How to Keep your Kids Clutter Free

In a nutshell – keeping the clutter down when you have children around can be really hard. Here are a few tips to keep things under control.

I am the mother of a hoarder. As a teenager he is trained to text me before dragging home the ‘useful’ thing he has found on the way back from school, but the cluttering force is strong in this one. As a fellow keeper of special rocks and shells I can relate to this, but there comes a time when more space is needed. These ideas should work for most ages of children who can understand the concept of rewards. Some of it is psychological bribery, some of it is clear cause and effect. All of these ideas have worked for me and continue to work to this day.

Delayed decluttering

Children, fickle little beasties that they are, can quickly change their minds about things. To stop accidental decluttering something that might be very important to them it’s a good idea to pack it away in a box for a couple of weeks. If it’s not been mentioned, then it should be safe to get rid of it. Checking again with your child might pose a risk of re-cluttering but if they have decided it’s time to let something precious go it might be a good idea.

Keep it small and easy

Asking a child to go through all their toys and declutter them is daunting and overwhelming. Keep expectations small and achievable by asking them to find just one thing they no longer need, love or want. Ask them to find something that is

  • plain ugly
  • has a funny smell
  • is too small
  • makes a horrible noise
  • is a particular colour

You can set a time of the day to do this, or a day of the week. Get the chosen thing out of sight as fast as possible.

Get rid of broken things first

What looks like a manky ball of fluff with one eye to you, can be the love of a small child’s life, so the word ‘broken’ is subjective. However, there are some things that are clearly rubbish – dried out felt tip pens, cracked and split containers, small parts of long gone bigger toys. You can play a game finding things that are recyclable, or even find a new use for some of the things. I’ve seen an amazing cheap lamp covered in toy car parts that were just glue gunned on.

declutter broken things

Declutter seasonally

Christmas sees a wave of new stuff enter homes across the world. Some of it will be better than the older stuff in your home, some of it will be more exciting, so this is a good time to ditch the old. I’ve sold this to my son in the past as making way for the new, a concept he really likes the idea of. We have done festive decluttering before and after Christmas. After Christmas is better for the cautious, just in case they don’t get the pony, but small doses of decluttering before and after work well.

In the summer it’s a good time to get rid of beach toys that are outgrown, water pistols that don’t work so well and any outdoor toys that are not fun any more. Decluttering in season means you won’t get rid of things you forget you need.

Feel good by giving to the needy

Our local doctors surgery has a childrens area with no toys or books, they get taken by small children who do not have them at home. The surgery love it when people leave donations of clean, working toys and books and you know that it’s all going to get snapped up fast. Children’s centers, homeless centers and nurseries are usually grateful for new to them toys too.

Get rid of art fast

  • Have a fridge rotation policy, when the child comes home with new art ask them to choose the best for the fridge. That gets replaced when the child comes in with the next batch of new art.
  • Save a few bits a year, this needs to be done as soon as you get the huge pack of work back from school otherwise you are likely to get sentimental. Go through it and ditch everything but a few things that are the best example. Recycle the rest of it as soon as you can.
  • Use drawings as wrapping paper.
  • Take photos, better than your child’s drawing of a cat would be a your child holding the drawing of the cat; even better if it is next to the cat. And if you store your pictures digitally no physical space is taken up.

Stop buying more stuff

  • If you buy stuff as a reward for something try buying an event instead. A trip to the cinema or time spent playing a game rewards with your time too (and you can often fall asleep in the cinema!).
  • Ask friends and relatives to give presents that are consumable, that get used up. Chocolate, bath bubbles, craft kits…….
  • Ask for money towards one big toy instead of lots of little toys.
  • Have you a toy library near you? These are great for younger kids, we hired loads of things that my son was bored with in a week but they went back and got swapped for something else.
Lisa Cole

Want to talk about it?

I'm Lisa Cole. I'm a designer and writer who lives in Bristol. Less-stuff is about my journey to live a more organised life. I document little things I can change to live more sustainably. I'm not a minimalist!

If you found this post interesting and want to discuss it you can find me in the less-stuff Facebook group or you can Tweet me here.

Declutter the easy way

  • Have you got too much stuff?
  • Is the thought of decluttering overwhelming?
  • Would you like a free way to regain control of your clutter?

Start here with a free, easy decluttering calendar.

  • You can print it off as many times as you like.
  • You can start and stop whenever you like.

The calendar includes:

  • A checklist of questions to help you declutter the right things.
  • A list of ideas for rewarding yourself after you have decluttered.
  • A tiny decluttering challenge every weekday for 4 weeks.

It is yours for free as a thank you for joining the less-stuff tribe.