An older woman dressed in Victorian clothing tries to clean her home

Cleaning Tips for Seniors: Lessons from my Dowager Years

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Getting older has its perks, but cleaning our homes isn’t one of them. Many seniors are fine letting their homes grow more cluttered and dusty as they get older. Sometimes, they just assume that’s just how things have to be. But I get stressed when my home is a mess. 

So, with the age of 60 rapidly approaching, I’m keeping the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s words in mind: “You’re a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.”

And for me, that involves adopting these cleaning tips for seniors and changing up my routines. 

Why Seniors Need to Change Our Cleaning Ways

As we get older, things change. A spotless home isn’t something we should expect of ourselves anymore. That type of effort is best left to energetic young people or those with enough money to hire help, whether or not they’re live-in staff.

That doesn’t mean we have to live in squalor, mind you. It just means that as older adults we need to change how we clean our homes to make it more sustainable.

Dowager Countess of Grantham saying "I'm never wrong."Pin

Now, I know some older adults may take offense at the notion they’re not capable of doing everything as well as they used to. Huzzah for you!

What I’m finding is that I can still do some things like touch my toes, but it takes longer to recover — or to stand up without wrenching my back.

Three Changes that Make Cleaning Easier on Me

Curate Not Decorate

Many of us are proud of what we’ve acquired over the years, but knickknacks gather dust that can trigger allergies and asthma. That’s not to say you’ve got to toss them all out.

Instead of displaying all of your decor at once, think of yourself as a curator and change displays with seasons and take that opportunity to cull some of clutter, too.

Divide and Conquer Time

Now that the days of playing chauffeur on the school run are behind us, we often have more time on our hands. For decades, my housewife routine kept me busy all morning but I can’t do it anymore.

Now, I divide the day’s housework into several 10-minute cleaning bursts. It’s a gentler schedule that still helps keep my home guest-ready without needing a full staff. 


Why not close off the guest room when it’s not in use? Cover the furniture with breathable sheets, close the drapes against sun damage, and run an air purifier to keep dust down.

When you have guests, just gather up the dust covers and do a quick clean. And once they go, cover it all up again like you’re heading out for a Grand Tour of Europe.

Cleaning Tips for Age-Related Issues

When young, we’re confident age-related ailments won’t be an issue and we’ll never “let ourselves go.”

When you get older, you realize staying active is no guarantee. Whether it’s arthritis like mine or senioritis in general, these adaptive cleaning measures have helped me.

When You Can’t Bend A Lot

Use long-handled cleaning tools in new ways: Use string mops to scrub tubs and showers without kneeling. Clean baseboards with a long-handled duster so you don’t have to bend.

Add a crevice cleaner to the handle and you can get under appliances and beds without hurting your back, too.

Grabbers: As a short person, I love grabber devices and long-handled kitchen tongs to get things off high shelves.

They’re also helpful for seniors who can’t bend to do things like making beds, getting clothes out of the dryer, or picking up things from the floor. Look for ones with rubber ends so they have good traction.

Wall-mounted cleaning products: If bending over to grab cleaning supplies from under the sink is a struggle, try storing them in a wall-mounted shampoo and soap dispenser.

One pump is usually enough cleaning product or soap for most jobs. You can even go fancy with the touchless types.

My Favorite Adaptive Cleaning Ideas

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When Arthritis Weakens Your Grip

Leverage arthritis-friendly tools: Look for lightweight, ergonomic devices with padded grips and curved handles to reduce strain.

When you can’t find ones you like, install round, padded grips on the things you already have. They’re easier to hold and you’ll ache less once you’re done cleaning, too.

Let the robots do it: They’re not cheap, but electric scrubbers and robot floor cleaners do most of the work for you.

I can tell you from experience, though, the robot vacuums that promise to empty themselves are higher-maintenance than the less fancy ones.

Supportive gear: They may not seem like it, but compression gloves and support hose are valuable cleaning aids.

And even if you have a “no shoes” house rule like I do, keeping a pair of slip-on tennis shoes to wear when cleaning can help stabilize your steps and prevent foot and knee pain, too.

When You Aren’t Steady on Your Feet

Avoid overreaching: Leaning too far in any direction can lead to a fall if you’ve got balance issues. The same long-handled or grabber tools used for cleaning by seniors with arthritis can help you out, too.

Use carts: Trying to carry heavy or bulky items makes us overcompensate for the side that’s weighed down. That’s a recipe for a fall if you’ve got vertigo.

So, organize your supplies so you don’t have to carry things all over your home. Or use a rolling cart to hold them and wheel it around.

Sit while cleaning: When possible, stay seated while you’re doing tasks like folding laundry. Sit on a sturdy rolling stool with a hand-brake to dust and use long-handled tools like those described above for scrubbing. 

When You Get Tired Easily

Tidy more, clean less: Putting things away, wiping small spills, and straightening sofa pillows or throw blankets all make a room look clean without actual cleaning involved. 

Practice the two-minute rule: Small tasks add up. Fill idle minutes with one-minute chores, like when there’s a commercial on TV or you’re waiting for the coffee to brew. 

Pare it down: Do the bare minimum on low-energy days. When you’ve got the energy, add on some deeper-cleaning tasks.

I practice this by limiting myself to cleaning five things in a room, as you may recognize from my daily stories on my Facebook page

Embrace Imperfection

As the Dowager Countess of Grantham said, “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.” We need to ration our physical exertion, too.

Having a spotless home is a young person’s pursuit: we’re old enough to know that comfort is what matters. So focus on that and adapt your cleaning routine to fit your needs. As a senior adult, you are entitled to the break — after tea, of course.

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  1. Thanks, Katie! Lots of good ideas.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you liked it!

    2. Teresa Bryan says:

      Great ideas! Some I have already been using. Looking forward to employing lots of new ones!
      Thank You,

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Glad you found them useful!

  2. This was very helpful! Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      My pleasure!

  3. I’ve got 7 grandkids that I take cate of occasionally and have a chronic pain disorder and Adult ADHD, so very helpful. Thank you

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Wow, you have your hands full! Glad I could help at least a little bit.

  4. Great ideas for those with arthritis or mobility issues, other health challenges and seniors.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you liked them!

  5. Sharon Goldgar says:

    Love these tips and the permission to slow down.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Absolutely go at your own pace. We’ve earned that right!

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