It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of our children’s stuff—the outgrown clothes, artwork, schoolwork, sports equipment, musical instruments, toys, rocks, sticks, party favors and all the other things they get their hands on that eventually end up in our homes. Even when we as adults try to live simply, our children are like magnets for stuff! Sometimes controlling and taming their stuff so it doesn’t take over the house seems like a full time job. And it’s no wonder! Did you know that according to a UCLA study 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally? A NY Times article recently noted, that the average American child receives 70 toys a year. Yikes! Now we don’t think most parents would consciously choose to give their children that number of toys, yet it’s amazing how attending birthday parties, trips to the dentists, visiting the grandparents, even running a quick errand to the drugstore all often involve our child getting a toy or trinket. Not only do our children not need this stuff, but as parents we end up spending a lot of time caring for it. Yet I don’t think anyone would be comfortable with the idea that we’re spending time caring for our children’s stuff that we could be spending caring for our children themselves! Time to get the stuff out of the way so we can be fully present to our relationship with our children—not their things.
The first step is to get rid of what is no longer needed and simplify. This week we thought we’d share some tips for how to clear your child’s clutter as well as list of common types of children’s clutter that we don’t always think about… If you have great tips, please share by commenting below!
Tips for clearing children’s clutter
– Take Pictures: It is so much easier to give things away, particularly children’s artwork, when you take a picture of it. With a picture, you will always have the memory of the item and your child will know your honoring their creative process. For more great tips about what to do with children’s artwork click here.
– Create a ‘things you want to give away box’: Sometimes it is difficult to know how meaningful something is to your child. I think it is important that things that may be meaningful don’t just “disappear.” Keep an opaque box and label it “things I want to give away” and keep the items inside. If your child doesn’t ask about it for a few months, then give it away. Just don’t let him see it because the second he does—he’ll want it back!
– Develop a system for outgrown items: Children are growing and changing all the time. Plan ahead for what you will do with outgrown items. This tip will make your clearing so much easier as often what stops us from dealing with clutter is not knowing what to do with it. Have a labeled plastic bin ready for clothes and toys you may want to pass on to a younger sibling or a relative’s or friend’s kids and have another bin or bag in the closet to donate to somewhere like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Now that you have a system in place, next time you realize something doesn’t fit, you can pop it in the bin rather than putting it back in the drawer!
– One thing in, one thing out: Once you have a simplified, clutter-free space you will want to keep it that way. Before you bring anything new into your child’s world, make sure it is worth it. You also may want to take one thing out each time you bring in something new—this way you will keep the space clean and clutter-free. Check out these tips to stay clutter-free.
– Kindly let your relatives know that you’re cutting down on clutter and that they don’t need to bring a present every time they visit. Also, consider having a gift-free birthday party if your child is old enough or young enough to either handle it well or not notice! And help other parent’s curb the clutter by skipping the party favors at your child’s next birthday party or giving out edible treats instead.
– Clear with intention: As you’re clearing and organizing, know that the more things you let go of the more space you are creating to truly be with your child.
Common children’s clutter (things to keep an eye out for!):
– Unhealthy items: Get rid of items that are made with PVC or other unsafe plastics, or other toxic materials, and of course, choking hazards. Also remove, broken items—if you can’t commit to repairing it within the next week, let it go.
– Unused items: Children are always growing and changing—when they have moved on, move it out.
– Outgrown clothes: Have a system in place for outgrown clothes. If you are saving it for a sibling, friend or relative then have a clear plastic bin labeled with the age the items will fit.
– Developmentally inappropriate items: It’s easy to get excited about what our children can and will do—but don’t rush them. They grow up quickly as it is—store the item (not in their room) for when they really get to that stage and can fully use it.
– Too much stuff: Be realistic about how much volume you and your child can manage. Children are usually more deeply engaged and grounded when they have fewer things around them. You will be much calmer and happier (and have more time for your child) with fewer things to maintain.
– Things without a home: Even if an item is healthy and loved, but you don’t have a place for it—it may as well be clutter. Find the item a proper home, save it in a storage area if you think you may have a home for it in the future, or let it go.
If you like this blog, you may also enjoy: