For me, the hardest part of decluttering was not getting rid of any of my stuff, not my clothes, not paperwork, and not even memories. Where I struggled was dealing with decluttering my kids’ stuff! After going through the process and revising what I do, I’ve found a few things that work well for me.
Change Your Mindset When Decluttering Kids’ Stuff
I’m not really a mantra girl, but, reminding myself of a few things when decluttering my kids’ stuff does help me.
Kids play better when not overwhelmed by options
Sometimes I had a hard time letting go of things that my kids didn’t really care about. I worried, What if they want to play house and they don’t have a toy eggplant to serve each of their dolls?” So I reminded myself of studies that show that kids actually play less when they have too many options of what to play. Kids can’t enjoy what they have when they have too much.
Kids are more creative when they have to “make do” with less toys
Creativity reigned when I began decluttering my kids’ stuff. My kids are all imaginative and creative. Don’t tell Grandma that we got rid of the beautiful Elsa castle set she bought, but I’d rather my kids build a castle for Elsa out of a combination of magnatiles and blocks and have Elsa hang out with a Little People horse she calls Sven. It builds their imagination… and I didn’t have to try to find a place for the castle during all the months the kids weren’t playing with it.
Kids need space to play
In decluttering my kids’ stuff, I reminded myself that kids need space to play, not just toys to play with. Have you ever seen kids when they come upon a big open floor space, and they just run around in circles? Kids love having space. I wanted to have less stuff so my kids could have more space.
Teach Your Kids to Get Rid of Stuff
Decluttering my kids’ stuff by teaching them to get rid of things was a huge struggle for a couple of my children. We discussed how the best way to have fun with our toys is to only keep what we love and what we use. If we keep everything, we lose track of some of our favorite things. My oldest and my son embraced the concept right away. But my other two girls…not so much. I remember a couple sobbing trips to the Salvation Army after my daughter had spotted something that she couldn’t bare to part with, like a wooden spoon.
Teach them the process
In order to help teach my children the process of letting things go, I started with clothes. A few times a year, I’d go through their clothes with them and ask them, “Do you love this?” If they did, they could keep it. But if they hesitated, I’d encourage them to let it go, either to a younger sibling or to charity, to someone else who needed it. After we cleared out what no longer fit or they didn’t like, I’d say something like, “Now, look! You can see this shirt that you love. Before it was buried in your drawer under things you didn’t even like!”
We still do this process a few times a year, with clothes and with toys, and they become a little more independent each time. And even the reluctant two are coming around!
Encourage them to help others
When it comes to decluttering your kids’ stuff, focus on sharing with kids who don’t have as much. This can be fun around the holidays. A couple weeks before Christmas, I put big canvas bags under the tree. I tell my kids to put any toys that they don’t play with anymore in the bag. To make it fun and magical, I tell them Santa will collect the toys when he comes on Christmas Eve and the elves will help them look fresh and new and pass them along to other kids. Then Santa replaces the toys in the bag with a new one for each of my kids. After kids don’t believe in Santa, they still embrace the concept of sharing what we have with those who have less.
Let them sell old things to save up for new ones
If appealing to generosity fails, they may be inspired by something they want. If there’s something my kids are saving to buy, I tell them they can sell things through aFacebook page, or a garage sale, and use the money from the toys they no longer use towards what they’re hoping to buy. The nice thing here is they usually have to let go of five or more things to buy one new one, which leads to less clutter!
A couple of my kids love stuffed animals so much that we may have had to buy a second house just for their stuffed animals if I hadn’t figured out how to limit them. What I decided on was a (loose) “one-in/ one-out” policy of their most beloved stuffed animals. I’d explain that they can’t give all their stuffed animals the love they need if they have too many, so if they really want a new stuffed animal, then it’s time to let someone else care for one they already have.
Decluttering Your Kids’ Stuff Gives You Time Back
When I first started decluttering my kids’ stuff, I would give away a bag of things and feel like it was a lot. But, then I started to think of it this way: that big bag was probably less than five percent of the stuff that was in that room. If I wanted to reduce the time I spent cleaning and organizing, five percent wasn’t going to solve my problem. So I decided to shoot for giving away at least a quarter of our stuff. It seemed a little crazy at the time, but I did it, and I would never go back. I encourage you to give yourself more time and less stress by decluttering your kids’ stuff (and your own).