It seems like every couple of months or so I have to sort, reorganize, prioritize, declutter and p-u-r-g-e my kids’ stuff. A little less frequently my husband and I go through our own grown-up things and repeat the same process. For pregnant, first time moms, nesting is only a trial run for the constant cleaning out and organizing that a home with kids requires. They outgrow toys and clothes so quickly; most days it’s impossible to keep up because you don’t live in a kid-free home.
I often get lost in all of our stuff, and in my first world perspective we don’t even have that much, yet I find myself feeling closed in and trapped with things. And, at the end of the day, when all of my kids’ toys are everywhere, I think, “Where did this stuff come from? I didn’t even know we had all of this!” Then I throw everything back into bins just to see toys vomited all over my house the next day. Over these past three month we’ve been getting rid of more things than usual, and I feel like I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade.
“Where did this stuff come from? I didn’t even know we had all of this!”
Most credit for my education on how to declutter goes to a friend who is reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I really want to read this book, but sometimes I just have to be okay with listening to the good things someone else has to say. So much of my parenting is that way. I just glean from other people’s knowledge and good ideas. How much stuff one has is definitely a personal decision. One of our value’s is to live simply, so I’m sharing with you the ways that we try (emphasis on try) to live simply in a land of toddlers.
1. Move or Rearrange
Okay, I realize I’m starting off in the extreme and no one, NO ONE, is going to move just so they can declutter their life. Maybe they will move to declutter their life in a figurative sense, but not just to clean out a room. We have moved five times in our seven years of marriage and during the first few moves, we accumulated stuff along the way, but in the last two, we downsized. It was genuinely refreshing to go through cabinets and see what we hadn’t used in a year, donate it, and move with less. However, if you’re not moving, rearranging is much more feasible for the general public. I’m kind of obsessed with rearranging. I get bored in spaces and want it to feel fresh without having to buy anything new, so I rearrange. Sometimes it works, sometimes it gets put back like before, but always when I rearrange, my house gets a great cleaning, and I get rid of things along the way.
2. Forget About It
One day when you are cleaning up the toy explosion, pick everything up, put it in the trunk of your car and see how much stuff you or your kids forget about. Leave it there, out of sight, for a few days. It’s amazing what a week can do to offer perspective on the things you really don’t need or even miss, and you get to start enjoying your decluttered space without quickly saying goodbye to everything. Decide what is worth bringing back in and then drive away with the rest of it to your favorite donation place.
3. Keep What’s Special
This is my biggest takeaway from my friend’s reading of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Decide what you want your space to look like and keep the things that stay in that aesthetic. So with our kids’ toys (while the kids were asleep) we took everything out and only brought back in what we really wanted. I’ve since done the same thing with our clothes and books. Our house is now 175 books and one bookcase lighter, and I don’t miss what we let go because I love the things that we kept and I love our less crowded space so much more. Kondo’s idea is to take away the negative outlook of ‘getting rid of stuff’ and change the paradigm to think about it as ‘keeping the good stuff.’ One evening when going through our two toy baskets, I realized our cool blocks weren’t being played with that often but the “Spinny Guy” (the name my son gave to a small toy of a guy holding a stick that could spin around) was played with a lot, but my son always lost the stick. I hated this toy for that stupid, little stick. Based off of frequency of play, I should have donated the blocks and kept the “Spinny Guy,” but my husband reminded me that we want our kids to play with the blocks more, so let’s lose the things we don’t love. I used method #2 on “Spinny Guy” and he never got asked about again.
4. Loan Out What You’re Not Using
I have two kids 21 months apart, so the toys we have are pretty appropriate for both of our kids, but that is not always the case. For baby clothes and toys, find someone you are willing to loan out your things to as you wait for your younger little to be older enough to enjoy them. Make a list of what it is or write your initials on things you want back. Tip: I find it is soooo much easier for my kids to be okay with saying goodbye to toys if they know who they are going to. Right now, most toys get passed down to my nephew, and the kids get really excited about it and are usually the initiators of the giving.
5. Buy Organization Items
Once you’ve gotten rid of the nonessential and kept the specials, get what you must to keep it organized. Look for ways to use your newly freed up furniture, shelf space, and baskets, but you should feel inspired to keep things clean and at least semi-confident that your kids can, too. If that means a trip to The Container Store or IKEA, then so be it.
6. Ask for Experiences Instead of Things
Another way to rid your life of your children’s clutter is to push back on getting things to begin with. When gift giving seasons come around, think about outing, activities, lessons, or events that you or others can do with your kids instead of giving them a toy. An item can accompany the experience if a present is required. For example, one year my in-laws gave my daughter dance lessons for Christmas and wrapped under the tree were a leotard and ballet shoes. There was a present to open and an experience to be had. If and when you do ask for toys, be intentional and think about what kind of play you want your kids to have. If the gift doesn’t fit into that, don’t get it.
7. Declutter More Frequently
In general, if my kids receive a toy, they get rid of something in its place. Sometimes this happens in one big cluster, not necessarily item for item. Pre and post birthdays and Christmas, I am in major purge mode. I really try to declutter the space before things get out of hand again. Emphasis on try.