How To Declutter Your Kid’s Stuff WITH Your Kid (and Still All Love Each Other Afterwards)

Yesterday, I was done.  Done with looking at my little girl’s room and all those damn. tiny. little. nothing. toys that would find their way in my purse, under her bed, in the bathroom, in her sock drawer, in the car…

You know what I mean.

While I thought I cleaned my child’s room out regularly, feng shui practitioners know that we are all blind to our own “stuff.”  Ava’s room was my blind spot.

Her bedroom.  Please note that I did not straighten up AT ALL for this pic.
It’s usually a little bit better.  

This little bucket thing only serves the purpose of collecting those tiny. dumb. toys.  Tried to sort.  Not happening.  THIS THING IS TOAST.  She doesn’t even play with the stuff!

Not proud; don’t judge.
Bottom — One bin: costumes.  Second bin: costume accessories.  Third bin: Musical instruments.
The middle shelf — not functioning at all.  TOAST.

Top of closet.  Clothes are driving me crazy.  Top shelf:  games we play, like, never.

Yeah…so I had let my child’s room go a bit.  And I do this for a living.  This should make you feel GREAT about your own home, okay?

So, I announced over breakfast yesterday that, after school, we were taking every single toy out of her room, and only putting back the ones that made her “feel happy.”  And then we might change her furniture around.

Her response:  “Yay!”

Mine back to that (covering up my slight surprise):  “Yes.  YAY!”

Ava knows the clean-out process fairly well, because I’ve been doing it with her since she had any cognizant understanding as to what was happening.  That was when she was 2 years old.  She is now 5.

Sure enough, at 3:15 PM we began.  By 5:15, the room looked like this:

Ta-dah!!!  2 hours, no lie.
Arranged more neatly.  I wanted to give her access to a variety of things.

She TOTALLY got into it, and wanted to wipe down her kitchen.  It had cat hair on it, so that was good.

Layout of furniture is good, not the best.  A pretty little rug will help, as will some white eyelet curtains. Love girly!  I may replace the Mardi Gras pic but she sure does like it.  🙂  (Who wouldn’t like a pic of a cat and a jester?)

HOW TO DECLUTTER WITH YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE DARLINGS and still love them when you’re done:
1.  Absolutely involve them.  The most amazing thing I learned from teaching preschool is this line:  “You have a choice.”  Your children are little people.  By teaching them how to let go — yet guiding them and still giving them the choice for what stays and goes — is a tremendous thing to teach them!   To get rid of their things without them present is disrespectful.  How would you feel if someone did that to you?!
2.  Take everything out of the room.  When you take it ALL out, they see how much they have, and it makes letting go a ton easier!  They won’t feel like you are taking everything away, because guess what:  there is so much left.   The key to successful decluttering and organizing is to GET RID OF as much stuff as possible.  Period.

My living room.  When Christmas gifts become the anti-Christ, right?

2.  Hold up each item with them and ask, “DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPY?”  Not:  “Does this make you happy?”  Not:  “Is this a happy thing?”  Put the “feeling” verb in there.  That is all you have to ask.  If it is a yes, it stays; if it is a no, it goes.  Two piles.   Yesterday, we had a Maybe pile going for the first 10 minutes, but she quickly forgot about it, because the game was in a flow.  (The Maybe pile went btw — it almost always does.)
3.  Don’t get involved.  You may be attached to some things that they are not.  Give yourself permission to keep one or two things that you find sentimental, but no more.
4.  Explain beforehand that these toys are going to someone else who will love and use them. 
It doesn’t hurt that Ava knows that there are some children in the world who have zero toys.   I am sure to bring that up every time we give stuff away.  I hope that it will instill a sort of gratitude in her. Giving is good;  it helps people.  I want her to know this in and out.
5.  Tell them it’s a treasure hunt.  Because it is!  Ava got excited over and over at discovering forgotten toys that indeed, made her feel happy, that she thought she had lost.
6.  Don’t get hung up on things.  Just toss in the Maybe pile.
7.  Little items can be gathered in one out-of-the-way place. 
 This was my solution:

Usually under-the-bed is a feng shui no-no, but because this is the ONLY thing under there, and the child only takes up about 1/20th of the bed, I made an exception.

8.  Organize according to “priority.”  If she or he uses it often, then keep it close.  Hence, the costume box on the floor.  She has about 8 costume changes a day, so it was justified.
9.  If you get overwhelmed, just keep going!  You will get overwhelmed and think, “Can I get this done?”  You will.
10.  Set aside a designated time.  Three hours is the magic number, I’ve found, but your child will last less than that.  Again, I did it yesterday in 2, but we didn’t do the clothes, and there was extra time to put the give-away items in the car and such.
10.  Reward him or her, and celebrate.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a high five and a popsicle will do!  Let them have the chance to be proud of themselves.

In the end, decluttering with my little girl is a fun bonding experience, for real!  She literally was singing the entire time.  Children know deep down the positive effects of an energy shift, and cleaning out the old is just that!  After all, they are growing and changing at warp speed, and their space should reflect their changes!

Katie is available for in-person declutter sessions and loves to work with children!  Call 205.983.0888 or email for more info.  

  • Marisa

    This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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