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Teaching Kids to Declutter: The Best Decluttering Tips for Kids.
Decluttering and reorganizing our homes is a way to simplify our living spaces and our lives. It feels GOOD to PURGE.
While it’s a rewarding effort, it’s not always an easy one. Getting rid of our own items is often much easier than trying to clean out our children’s bedrooms.
You don’t need a professional organizer. You don’t need to gather a million home blog home organizing and cleaning tips. Teaching kids how to declutter is easier than you have probably ever realized!
How to help your children declutter? Want to focus on kids room organization? Who says it has to be a headache or take complicated ideas when decluttering kids rooms and living spaces? Here are the best decluttering tips for kids:
Table of Contents
- Teaching Kids How to Declutter: Allow Your Kids to Handle The Task
- How to Help Your Children Declutter: Know Your Kids
- How to Declutter Your Life: Know Yourself
- Teaching Kids to Declutter: Have a System
- Rules for Decluttering Toys: Set Limits
- How to Declutter: Set a Deadline
- Teach Your Kids to Declutter: Give Them Freedom to do it Their Way
- Encourage Your Kids to Declutter: Create an Incentive
- Decluttering Stuff: Allow for a Goodbye Ritual
- Declutter with Kids: Praise and Follow Their Example
Teaching Kids How to Declutter: Allow Your Kids to Handle The Task
Some children are very attached to their objects. Maybe they play with ALL of their toys every day. Maybe they truly love and adore every single stuffed animal. Maybe they wear all of the clothes in their closet and enjoy all of the games and trinkets on their shelves.
In the event of your child truly enjoying their possessions on a regular basis, it may be best to handle the decluttering while they are not home or while they are distracted doing something else. Tackle this activity when they are away at school or while they are watching a movie.
The benefit of your child being away while reorganizing their room is that you will have less distraction and less battle over what items to keep and which to purge. You’re able to make all the decisions yourself and just get it done and get it done quick!
The negative of tackling this task solo is that your child misses out on the experience. They don’t get to take part in deciding which items they want to keep and they don’t get to have that rewarding feeling that comes from getting rid of something they no longer enjoy.
Handling the decluttering for them isn’t really doing them a favor, it’s actually doing a disservice to you both.
By allowing your children to handle the task of decluttering you’re allowing them to be more mindful of the items they own. Truly consider what brings them joy and what holds value to them and what doesn’t.
You are also gaining insight into the person your child is. Items that you consider sentimental may not be to them. They may not care one bit about a toy a grandparent bought them but a stuffed animal a friend gave them at school may really mean the world to them.
Yes, it takes a lot more time and a lot more patience to allow your children to be in the driver’s seat of reorganizing their bedrooms. Take the time to teach kids how to declutter toys and how to declutter a room. This will not only teach kids how to start decluttering a room but it will also train them to have a decluttering mindset. Who knows, they may even love to declutter and decide to declutter your home with you too!
How to Help Your Children Declutter: Know Your Kids
It is important to know your children when starting this process. I had three kids whose rooms needed to be purged and organized. I knew which children would have a tougher time in letting go of things and which would be less emotional about it.
I made sure to set aside time to really talk to the kids about the process. Why it was important. Why they’d be glad they did it.
I also knew the youngest of the three would need supervision and guidance during the process. She’d need me to be hands-on and to physically sit with her to go through her items.
Recognize the emotions they may feel during the purging. Acknowledge that it’s not always easy to say goodbye to things we once enjoyed and loved. But remind them that getting rid of old things makes room for the new. It also makes it easier to keep their rooms clean and to be able to access the toys and items they DO enjoy and WANT to play with on a regular basis.
How to Declutter Your Life: Know Yourself
Something that surprised me when we started reorganizing our kids’ rooms is that I struggled with finding sentimental value in things WAY more than any of them did. They were much quicker to let things go and put them in the donate pile than I was.
I see an old toy and it’s attached to a memory for me. A time when they were younger. A cute moment of us playing together. I look at that toy and think it needs to be held onto for their children someday. I get all emotional and teary-eyed realizing the phase of their life where they found such joy in that toy is now gone.
They just see a toy they no longer play with and therefore no longer need to hold onto.
It was healthy for me to WALK AWAY from the situation and just let them make their choices, uninfluenced by my mommy-emotions.
My kids handling it themselves were able to get rid of WAY MORE than I’d probably have chosen to get rid of if I’d been the one handling their bedrooms!
If you’re a more emotional parent and find sentimental value in items, it may be best for you not to help out. If you’re a micromanager type parent who feels the need to take charge and take over, it’s also probably best not to be hands-on in the process.
My husband tends to be the parent that struggles with the sllllllow pace children often take when accomplishing a task. He knows he can get it done quicker, and more efficiently, so it’s tough for him not to just take over. It was best for him not to be part of the decluttering process either for those reasons!
Teaching Kids to Declutter: Have a System
When it comes to teaching kids how to declutter it’s important to have a very simple to follow system in place.
When we went through our massive house purge we had new carpet installed. So ALL of our kids’ items were out of their bedrooms. We weren’t really able to go through things in an organized way because we needed to put the items back into their rooms as quickly as we could. So basically our kids went through their entire bedroom at one time.
It may be easier to tackle a section at a time. Split the bedroom up into areas and handle the closet at a time on its own as well. Smaller areas make it easier to manage and keep it to a shorter, quicker task.
In an ideal world, I would love to declutter sections of rooms by the week. I’d declutter the kids’ playroom then spend time in the children rooms. But we didn’t have that option so we made it work with what we had!
When leaving the kids in charge of their decluttering choices I gave them each two bags. One bag was for trash. The other was for donations.
Anything they wanted to keep they were allowed to place it in their room in whatever fashion best suited them. As long as it had a designated spot AND was out of sight.
Our kids have cubby storage in their closets as well as storage space under their beds so they have plenty of storage options for their toys, stuffed animals and other mementos. I let them be in charge of how they organized these areas.
By allowing them to have that control, they were able to decide where to put things that best accommodate their needs. It makes it much easier for clean-up time and makes sure they know where things are located when they’re ready to play with them!
Rules for Decluttering Toys: Set Limits
At the time of our purging efforts, my daughter owned WELL over 100 stuffed animals. She just really loves stuffed animals. My husband and I talked it over and decided we had to give her a boundary. A limit to the number of stuffed animals she was allowed to keep.
So we told her twenty. She could go through all of the stuffed animals she owned and choose twenty to keep. Twenty of her favorites. Twenty she wanted to be able to play with and snuggle with and continue to call hers.
Our son loves Legos. He likes to keep them all put together and have them on display. We discussed it and set limits there as well. He could display all the ones that would fit on a given shelf area and then he needed to either disassemble the rest, find a place within his room to store the rest or give up other items in order to make room to store the rest.
Kids respond very well to clearly set boundaries and standards. I always take the time to explain why the boundary exists and what our expectations are for staying within the given perameters.
I also make sure I show grace and help them through understanding and meeting those expectations. My daughter ended up keeping 23 stuffed animals. She felt very attached to a few more than 20 and I understood that and focused on being proud of her for the over 70 she got rid of in that moment.
I helped my son figure out options for best storing his Legos. I found an under-the-bed storage container we owned that I’d filled with shoes. I purged all the shoes (who ever remembers to actually wear any shoes that are stored under the bed?!?!) and gave him the tub to use for his Legos. It was a solution that allowed him to keep more of his Legos assembled and made the organizing process easier for him.
Having rules for decluttering toys makes getting rid of children’s toys a much easier and quicker process.
We should also set limits for ourselves. We need boundaries and guidelines when it comes to decluttering our own rooms too!
How to Declutter: Set a Deadline
Kids know how to drag a task out and make a seemingly quick task take ages. It’s very important to set a deadline for their bedroom decluttering.
You want to make sure to allow enough time for them not to be rushed but also not too much time where they will get distracted and start playing with the toys they are supposed to be purging (trust me, it’ll happen!).
I gave my kids two days. I know some people look for how to declutter a room in one day but I wanted to allow them time to not have to rush through the task.
Once I gave them their time deadline, I reminded them frequently and let them know that they had to finish prior to those days in order to be able to receive the incentive (more on that below). Our deadline happened to be leaving for a Disney Trip so that helped encourage them to get it done quickly! I reminded them we were heading out of town and wanted to come home to a nice, decluttered bedroom!
We all work best under a deadline. Real talk? I’m still not done purging my own stuff. I got sidetracked doing a million other mommy-things rather than staying focused on my task of purging and reorganizing.
Teach Your Kids to Declutter: Give Them Freedom to do it Their Way
Do not micromanage how they best choose to get rid of their things.
It’s a process. Some may need time to grieve the giving away of an object they once loved. Others may fly through it without a care in the world. Others may take time to appreciate each item for the blessing it was in their life and then let it go with ease.
As unique individuals, we each have our own unique relationship with the things we own and we need to respect our children to allow them to go through this process in the way that best suits their needs.
I also gave my children the freedom to let the process look like however, they wanted it too. One child went through things item by item. She would put away the “keep” objects right away. Put the “donate” objects in their spot right away.
Another made piles. He put his “keep” items into one pile and then, at the end of the process, he decided where to put all the objects in that pile and cleaned up that way.
Either way, the task got done, it was just a different way in achieving the same goal.
I want my children to learn their best ways of getting tasks accomplished. It’s a valuable life skill to know what environment you work the best in and by giving them the freedom to decide how to go about the process of decluttering I allowed them the space to navigate their own path.
Encourage Your Kids to Declutter: Create an Incentive
We all work best with an incentive. One of the best tips decluttering tips for kids is to give them not just one, but two incentives for their purging efforts.
First, allow them to have a yard sale to make earnings off the items they choose to place in the donate pile. Our plan is to have a garage sale and let the kids set up their own items and price them however they’d like. They keep all the earnings and whatever toys don’t sell will be donated to local charities.
This is an excellent incentive in considering what items to keep and what items to get rid of. Our oldest is very motivated by the opportunity to earn money and he was eager to give away many of his toys in knowing that he’d be able to earn spending money from selling them.
A second incentive is for simply completing the task.
Yes, earning money off of items we no longer want is rewarding, but it’s not instant. We aren’t quite sure when we will have the yard sale and I wanted the kids to be rewarded for working hard, staying focused, and for putting forth their best efforts in reorganizing their bedrooms.
Our incentive for the kids who finished purging their rooms prior to our Disney Trip was a Mickey Pretzel one of the nights we were visiting the parks. Yes, a small treat. But one that we don’t ever buy, especially not one that we’d buy for each child individually (all about saving money and sharing food over here!).
This was a great incentive for them. They wanted to have their own Mickey Pretzel so they were quicker to work through the purging process in order to finish by the deadline to be able to receive their reward.
Don’t we, as adults, like to treat ourselves when we accomplish a goal? Maybe it’s with ice cream or a specialty coffee or a pedicure or a round of golf…whatever it may be we’re also motivated by incentives and it’s nice t be rewarded and feel valued and appreciated when we work hard to achieve a difficult task.
Decluttering Stuff: Allow for a Goodbye Ritual
When I talked to the kids about going through their possessions I explained to them that it’s okay to feel a bit sad about having to get rid of things. It can be hard to say goodbye to something we once loved. But that we also don’t need to hold onto something just for the sake of holding onto it. It’s best to pick our very favorite things to hold onto and then to let other people enjoy the items we no longer find joy in owning.
I found it so interesting to watch each of them as they went through this process.
My youngest child (the four year old) while going through this process would hold the item in her hands and say, every single time, “I really like this but I gotta let it go!” and then she’d happily place it in the donate box and never second guess that decision (and, sidenote, but she’d also often say “Wellll this isn’t mine…I actually sneaked it from Kye and Britt” half of the stuff she owned were items she’d snuck from her siblings and hoarded in her room!).
My middle child had a bit of a harder time. She’d share the memory attached to the item and then hug it and love on it and tell it “thank you for the memories” and then place it in the donation stack. She was able to differentiate between items that were truly important and valuable to her and which ones needed to be purged, but she needed that step to show appreciation for the item and for the memories attached to it.
My oldest was very private in his decluttering efforts. He told me the most difficult things for him to let go of were a few stuffed animals that I honestly didn’t even ever realized he’d cared about. He said he knew he didn’t need to keep them and that it was time to give them away but that he needed to have some goodbye time together.
He closed his door and had a “goodbye party” with these treasured objects. I didn’t ask for details about what this party looked like but I imagine he probably did something similar to my middle child in giving each stuffed animal attention and showing them gratitude for the meaning they had in his life.
It can feel silly to need to say goodbye to an object. But it truly helps in the process of learning how to declutter and how to free ourselves from items we hold onto simply because we “should” or because of the memories attached to them.
A very helpful exercise in teaching kids to declutter is to take a photo of them with any objects they are having a particularly difficult time letting go of. They can then hold onto the photo rather than the actual item. Takes up less space and involves much less clutter 😉
Declutter with Kids: Praise and Follow Their Example
Regardless if your child gets rid of five items or fifty items – praise them.
Sometimes purging and decluttering may be an ongoing process. It may need to be done in rounds. Round one may be an initial purge and it may take a few more rounds to really, truly declutter everything they don’t need to have any more.
Decluttering can be an emotional process and can be harder for some personality types than others. While your children’s decluttering efforts may not meet the standards you personally had set in your mind for their rooms and items, still praise the hard work they put into decluttering their rooms.
On top of offering praise, also share with them specific ways in which you are proud.
I told my children how much they were an example to me. I personally have a hard time letting go of my possessions. I hold a lot of emotional stock in my belongings and it can be physically painful to give them away. Watching my kids go through this experience as they learned to declutter was inspiring for me.
In so many ways we are to have a mind and heart like a child and when it comes to decluttering my children taught me so much. They taught me it’s okay to hug an old friend and then pass it along to someone else. They taught me the joyful memories don’t fade just because we don’t own a certain item anymore. They taught me that decluttering our rooms is more than just an act of organization, but that it’s also an act of the heart and can be both healing and therapeutic in many ways.
Since our “declutter your life” phase the kids have done AMAZING at keeping their rooms clean and organized and they have been minimalizing toys that they add to our home. They have a better understanding of the effort it takes to keep a clean kids room and they don’t want to add junk to their possessions that they will later have to go through all over again.
I was so proud when we came home from a birthday party and I saw that all three of the older kids had thrown out the goody bag favor prizes completely on their own without me even asking them whether or not they wanted to keep the items! They are learning that is difficult knowing how to organize too many toys and that it’s better to only keep things they truly love and enjoy!
Teaching kids to declutter can be a long, patient-testing experience. But by using these best decluttering tips for kids you’re kids will have a cleaner room, happier attitude, and much less junk!