“Help! My son’s toys are taking over the house. We don’t know where anything is and the toy box in the lounge is always buried under clutter, so he can’t even get at half of them!”
In response to this cry for help, I recently helped an eight-year old declutter and organise his toys…
…Which got me reflecting about what it takes to declutter with kids.
If that’s something you struggle with, here are some tips…
1. Involve the child
By the time your child is about three, it’s best to involve them in decluttering. If you don’t, you might throw out something they will miss. Which could be upsetting for them, and might make it harder for them to let go of stuff as they get older.
Plus decluttering is an important life skill. Sure it takes longer to declutter with a child involved but that’s true of lots of stuff we do with kids. We could do everything for them but we recognise that it’s important for them to learn how to do stuff themselves.
2. Involve the adult
Having said that, children live in the moment and may find it hard to imagine what they might want or need at another time.
When decluttering with a child, I involve an adult that knows what toys they love and which they never play with.
In my experience, the child is less likely to cling onto everything than they are to throw out too much! As they get in the decluttering swing, and/or in their desire to please, they can get cavalier and throw out stuff they’ll regret if they don’t have someone who knows them well helping them make appropriate decisions.
3. Kids toys come in sets
A child can’t make keep/let go decisions about each item until you’ve got them sorted out.
So pull all their toys together from all over the house, into one place and then make piles. We had piles for lego, meccano, cars, soldiers, Bakugan, Gormiti, Trash Packs, Skylanders, Moshi Monsters…(most of which I’d never heard of!)
Once we’d got them sorted into sets, we could make decisions about whether whole sets should stay or could go.
Then we made decisions about those toys that didn’t belong in sets.
Of course, unless it’s a dearly loved toy, anything broken can usually go.
4. Store sets in containers
We found containers for each set so that we could put them away in an organised fashion. Containers keep like with like, stop things getting mixed up and protect against dust.
5. Store things accessibly
Storing containers of toys on shelves usually works better than a toy box. The child can see all their toys and easily select the one they want, rather than have to pull everything out of the toy box to see what’s at the bottom.
A few days later, his mum told me he’d had a friend round to play and she really noticed the difference.
Instead of rummaging through the toy box, getting everything out, they played with just one or two sets of toys.
They were calmer – absorbed in creating a whole world with the toys, rather than zipping from one toy to another.
And, when it was time for his friend to go home, there was less mess to clear up.
PS If it’s kids’ artwork you’re struggling to declutter, check this out.