Are kids’ things lying around the house driving you crazy? If your kids have more than they can maintain, now is a good time to declutter it. Here’s how to get your kids to declutter.
Why get your kids to declutter
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There are various reasons you may want to get your kids to declutter. These are the main reasons that motivated me.
It was important for me to get my kids to declutter rather than me decluttering for them. I wanted to teach them at an early age to be responsible for their own things.
I didn’t want them getting used to mom cleaning everything up or managing all of their stuff. Around the age of two, I started teaching them to declutter so that they would begin to take ownership of their belongings.
In addition to helping teach responsibility, I also wanted to show my kids respect. I didn’t want them feeling like their things disappeared while they were gone. Instead, they get to make the decisions about what stays and what goes.
Have you ever opened your closet and been overwhelmed by the options you had? If so, you may want to declutter your closet.
The point is that just as you get overwhelmed by an abundance of choices, so do your kids. Children don’t know what to do when they have too many toys and studies have shown they do better with fewer options.
We decided to focus on keeping toys that supported creativity and imagination. Having fewer and more open-ended toys work best for children.
Fighting & gratitude
One thing I noticed with my kids was that when they had an overabundance of toys, they fought over them more. They were also less appreciative.
Have you ever observed young children at Christmas? When they have many gifts to open, they stop seeming to notice what they even are and ask if there are more.
Interestingly, when there are fewer they are more able to focus and are more grateful for what they’ve been given.
Decluttering kid’s things and keeping it that way means fewer fights about picking up because they’re better able to maintain what they have. They’re also more likely to actually use what they own.
How to get your kids to declutter
If you’ve been decluttering for your kids or haven’t ever decluttered their things at all, this will be a learning experience for all involved. Have patience in the process and don’t expect it all to go smoothly at first.
These ideas will help you get started in teaching your kids to declutter.
Lead by example
Don’t start by expecting your kids to declutter when you haven’t yet. First work on decluttering your own things and set the example.
There are various methods for decluttering your home. Select the one that is the best fit for you and focus on working on your own things.
Once you’re done working on your own areas, then you can move on to focusing on your kid’s things. Hopefully, they will have noticed what you’ve been doing so the process isn’t foreign to them.
Start conversations about it
Talk with your kids about the decluttering process. Those conversations will look different depending on the ages of your kids.
Books can be a great opening to a conversation with younger children. There are a couple of books I’ve found helpful for introducing kids to decluttering.
One is Cami Kangaroo Has Too Much Stuff which introduces the idea of having too much stuff and how to clean up, sort, purge, and declutter regularly. This book is a great way to teach and talk to your kids about why and how to declutter.
Another helpful book is The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room which highlights the importance of being responsible for your things and your space. Also, Think of Those in Need is great for helping kids get motivated by thinking about giving to others.
As you have conversations with your kids about decluttering, it’s important to talk about your expectations. Those expectations will vary according to the age of your kids.
It’s important for them to know what you expect of them. Be as specific and concrete as possible. Consider creating a checklist to put in their room as a reminder of what they need to do.
Be patient as you start with these new expectations. It is going to take some time and reminders.
For older kids, you can choose if you want to use positive and/or negative reinforcements to help remind them to be responsible for their things and their space.
Once they’ve decluttered, it should be easier for them to maintain their stuff since there is less of it.
Walk them through it
To get your kids to declutter, your first going to have to help them through the process. They need you to teach them how to sort and make decisions on what to declutter.
It may be tempting to take over the process, but you want them to learn to make the decisions.
You will provide direction and boundaries. They get to be the decision-makers.
Provide storage containers
You provide boundaries by giving them appropriately sized storage containers. In doing this, you are telling them how much is too much.
They need to be able to fit their toys and things in the containers provided. What doesn’t fit has to go. They get to make the decisions about which things to put in the storage containers and also what they’re done with.
Don’t try to do too much at once. If you can tell your kids are getting tired and cranky, save the rest for another day. You don’t want them to dread decluttering.
Practice a general one in one out rule. If you are getting close to a birthday or holiday, have them declutter prior. You don’t have room for anything new if you haven’t gotten rid of anything you already own.
This is a great motivator for kids who are excited about upcoming celebrations. They’re usually willing to create some space for something new.
Some kids are naturally more sentimental than others. They may have a harder time letting go of their things.
You can still help kids who struggle with decluttering. One of my daughters is very sentimental so it is harder to let things go.
Each stuffed animal has a name and memories behind it. Every art project is one she wants to keep. Providing boundaries with the storage containers helps take some of the emotion out of the process.
Also, thinking about who they can give their things to can help. We have a younger neighbor next door and younger cousins who are good candidates.
She feels better letting things go when she knows someone else can enjoy those items.
Make it fun
Decluttering doesn’t have to be boring. Play some music, make it a game, and find creative ways to make it fun.
Your kids will be more likely to get more done with a better attitude if you make it an enjoyable process.
See who can fill the donation box the quickest or have a dance party when you’re done. There are various things you can do to make things fun.
Make it a regular process
It’s easier to get kids to declutter when you’ve made it a regular process that they expect.
Declutter seasonally or before holidays or whatever you decide is fine. There isn’t a right or wrong for what time of year or how often.
Just pick what works best for your schedule and your home. Making it a regular occurrence will keep things from piling up and getting out of control.
Stop the flow
Once you’ve gotten your kids to declutter, you don’t want to continue with the same habits that landed you with clutter in the first place. Look at where the clutter is coming from.
Consider adjusting your birthday traditions as well as how you handle holiday gift-giving.
Experiences make great gifts and there are various great clutter-free gift ideas that you could try.
Have open conversations with extended family members about your goals to try and slow the influx of clutter coming into your home.
Notice where the clutter is coming from and work to stop the flow for a more permanent solution to your clutter problems.
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