We’ve all been there. The toy tsunami has reached it’s peak and you can’t take it for one more second! So you round up the kids and without warning, tell them it’s time to get the bedroom/playroom/living room in order.
We won’t go into the details, but let’s just say it’s possible there’s some yelling, some frustration, some tears and very little organizing. IYKYK.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! No matter how out of hand the situation has become or how far the mess has stretched, we have 5 strategies you can implement that really work and will help you and your kids get organized peacefully.
Note: These tips are intended for children that are old enough to participate in the decision making process. Every child is different but generally speaking, we’re referring to kids that are 4 and up.
1.) Forewarned Is Forearmed
Some kids do well with spontaneity, and if you’re the parent of a child who can go with the flow, consider yourself very lucky! But for other kids, a schedule and routine are necessary to keep the peace. Unless you’re springing a surprise cupcake on your child, a little advanced warning can make all the difference.
So even if you’re at your wits end and you want the chaos cleared immediately, you may have to exercise some patience. Take a deep breath and recognize that the clutter didn’t appear overnight and it doesn’t have to be dealt with “right this second!”. Again, if you know you know 😉
Pick a time in the near future (after lunch, the next morning, the upcoming weekend) and let your kids know that you’re going to be spending some time decluttering and organizing so everyone can enjoy their space again.
2.) Keep It Short And Sweet
This is an incredibly important step for resolving your present situation and for dealing with clutter in the future. If you expect your child to be able to clear a big mess all at once, you’re going to be disappointed. Depending on their age, you’re looking at 15 minutes to a half hour. Decision making can be difficult and exhausting and kids have a limited attention span. If you try to drag it out and fix the clutter in a single afternoon, you and your child are going to hate decluttering and it will become a huge fight every time you try to get organized.
Instead, set a timer for a predetermined time. Let your child know that they only have to make decisions for ____ minutes. You can even decide on a time together. Then hold true to that time. Even if things are going well and you feel like you can get more done, don’t be tempted! An extra 5 or 10 minutes can quickly result in a meltdown and that’s the very last thing you want to happen.
3.) One Thing At A Time
Choose a category. If you’re working with a younger child, start with something that doesn’t have a lot of sentimentality. Toy cars may be easier to part with than stuffed animals, so start with the cars. Then help your child sort them into three categories – Keep, Donate and Undecided/Maybe. Kids typically know which ones are their favorites. Those can immediately go into the Keep pile. They also know the ones they don’t want, listen to them and respect their decisions.
Don’t let them get caught up on the ones they’re unsure about. Just put them into the Maybe pile and come back to them when everything is sorted. Once they see the Keep pile and all the cars they love, they may be more willing to let go of the undecideds. Also, remind them that there are many children who don’t have any toys to play with and that car could be another’s child’s favorite thing.
If the timer goes off before you’re done, put the Keep pile away, put the Donate pile into a bag that will be going to the charity of your choice and put the Maybe pile into a bin or basket for the next time you have a scheduled declutter session.
You may feel like nothing will every get accomplished if you take it so slowly, but you can do 15 minutes every day and by the end of the week, you and your child will see a huge difference in the amount of things they own!
4.) Make It Fun!
Although it’s hard for us to believe, apparently not everyone loves organizing! If this applies to you and you dread decluttering, you may have to up your game. When your child sees that you’re miserable and crabby, guess how they’re going to feel? Yup – miserable and crabby. You’ve got to turn that attitude around! Play music, take a dance break, tell some jokes and get silly. Even if you aren’t having fun, fake it til you make it because if your child is having a good time, they’ll be more likely to cooperate. And who knows? You may even find that organizing is your jam after all!
5.) Just Say No
As you move forward in the decluttering process, you’ll find that the less your child has, the less mess they can make. You may be thinking, “well duh”. But will you remember that when you’re standing in the check out line at the end of a long day? When your kid sees the newest Matchbox car placed strategically at their eye level and asks if they can have it, what will you say? Should you just give in and have some peace and quiet for the next ten minutes? You could. Sure you could. But then you’ll be stuck in a never-ending cycle of chaos, stress and mess.
Decluttering with your child can be stress free and successful if you follow these 5 strategies! Always keep in the front of your mind that the problem didn’t develop overnight and it won’t be resolved overnight. Give both yourself and your child the grace to work out of the situation!
If you need more help with your clutter, our Love Your Home Again course has every thing you need. We have detailed modules for every area of your home!