If you’ve got kids, you’ve likely got clutter. The amount of stuff generated by families with kids can be overwhelming, even to non-minimalist parents. All the clutter is overwhelming for our kids too.
Physical clutter and emotional clutter are important topic worth discussing as a family. Working towards clutterfree with kids is a great area for families to focus on during the year ahead.
Sit with your kids in their spaces, and really look around together. Describe what you see, and how it makes you feel. Then ask them to do the same. Talk about how our stuff, and our spaces affect us, emotionally.
For example, for one of my kids, our art table and cupboard full-to-bursting with materials sparks her creativity. For another, when her desk looks like that, homework feels overwhelming and brings on feelings of panic.
Identify how your home’s spaces make your kids feel, and then work together to make some stress-busting changes for the new year.
Here are some things to discuss with your children as you work towards a more decluttered household.
Start Talking To Go Clutterfree With Kids
Let go of what’s not working anymore
Our kids are constantly growing and changing.
Let go of what’s not working for your kids anymore, by starting with a conversation.
For our family, the elephant in the room was a giant, half-completed Victorian dollhouse. It’s been lurking in the corner of our playroom since Christmas 2014, and it’s not getting any smaller — or any more finished.
Our middle daughter and I finally sat down this holiday break, to really look at it, and to talk about how it makes us feel.
For me, it represents guilt and shame that I have let her down in my failure to make time for the project together.
For her, it reminds her that she used to really want it, and she still feels disappointed sometimes. She also thinks that this would be a great spot for a mini fridge full of snacks and pop. If we could juuuuust move it over a bit. . .
Nothing lets you exhale like a good shared laugh. The conversation itself was so cathartic, that it allowed us both to let go of those feelings, and to make a plan for letting go of the dollhouse, too.
In the years that I’ve been holding onto my guilty, sad feelings about this project, my kids have changed. That’s okay, and our space can change too. Side note: Dollhouse for sale. Cheap.
Get rid of broken and incomplete things
News Flash. The missing piece of that 400-piece puzzle set you tried last New Years is gone, and it’s not coming back. Neither is velcro mushrooms from the toy pizza set that your kid flushed down the toilet.
But what’s an environmentally-minded family to do with the bits and pieces?
It’s time to have a working discussion. Sit down as a family and figure out which toys and games are complete, and still age-appropriate.
If all the parts are there, but the toy’s outgrown, then donate it to a neighbour, or take it to a resale shop.
It’s harder to know what to do when toys are missing parts. You can try and sort the pieces for recyclable materials.
A great trick I’ve learned from my years as a teacher is to repurpose tiny pieces for early readers: Barbie’s shoes start with “sh” and so do the shells from last year’s beach vacation!
Another option is t0 consider dropping them off at my Toronto-based kids’ resale shop, iSpy Clothing, where we run a toy hospital. We save donated bits and pieces from high-quality, educational toy brands and use them to cobble together complete sets for a new life with a new family.
Love the kid you’ve got
As an educator and a mom, I spend a lot of time playing with toys.
I’ve done a lot of research into which toys are “the best,” and intentionally stocked our playroom with well-made, well-designed, educational toys.
Take Lego, for example. It’s construction, shape, density and sharp corners make it the best building toy ever invented. Not one of my three kids have played with Lego. Not one! I have begged, insisted, modelled how it’s done, showed pictures of what we could build together….Nope. Not interested.
There are many, many other toys that have crossed our kitchen table to tell the same tale.
The bottom line is that my kids are not me. We buy toys for the kids we want our kids to be, but at playtime, it’s the kids we have that make the final call.
If your playroom is full of wishful thinking, it may be time to have a conversation with yourself and love the kid you’ve got. Pass those unchosen toys on to other, different kids who will love them as much as you do.
Keep less, love it more and label it
Finally, when you’ve decluttered the playroom down to only the good stuff, in complete sets, that still work for your kids…talk with them about to organize their toys.
Let each toy stand on a shelf with room to breathe.
Let the board games stack where kids can reach them, without toppling the pile.
Corral and bin or basket collections like doll clothes, Lego, train tracks or play food.
Label your bins so that tidy up time can be easy and independent.
When kids have less stuff, and love what they have, we have better success at teaching them to care for their belongings on their own.
After you’ve decluttered a few times together, sit in your tidy play space with your child and breathe. Really look at at your surroundings, and discuss how it makes you each feel to see all your special things tidied up, and really cared for. Ahhhhh.