Years ago, I was invited to the home of a brilliant scientist, a retired professor in her nineties who claimed that she had never thrown out a daily newspaper in her entire adult life. Imagine my intrigue when entering her enormous eighth-story apartment to be ushered (in single file) through a high and narrow maze in thousands of editions of The New York Times! While I certainly enjoyed the visit, I spent much of the time worrying about the glaring threats to her well-being—not the least of which were fire, falling, and poor air quality.
In stark contrast, I have a friend whose idea of spring cleaning includes—along with other “detailing” tasks—annually removing every window from her house for a serious scrub and polish. She does this all by herself, and the rest of us are left to wonder how in the world she does it (but for goodness’ sake, why).
Both scenarios are extreme—but the reality is that maintaining a cleaner, dust-controlled and uncluttered living space accomplishes much more than satisfying a personal desire for cleanliness or the pride of hard work. It can mean the difference between independence and dependence…the difference between healthy and unhealthy aging.
Consider, for example, that the risk for falling increases with age and that injury due to a fall can be physically, emotionally and financially devastating. Falling is the leading cause of injury-related death in people over 65—and yet most falls are preventable! Often they occur as a result of inattention to fall hazards, including clutter.
If fall prevention isn’t enough to inspire sorting, straightening, cleaning, giving away, recycling and throwing out, maybe this will help. Studies show that a fresher, well organized space can make people of all ages better able to focus and less likely to feel depressed or anxious.
The absence of falls, improved concentration, a better outlook…spring cleaning is a tried and true recipe for healthy aging!