more stuff leads to more lamps and electronics each needing to route cords across the narrowing walkways 


If she is hesitant but not outright resistant, suggest starting with one item she can find that she thought she might need months or years ago, but no longer needs this item. Give it away. There are many organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army that gladly accept donations. Give her a day to reflect on the “loss”. Once she realizes, it was not really that difficult, suggest finding 5 things to donate.

If this goes well, suggest a room to clear and declutter. Maybe a small guest bedroom or dining room. Let her know you appreciate the effort it takes, and encourage her that personal safety is a top priority. Point out how nice the room looks and how free and open it feels. Give her time to begin to adjust. Change is uncomfortable and even more so as we age. Once she has adjusted, help her move to the next room.

If she is unwilling to participate in improving the safety of her home by starting to declutter, it may be necessary to remove visible fall/fire risks without permission. Start slowly. Unplug one cord to an appliance or lamp that is seldom used. If there is one that crosses a walkway, move the cord to behind the piece of furniture it was sitting on, don’t plug it back in. See if this is noticed. If it is not, try another one or remove the item altogether. If she does notice, express your concern regarding her safety and see if yall can find a compromise where another item is removed or a pathway is cleared. 

Be sure to be understanding during this process, and to give time for the benefits to become apparent. She may feel attacked and hurt if the situation is not described in a way she will see the need for change.

In the long run, a minimalist lifestyle will have more perks that she will eventually love.

Change is difficult, but when we choose to change it becomes empowering. 

That's all for today.

Need more tips on how to keep mom safe at home? Check out the full guide for aging in place here.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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