Seniors benefit from spring cleaning

By Rev. Craig Statton, CEO, Atherton, 214 S Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra

Rev. Craig Statton, CEO, Atherton.

For me, the arrival of Easter is a signal that spring is in the air. In Colorado where I grew up, Easter brought the first shoots of green in the grass, some buds on the trees, and a splash of much needed color from sprouting daffodils and tulips. Southern California has less of this seasonal change, but the temperature does begin to warm, and the days get longer as spring takes hold. Around our house, the advent of spring also meant that some basic chores called “spring cleaning” were on Mom’s calendar. The marketers of that day did a great job, and I remember the phrase she would use to challenge us: “It’s time to make everything ‘Spic-N-Span.’” I remember the satisfaction we all felt during a week or two of frenzied activity that transformed cupboards, closets, windows, bedrooms, and floors from the dusty confinements of winter into the sparkling newness of spring. Things have greatly changed from those days, but my family still performs a version of this same event each year.

It turns out that the ritual of spring cleaning is important for all our lives. Our best intentions find us stacking and acquiring articles, periodicals, items, and “stuff” that we know will either revolutionize our lives, help out families, or give us some joy for the next day or week. If you are like me, we must admit that many of these items end up unread, under-utilized, or accumulating dust because we have moved on to the next pressing moment. Spring cleaning is a time to simplify our lives by sorting, thinning, and discarding all the unnecessary “stuff” we have. Once a year or so, amidst our busy, consumer-driven lifestyle, it’s good to be reminded of what is basic versus what is discretionary.

Seniors can be especially resistant to “sweeping away the stuff” that we really don’t need. Many of us grew up with an ethos of saving just about everything: think of all those cans of nails and screws, spare parts, balls of twine, brown paper bags, empty jars, cardboard, and wood that once had a place in the basement. We haven’t adjusted well to all that is disposable in our society. All of us have seen those television shows where hoarders live on the verge of mental illness because their need to retain all their stuff has overwhelmed all hope and common sense. Let’s face it: at some point, life is going to be much more about doing than it is about having. Seniors who engaged annually in this practice of spring cleaning are much more able to handle the stress of downsizing when the time comes. So, let’s be brave and get spring cleaning! Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Break it down into small bites: Make a checklist so you have a plan. Listing the areas that need to be cleaned, piles that need to be sorted, or even choices that need to be made allows you to have a sense of control in what may seem like an overwhelming task. Even a list of 100 items will result in a plan that makes it much easier to organize your time and efforts.

2. Get the family involved: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from loved ones. When we were kids, mom set aside the time for spring cleaning and everyone participated. As we get older, it can be overwhelming to sort, clean, and clear a whole house; asking for help should be a natural extension of your relationships.

3. Make yourself throw it away! Our lives are filled with a gadget for everything and an outfit for every occasion. Some of this “stuff” is either past its prime or was never all that useful to begin with. It is better to admit you made a mistake and part ways with the item rather than let it take up space for another year. A professional organizer would charge you money to make three sorting piles: yes, no, and maybe. You can do this yourself. Everyday items you often use go in the “yes” pile. For items you're hesitant to part with, place them in the maybe pile. Don’t discard things with sentimental value.

4. Organize for importance: Review and sort all your important financial, health, and legal documents and organize them into one space. This will save you time, money, and stress in the event of an emergency.

5. Be prepared for an emergency: Make sure all your mechanical and emergency systems are in good working order. For example:

  • Program emergency contact numbers and Medical ID information into your smartphone (or an easily accessible list in your home).
  • Double check that your fire extinguisher is charged and not expired.
  • Test smoke and CO2 alarms for live, active batteries.
  • Compile an up-to-date list of any medicines (prescriptions and over-the-counter) which you take regularly.
  • Make sure your first aid kit is stocked and build an accompanying kit of water bottles, a blanket, flashlight with batteries, back-ups of commonly taken medicines, non-perishable snacks, etc.
  • Service your furnace, A/C, or water filters.

I don’t suppose many of us relish the ritual of spring cleaning with its sorting, purging, organizing, sanitizing, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting. But setting aside time for this routine maintenance will make a significant difference in your future; and just think how good it feels when your world is Spic-N-Span! Happy spring!


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Oct 2021


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