Decluttering with Kids

   Photo by      Markus Spiske      on      Unsplash

Kids, by far, bring the most STUFF into a home: The art projects, school flyers, the little prizes from school, so many knick knacks and awards. How are you supposed to manage it all?


Involve Your Kids In The Process As Much As Possible:

Keep things really simple & take breaks. 

Focus on one area at a time, and try to be as specific as possible: “Let’s donate 10 books that you’re too big for, so that another kid can read them.”  "Which T-shirts don't fit you anymore? Let's give those to your cousin, so that you can have room for only your favorite Tees."

General phrases like "Clean your room and get rid of the stuff you're too big for," can seem really overwhelming. They need guidance about why they are doing this in the first place, directions about where to start, and specific action steps in order to move forward.

Focus on the end goal. 

Don't forget to explain WHY you are doing this in the first place: “Your room is going to be so much more fun to play in once we get rid of all these little kid toys.” “After just one hour of cleaning up this desk, you’ll have a lot more space for a good study area.”  "Once there's less stuff on the floor, you'll be able to have more girls over for a sleepover." 

Share where the donated items are going.

Don't forget to let your kid know about how their items are going to make another kid happy! 


Set Up The Right Systems & Structures:

Identify a meaningful place to donate items.

This could be a family, friend, or your favorite nonprofit. If you’re a Denver local, read about my favorite places to donate items here. Keep a large box or bag in one area of your home (garage, front closet, trunk of your car) for ongoing donations you may collect throughout the week.

Have a system for mementos:

The last thing you want to do after a long, busy day is decide whether a participation award from Karate or a random homework assignment is worth keeping. "What if he ends up being a Karate star and this will be documentation of his humble beginnings?!" "This art is just so funny and cute. I can't trash this!"  I get it. You're human. And it's tough to make these decisions so quickly, especially when you are already exhausted. Which is why you need a system for mementos. 

If you don’t know where you are storing mementos, and you don’t know how often you’ll sort through these items - you’re home is quickly going to fill to the brim with piles of art work, awards, and homework assignments. 

All systems at least have an identified place to store all mementos, and identified times to sort through these items.  A system can look like: Keeping all potential momentos in a file in your kitchen command center. Emptying the folder once a month into a larger bin in the basement. And then sorting through that bin once a year. You can have a seperate file and bin for each kid. This way, everything is at least in ONE place and you only need to make decisions about what to keep or trash ONCE a year (avoiding decision fatigue and avoiding a cluttered kitchen). 

Bring in a professional!

This is helpful especially for teenagers. When a professional (and not your mom) is gently challenging you to get rid of your childhood stuffed animals and clothes that you’ve outgrown, you listen! When mom is telling you to clean your room, you’re less likely to listen. This is based on scientific research ;) Bring in a professional either just once or periodically to get the declutter process started!


Don't Obsess Over Perfection

Remember that it’s not about simply getting rid of clutter and living some perfectly organized, sparkling life.  At a certain point, who cares if some markers are missing caps, if there's piles of random papers on the kitchen counter,  if there’s dried playdough stuck underneath the table, and if you cry out in pain from stepping on a forgotten lego piece once a month. (Actually scratch the last one - I can see why you would deeply care about stepping on legos).  

It’s not about perfection here. It’s about feeling the way you want to feel in your home and life, and removing the clutter (mental and physical) that’s blocking you and your family from doing that.