Top Tips for Decluttering (with Children)

I thought I would try and put a little list together of my best decluttering tips for those of us with children, that will hopefully help you not only get rid of the clutter and the stuff that isn’t adding any value, but also keep on top of the clutter in the long run.

A Donation Box

Have a place in your home that you and your children know is where they can put things they have outgrown or no longer want/need. We have a corner in our bedroom that no matter how many trips to the charity shop we make always seems to have a pile of more stuff to donate (where does it all come from?!), the kids know what it is for and our Oldest at least adds to it at will.

Toy Sales

Money can be a great incentive for children to part with their stuff. If they know they will get something in return parting with the things they no longer play with or books they won’t read again becomes easier. It’s not a perfect system as the money often goes to buying more stuff, but the trick is to keep the amount you pay per item small enough that they can’t buy the whole toy shop! 

Leading by Example

"What I have to get rid of stuff too?!” I’m afraid so. Possibly not what you wanted to hear, but the more your children see you parting with things easily and leading a more Minimalist lifestyle the easier it will be for them to do the same. And even if they reject it at this stage you are sowing good seeds for them in older life as those lessons will not be forgotten.

Decluttering tips with children

Don’t bring it in

Maybe one of the hardest changes to make when pursuing Minimalism but it is the one that will invariably have the most impact. Once you question your purchases more and are more deliberate about what makes it in to your home, the sooner you will be living clutter free. (and no doubt with a lot more disposable income for fun instead of stuff!)

Pocket Money

We realised early on that if we were going to stop buying the kids stuff they would need a little bit of autonomy. It has worked quite well in our house, and you find out very quickly what your children actually want. Once they know how much something costs and it's their hard earned cash they have to part with, more often than not they decide they don't actually want it. Households vary with how much pocket money to give, but in this house the children get £1 on a Friday if they tidy their rooms and they can earn a bit extra by hoovering their rooms, or parting with toys/books etc. 

Teaching to Let Go

The art of letting go takes practice. It gets easier every time you do it.  The same goes for Children too. Appreciate that it might be difficult for them to let some things go, but have open dialogue about it, discuss the reasons why it might be the right time to let it go, and where it will be going, who it might be helping or bringing happiness to. Then the more they do it, the easier it will be for them and a great life skill will be learnt.

Top tips for decluttering with children

Set Limits

You are realistically going to have to set limits. There will be things you are just going to have to start saying “No” to, and putting in some boundaries for yourself and the Children when it comes to stuff. This way things wont get out of hand again. For example, in our home the children have designated storage spaces for toys in their rooms but they know that if those spaces become full things will have to go. It’s their responsibility to manage how much stuff they have.

One in, One out

A favourite practice of mine but one we often forget. It’s not as easy to police as you might imagine, especially around Christmas and Birthdays. But we tend to ask for a like for like donation when the kids get something new. They buy a new book? Great, lets donate one you won’t read again. That way the toy box and shelves stay manageable and don’t start overflowing again. Similarly at Christmas and Birthdays we just ensure we do a clear out ahead of time to make space for the new. At Christmas this can double up with donating the things to a good cause and the children are always excited that their old toys and books might brighten someone else’s Christmas.

Minimal Clothing

If like us your children wear a uniform to school then it is really quite simple to declutter their clothing. It can be hard to part with some of it, especially if it is relatively unworn or particularly nice, but practically how many items of clothing can they wear in a week? Your numbers will no doubt depend on how often you can do laundry and how messy your children are. Our daughter doesn’t get through many clothes in the space of a week, she is pretty tidy so even once worn it doesn’t always need to be washed, so limiting her clothing is quite simple. Our Middle Son however seems incapable of keeping a pair of trousers clean for longer than 5 minutes, so we have to have different amounts of clothing for him. But just going through their drawers from time to time and asking if they can realistically wear this many tops/jumpers/trousers etc even in a non-school week, will help you get those drawers to a more manageable state and will also make getting dressed a much easier process for your little ones. They were no doubt choosing the same few outfits over and over again anyway, so why confuse them! I myself have a minimal wardrobe and getting to wear my favourite clothes every day makes choosing outfits much more enjoyable. As a bonus it’s much better for the environment too!

Top tips for decluttering with children

Take a Photo

This might sounds strange but this tip has helped me get rid of a lot more things. Sometimes you think you will miss something or would like to see it again, well if you don’t actually need the physical item then ask yourself would a photo suffice? It is my go to method with the children’s artwork. They each have a noticeboard in their rooms they can put the pictures they want to keep on, but once it is full they have to let some go. If there are any I think are “Picasso” worthy then I will take a photo of it, that way I can look back at it in the future, but my house doesn’t turn into a paper storage unit!

{The take a photo tip can be applied to so much more than children’s artwork, it has helped me clear out baby clothes, sentimental items, and even recipe books! You know those recipe books you are keeping because you do cook that one recipe a lot but the rest you never use, well take a photo of the ones you cook and you no longer have to keep the whole book!)

Decluttering tips with children

Handling Collections

I wanted to briefly discuss collections here as well. The Minimalist community is quite divided on this, some say it is a nice word for hoarding, and in adults maybe that is true. However, I like what Joshua Becker says about it, which is essentially that for children the process of collecting things can be a valuable learning experience. He does also say it is important to not let it get out of hand. 

Our Middle Son is the only one of our 3 who has shown a keen interest in collecting things. Left to his own devices he would probably make everything a collection, from books, to toys, even to rocks or sticks! We don’t encourage all of these collections but we do allow him to collect things like football and Pokemon cards, we manage this by ensuring all are purchased with his own pocket money, and we make sure he has somewhere to store and organise them so it doesn’t just cause chaos in his room. We also encourage him to let some collections go when new ones begin. Older card series you can no longer buy or he’s lost interest in are let go to make way for the latest collecting craze. The enjoyment he gets from these collections and seeing them managed sensibly all help stop my crazy minimalist self from burning the lot ;)

decluttering tips with children

I hope this has been helpful, and can get you well on your way to having a more minimal and clutter free home. You will find the freedom it provides you well worth it, I can assure you.

If you have any favourite tips for decluttering with children I’d love to hear all about them in the comments!