Decluttering with kids doesn’t have to be impossible!
So you want to declutter your house and get rid of all the junk – but you feel like decluttering with kids is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos?
I hear you, sister.
Decluttering with kids at home can definitely be tricky. Kids can form attachments to people, objects, and places faster than adults typically do.
In fact, according to the New York Times, about 60-70% of Western middle-class kids exhibit emotional attachments to inanimate objects.
And it’s not just that their attachments form quickly – but sometimes they choose the weirdest things to get attached to, am I right?!
For a while last month, my five-year-old kept telling me her bedroom wall was her best friend. So if you’re worried that your kids are weird – there you go.
(Do you feel better? That’s what I’m here for.)
And in a recent Reddit forum, parents were sharing some of the random things their kids wanted to bring to bed with them, which often signifies their attachment. Some of my personal favorites were: a toothbrush, a tire pressure gauge, a plastic spoon, and a tin of Band-Aids.
But, let me assure you: no matter how odd your kids’ attachments, with the right plan of action in place, you CAN declutter your house – even with your kids at home!
Keep reading to find out what NOT to do when it comes to decluttering with kids and check out the 9 awesome tips to make your decluttering efforts a success.
Free printable decluttering checklist
To help you get started on your big project, I highly recommend downloading and printing the Ultimate Decluttering Checklist from the Jen Bradley|MOMs Free Printable library!
There are over 140 items on the list that you can quickly and easily declutter from your home.
The list for kids’ bedrooms and quick toy decluttering is at the end of this article – but join the library to get the whole checklist, okay? It’s definitely worth your time!
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What not to do when decluttering with kids at home
Before we get to the action steps for decluttering with kids, it’s important to know what NOT to do.
First, don’t secretly declutter items that belong to your kids.
Decluttering on the down low can easily backfire and make your kids feel even MORE attached to the things they own.
It can also lead to feelings of mistrust from the child toward and parent, which you definitely want to steer clear of.
Secondly, don’t expect your kids to become minimalists.
Your kids will want to keep some things that you don’t feel are worth keeping.
But when you do the mental work to prepare well and follow the tips below, your efforts to declutter with kids are likely to be way more successful than they otherwise may be!
For a comprehensive (and affordable!) home decluttering program that will walk you through the decluttering process step-by-step, check out Decluttering Simplified!
Mental prep for decluttering with kids:
Okay now that you know what NOT to do, it’s time to take a look at the 9 tips for decluttering with kids!
As with any decluttering project, there is a mental and a physical aspect to decluttering.
1.Announce your intentions and give reasons why you want to declutter
When you are ready to take on a new decluttering project, it’s a great idea to mention your goals to your entire family.
Let everyone know that you’re going to be going through your home, room by room, to get rid of clutter.
You may consider sharing with everyone WHY you want to declutter your home (keep reading for a quick list of ideas!).
Also, it’s a great idea to offer some reassurance that you won’t get rid of anything that belongs to someone without asking them first.
Finally, make it clear that you’ll need everyone onboard to help.
Reasons for decluttering
Here are some great reasons to declutter according to The Spruce:
- you will have more space
- you’ll start saving money
- a feeling of freedom can come with decluttering
- you will have less to clean
- stress levels can decrease
- you will lose things less frequently
- you’ll be a blessing to others by giving away things still in good condition
2.Start at a neutral location in the house
Once you’ve had your family pow-wow and you’ve shared your decluttering goals, you’ll want to start decluttering in a neutral location in your home.
My favorite place to start decluttering is in the laundry room.
There are three reasons why:
- The laundry room is usually fairly small – so you can declutter it quickly and find a quick win early in your decluttering process
- There is very little of sentimental value here, so it’s an easy place to start
- The entire family goes into the laundry room from time to time, so everyone will be able to see the impact your decluttering efforts are making
3.Involve your kids with decluttering other rooms
As you declutter the laundry room, kitchen, or bathrooms, have your kids help you from time to time.
You could have them carry bins, bags or boxes to the car for donation. Or you could ask them what they think you should do with the dried up nail polish or chipped dishes.
Having your kids chime in about what to give and what to keep can prime them to repeat this same task later.
4. Have a plan where you’ll be donating your decluttered items
Before you start decluttering with your kids, be sure to choose a place or person to give their things to.
This could be a person you may know from church or other organization, a women and children’s shelter, or a local toy drive.
Your kids will feel better knowing where their things are going instead of sending them out to the local thrift store.
It’s also a good idea to be upfront with your kids and tell them that anything that’s torn, broken, ripped or beyond repair will be heading for the trash can.
After your kids have seen you working at your decluttering project, it’ll eventually be time to involved them more directly in the decluttering process.
Physical steps to decluttering with your kids
Once you’ve done the mental prep for decluttering with kids, it’s time to get to start the physical decluttering work!
5. Choose a few important “don’t even ask” items to keep
When you’re ready to start decluttering your kid’s room, it’s a great idea to have your kids single out 3-5 prized possessions they know they definitely do NOT want to declutter.
Have your child set these items aside and don’t ask them – even once – if they want to declutter them.
Giving them this opportunity to mark a few items out of bounds from decluttering will help them feel empowered and in control of the decluttering process.
6. Create 3 piles – give away, trash, relocate
The next step in the decluttering with kids process is to designate three separate boxes, bins, or bags. (They don’t have to match at all. Any combination will be fine!)
You’re going to label these 3 containers:
- Give away
The give away bin will be for anything your kids want to donate to the cause you’ve already chosen BEFORE you got started on your project! (And if you haven’t picked a place yet, now is great time to do that!)
The trash bin or bag will be where everything goes that is broken, ruined, or not worth keeping.
The relocate bin is for items in your kids’ bedrooms that you want to keep but that don’t belong in your kids’ rooms. At the end of your decluttering session, take this bin and put away the items where they belong throughout the house.
Anything that doesn’t get sorted into one of the three bins should be put back someplace in your kid’s room!
7. Play “Keep or Give” with everyone involved
Once you’ve got your three bins ready to go, it’s time to do the actual decluttering with kids.
I highly recommend working in this order: clothes, decor, books, toys and finally, memories.
You’ll want to pick up an item, show it to your kids and ask, “Keep or Give?”
It’s really important to encourage your kids to work quickly! Studies show that the longer we debate about an item, the more likely we are to keep things we don’t use.
If they’re really struggling to decide about something, you can set it off to the side and come back to it later.
Continue to ask your kids, “Keep or Give?” for every single item in their bedroom or playroom.
As they give their responses, put the item in the appropriate pile.
Anything your kids decide to keep should go straight back to the place where it belongs.
And although you’re not asking about whether to trash each item, as you come across broken things simply explain to your child that the item isn’t worth keeping.
8. Working with multiple siblings
If you have multiple kids sharing a room (or they simply share ownership of their toys!), it’s highly likely that both kids won’t agree on whether to “Keep or Give” every single item.
When you have a situation where at least one child wants to keep an item, it is best to keep it – even if other kids are willing to give it away.
This is a great teaching moment to remind your kids about the importance of respecting the feelings of others.
And if you have one child who is absolutely unwilling to give anything away, calmly review why you want to declutter in the first place, and focus on the eventual happiness and blessings these things can bring to others.
9. What to do about things your kids can’t decide on
If your kids are really struggling about whether to keep or give certain items, you can introduce a Wait Pile if you have to.
This is the pile for the items your kids just can’t decide what to do with.
When you finish decluttering your kids’ belongings, put the Wait bin or bag somewhere in the house where your kids won’t see it regularly (and where they definitely can’t get into it!).
Then set a reminder in your phone to look at the Wait Pile in six months time. If your kids haven’t even thought about or asked for any of these items, you’ll be able to donate these things at that time.
If your kids do happen to think about things in the wait bin and ask you about them in the future, open the bin and get only the thing they asked for – no big deal.
Short list of things to declutter from kids’ rooms:
- alarm clocks/clock radios
- flat pillows
- bedskirt/dust ruffle
- wall decor that you don’t like
- knick knacks
- mismatched socks
- worn out underwear
- ratty, stained clothes
- clothes that don’t fit anymore
- shoes that are uncomfortable or don’t fit
- threadbare or worn out pajamas
- swimwear that no longer fits or is worn out
- old school projects/papers
- duplicate/unfocused photos
- old birthday cards
- old certificates
Quick list of toys to declutter with kids:
- unused/outgrown toys
- board games/puzzles with missing pieces
- toys with missing pieces
- broken toys
- toys from fast food restaurants
- duplicate toys
- used up coloring books/sticker books (you can tear out the best page and keep it, if you must! Better yet, take a photo of it!)
- broken crayons/dried out markers
Final thoughts on decluttering with kids at home:
Once you and your kids have finished going through their belongings, take the giveaway pile out of the house and put it in the trunk of your car STAT.
Then, drive it to the donation center or family who needs it right away.
While decluttering with kids at home does seem daunting, you are now empowered with the steps you need to get it done!
Be sure to download the Ultimate Decluttering Checklist from the Free Printable library to help you get started!