My 5 Step Plan for Bringing Order to Your Kids' Clutter
My friends know me to be a pretty organized person, who has no trouble weeding out the "extra" in our life. And they ask me often how I do it. I actually have avoided this topic for awhile because I'm pretty intense when it comes to decluttering, and I know that's not everyone's style. A friend once asked me to come over to her house and help organize a specific room with her. We got the job done, but she may have hated me for a brief period afterwards. When I decide to tackle an area that's been bothering me, I really have to be in the right mind set. I think what hangs most of us up is sentimental attachments to our things. I've practiced decluttering and organizing for so long, that I think I've become a little immune to the emotional side of it.
Our ottoman pulls double duty as Lego storage!
Jenna asked a few weeks ago how to bring order to her daughter's room, and I decided it was time for me to tackle the topic. I typically don't set out to declutter and organize an entire room, it just kind of happens when I can't stand walking by the mess any longer. One thing leads to another, and I don't usually stop until I can see a difference. So, I sat down and made a list of the 5 steps I follow in the back of my mind as I go. I hope they help and inspire you to bring order to the chaos of your kids' clutter too!
Proof that even my house can be a disaster.
Watch what your kids play with.
Pay attention to what toys your child gravitates to over and over again. What are the favorites? What are the toys they never touch? Once you've got a good idea of that, begin to declutter. Take out the toys they don't play with. Make room for their favorites. It's up to you what to do with the unused items. You can either move them in to storage for a younger sibling to grow into, save them to rotate back in later, or donate them.
Sometimes all it takes to reignite an interest in a particular item is to move it to a different spot. Maybe your child is tired of playing with cars, but put them in the bath and they suddenly have a whole new way to play with them during bathtime. Maybe your child rarely plays with their play kitchen set up in their bedroom, but move it near your kitchen area and they'll cook up dinner right along side you!
We keep two large storage containers down in our basement. One holds Duplos, the other holds Little People. These can be classified under "toddler" toys, which I no longer have kids in that category. But you wouldn't believe how many hours of play they get out of them when I bring them upstaris on a snow day. Once the fun wears off again, back down to the basement they go.
Play "Keep or Toss" with your kids.
When going through a certain area or type of toy, gather all like items in one spot, and then sit down on the floor with your child. Things that are broken or missing pieces that make the item unusable get an automatic Toss. I tell my kids to try not to think about it to much. Do they love the item and can't imagine living without it? Keep. Is it just a "meh", could take it or leave it, is it a toy that they don't really care for but feel like they need to keep because it was a gift from someone? Toss (insert my desensitized heart here.) This works with clothes, books, shoes, anything that is taking up space in your home.
I know that this step might be really hard for some kids, especially if they've never done it before. Start small, and keep practicing the Keep or Toss game. Over time, they'll get the hang of it and will begin to grasp the idea that they just can't keep every last scrap of paper and mismatched Barbie shoe.
This next step is crucial: bag up the Toss pile and remove it from your home asap, whether that be to the trash can or a donation drop off (I usually offer usable items to our teachers and schools first). If you don't, minds might start to second guess, or another family member might come and riffle through it and decide to claim an item or two.
Once you've paired down to your Keep pile, move on to step #4.
"A place for everything, and everything in its place" -Benjamin Franklin
To make clean up quick and painless, everything must have a home, and your child must know where that home is. I love containers and baskets for this very purpose. Please don't run to Target and drop $100 on storage items, because you might already have all you need! First, check around your home for containers that you might already have or things you can repurpose to create more "homes". I like baskets because items can be tossed in easily and then placed on a shelf. Staring at a bunch of baskets is much more pleasing to my eye than staring at piles of toys stacked upon each other. It just kind of brings a streamlined look, which makes my heart happy.
Once you've gathered up some baskets and bins, label them! If your child is too young to read, take a photo of what goes inside, and attach it to the basket. If your child is older, label the bins with its contents. You can get fancy and creative here, or you can use making tape. Both options get the job done.
As time goes on and you start to notice that baskets are overflowing or things aren't in their proper home, then you know its time to sit on the floor again, and give everything a good sorting, and maybe even another round of Keep or Toss.
Teach your child how to clean up.
This one is so painful for me. There is nothing I'd love more than to tell each of my four kids to go clean their rooms, and they actually go upstairs and complete the task to my satisfaction. This rule took a long time and a lot of frustration for me to learn, and it actually came from our parent educator back when we attended early childhood classes (which we've since aged out of and I miss so much!). If you want your kids to keep clean and orderly spaces, they must be taught how to do that. It might take years, but I promise you one day they'll be capable of doing it on their own, and they might just even help younger siblings to catch on!
I truly hope these ideas are helpful for you and your kiddos! December is such a good time to do this with your kids, as we'll soon be bringing lots of new toys into our homes. This can even be a great time to donate gently used items to a shelter or family in need.
Wishing you the best of luck and clean rooms forever!