Over a long, cold Cincinnati winter spent mostly indoors, clutter, dust and debris can collect in hard-to-reach and difficult-to-clean places. For seniors aging in place at home, clutter isn't just an unsightly nuisance — it can be a dangerous, fall-causing obstacle.
But, we've now arrived at the right time of year to do something about it. It's time for a good spring cleaning. Open the windows to let fresh air and sunshine in. Do a bit of yardwork, a little gardening and touch-ups to the landscaping. And banish the dust bunnies hiding in obscure corners and in their under-furniture burrows.
For seniors, this annual deep cleaning ritual can be a bit more challenging than it is for younger adults. To that end, let's review some spring cleaning tips that can help you, or your aging parent, save time as you clean.
1. Take a tour of your entire property.
If you start cleaning without an overall picture of the state of things, you could easily and quickly feel overwhelmed. Take a walk around the house — every room inside, plus the outside property. Figure out which areas need the heaviest work, which ones you can tackle on your own and which you might need to need help to address.
Which cleaning tasks are most urgent and need to be tackled first? Which are the least important? Should you start in one corner of the house and work your way through? What are the highest traffic areas (the ones that will need frequent ongoing cleaning)? What are the lowest traffic areas?
Start by squaring away the lowest traffic areas so that you aren't continually interrupted and drawn back into cleaning higher traffic areas. Try to maximize your time and efficiency.
2. Make a cleaning checklist.
What are your cleaning goals? To tidy up and disinfect? To increase your usable living space? To reorganize or redecorate? Or to begin downsizing in anticipation of a move to a more manageable residence or retirement community?
Whatever your goals, make a checklist and organize it by priority. If you have a specific way you want things done, write instructions next to each task — either to remind yourself how you want to do it, or to show whoever is helping you how you’d like it done.
3. Work methodically.
List the easiest-to-complete tasks first and the hardest, or most time-consuming, tasks last. If you finish a lot of small tasks quickly and can cross them off your list, it will give you momentum to complete the list, and you'll avoid bogging down and giving up.
4. Don't exhaust yourself.
If something is too heavy to lift or scoot, if objects are out of reach or if you have difficulty bending down or experience excessive soreness in your muscles or joints, don't push it. Ask for help! As we get older, routine tasks become more difficult — it's just part of the process. There's no shame in asking a younger loved one or friend for assistance. Turn it into a fun visit together. Offer to go out for coffee beforehand or cook dinner for your helper after the cleaning is done. This could be not only a chance to make your home tidier and safer, but also to spend some quality time with someone who cares for you.
5. Look for ways to reduce your "footprint."
Do you need to sell or give away unneeded items? Are you clinging to relics that don't have as much sentimental value as they used to, or that take up too much space? Are there items stored or laying about that you rarely (if ever) use? Need help getting rid of emotionally-charged keepsakes? Try some of these tips to help you let go.
If there are keepsake or valuable items you can't afford to store anymore, but you think someone in the family might want, invite your kids and grandkids over to "shop" — that is, to come pick out a few things they'd like to take home with them.
Or, as you clean, sort your belongings into five piles: keepers, family pass-ons, garage sale merchandise, thrift store donations and, finally, recycling and trash. At the end of your spring cleaning cycle, only items in the "keep" pile should remain in your home.
A good spring cleaning is an excellent way for Cincinnati seniors to get active.
Time to get up out of that lounger, limber up and tidy the house. Remember, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Be efficient and persistent in your cleaning efforts and soon you'll have a sparkling, safer home to enjoy.