This article reprinted by permission of Natalie Anderson, OTR/L, CAPS
Take a fall! According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, falling is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the senior population. And 50 percent of those falls happen in the home! People fall for many reasons, but today I want talk specifically about one reason. We all have too much stuff: 20-30-40 years of Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, exercise equipment, and hobby materials have come into the home, but very rarely does anything venture back out. I get it, I have fat jeans and skinny jeans, I still am holding on to a baby crib that I know my future daughter-in-laws will not let me use ‘cause it doesn’t meet the current safety standards, and maybe, just maybe, I will try to play golf again. If you’ve lived in your house for years, you have stuff. Look around, is the stuff creating obstacles in your hallway, are your steps lined with items that need to be taken up or down, but usually just stay on the stairwell? Is there a spare room, garage, or office that you have to make a path, move a box, or turn sideways to move around in the space? Do you have closet doors that can’t be shut? If so, you have a fall risk.
Maybe you think that you know where everything is, so you don’t really have a problem. But, I always challenge my clients to look with fresh eyes. If you can’t imagine that you would ever fall in your home where you are comfortable and know every nook and cranny, look around your house as if you were planning a month-long visit from your 93-year-old great auntie. She’s going to stay long enough to use all the areas of your home. Now what do you see?
It could be that I’m singing to the choir and you are very much aware that you need to sort and purge. But really it is so overwhelming you don’t know where to start. There are websites that detail strategies and step-by-step instructions how to de-clutter as well as professional organizers that you can pay for help. However, I really think it’s not the how but the why that needs to be tackled. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Today I’ve become an at-risk senior for falls, so I better organize, sort, and purge to make sure I have clear paths for walking.’ You have to be committed to your ‘whys’ to begin the organizing, sorting, and purging tasks. Here are some of the Big Whys:
1. I want to live in my home as long as I possibly can.
(I don’t want to fall.)
2. I want to decide what items are important to keep and what items can be tossed.
(I don’t want my children or family members to dispose of things that are sentimental or add meaning to my life.)
3. I want my home to be easy to live in.
(I don’t want the stuff in my home to produce anxiety or stress.)
This weekend just tackle one closet, if that seems overwhelming, just clear out and organize one drawer. You’ll like the feeling!
OTPlus provides Occupational Therapy Consulting services to clients in the Greater Puget Sound area, including home modification, client function and safety assessments, design and building accessibility consultation, and ergonomic job site assessments, to increase client function, independence, and safety.