Living with children means living with a plethora of stuff. There are 300,000 items in the average American home, and even though only 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA). Oddly enough, that’s probably not too surprising to you if you’re a mom.
Here are 10 tips to help you conquer your kids’ clutter without completely losing your mind in the process:
1) Start with realistic expectations. Let’s face it, if you are in the trenches of motherhood with young children, your home is probably not going to look like pinned images on your Pinterest board. Give yourself grace. You don’t have to live amidst total clutter chaos, but a perfect, immaculate home is not a realistic goal in this season.
2) Schedule a purge on your calendar. It’s not going to happen if you don’t plan it, so treat organizing like you would any other appointment.
3) Pick the greatest area of concern, and focus on that first. We’re often overwhelmed at the thought of organizing our entire home, so stick to tackling one small area at a time.
4) Set a goal with your child. “Mommy’s losing her mind with all this clutter!” isn’t terribly compelling motivation to clean up. Create a goal your child can understand. Helping other children is very motivating for my children. Consider adding an incentive for your child by promising a special treat like a trip to the ice cream shop or a movie.
5) Remove EVERYTHING from that area and place it in a pile on the floor. Not enough floor space? Start with one side of the room and remove everything, gradually making your way around the room.
6) Hold up each item from the pile and simply ask, “yes or no?” Ask your child if the item is truly important. Does your child play with it/wear it often? Does it seem to bring your child joy? The “yes” items go back, sorted by type (cars together, dolls together, etc.). “No” items are placed into a donate pile or put in the trash if no longer usable.
7) Make it FUN! Set a timer for 15 minute increments, and have everyone work as hard as they can for that amount of time. Crank up some music (we’re digging the Trolls soundtrack lately!), and dance while you sort! Set a target number of “no” items. Get excited when your child hits the magic number. Remember to keep the enthusiasm going during the process by saying things like, “Just ten more and we’ve reached our goal!”
8) Focus on progress, not perfection. Make a BIG deal of all the progress you make along the way. Try not to focus on how much there is left to do. Comment often on all the great decisions your child is making. Encourage him or her by saying, “Look what we found!” or “Look how much we’ve done already!”
9) Maintain order by enforcing a one in, one out rule. We always purge at Christmastime and on birthdays when new stuff comes into our lives. Put all new gifts in one place. Then, a day or two after Christmas or their birthday, go through closets and bins, asking them what they want to get rid of so they can make room for the new items.
10) Teach your children that they don’t need huge piles of stuff to be happy. They can’t possibly play with everything – there aren’t enough hours in the day! With less stuff, they can find things more easily, see what there is to play with, and even own better quality stuff.
Purging and organizing teaches children a critical life skill: It’s okay (and beneficial!) to let go of things to create space and peace. And, if you gain a little peace for yourself as you teach them this invaluable lesson? Even better.
Relatively new to the Wichita area, Kristen specializes in personal, home, and business organization. Her methodology and instruction empowers individuals and small business owners to intentionally simplify and declutter their spaces, schedules, and lives. She is a community education instructor at Wichita State University, as well as a Professional Organizer with Rightsize Moving Solutions. Her favorite roles are wife to her husband, Matt, and mom to three young
children, Calista (b. 2011), Seth (b. 2014), and Anthony Benjamin (b. 2015). She
loves the outdoors and adventuring in their new city.