Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Picture this: bookshelves overflowing with not only books, but scraps of paper you kept from that Air France flight 5 years ago in case your kids might “need” it one day…stuffed animals invading the kid’s bed to the extent that you need an extra 10 minutes per day to arrange them all (not to mention the dust it collects)…closets bursting with outgrown clothes, sports equipment from extracurricular activities they no longer participate in, and art supplies which consist of 30% dried-out markers, 30% dried-out playdoh and 30% dried-out paint…puzzles and games with missing pieces…dolls without limbs…do you get the picture yet?
Now that the “rentrée” is behind us and the holiday season is approaching quickly, our children’s rooms will soon be spilling over with yet another round of gifts from well-meaning family and friends! Argh! SO MUCH STUFF! Our families are blessed with ABUNDANCE: toys, clothes, games and more for our children. So now is the time to de-clutter and re-organize our homes…If you approach the task, step-by-step, it is not only manageable but FUN! The first rule of thumb, though, is No Whining! Yes, I am talking to the parents, not the kids!
Kids are full of great ideas (and not just ideas about how to procrastinate at bedtime)! If your children are invested in the organizing process, they are more likely to participate in the daily cleanup. For instance, I have my son choose (all by himself) a “home” for his Yu-gi-Yo cards; then he is more likely to remember where to put the cards back when he is finished playing with them. In addition, I no longer hear him ask that oh-so-annoying question, “Mom, where did you put my..?”
All kids have favorite toys and clothes that they have outgrown. It is often we, the parents, who hang on to these objects that represent their youth (and often times our own youth as well). The holiday season is a perfect time to re-evaluate the importance of material objects in our homes, and to realize that all of the clutter is actually taking up space and energy. Also, think about the time wasted on clutter, which could be better used hanging out and enjoying each other’s company (I know this sounds corny, but I’m sure the Grinch would agree with me here!).
Back to de-cluttering…now is the time to explain to your kids how less fortunate children can benefit from your family’s donations. In addition, if your children are with you while you reorganize, then you can try on clothes and shoes on the spot to determine if they should be given away. Otherwise, in addition to the famous three piles you should be making (keep, give away, throw away), a fourth unsightly pile will creep into your living room called the “try on” pile!
While sorting and labelling kids’ stuff, I like to choose a category name on the container that is as simple as possible. The older kids can write and design the labels themselves (ahhh, but do we correct their spelling mistakes?!) The younger kids will be able to find and clean up their belongings if you draw a picture on the label of what’s inside the container! Don’t forget to place the ageappropriate toys that your kids play with the most, on the lowest shelf (this sounds so obvious, yet many people don’t do it). Also be sure that the wonderful container you bought last month at Ikea is easy enough for those cute little hands to manage!
The most satisfying comment from parents after de-cluttering and reorganizing, is how easy and quick clean-up time becomes, and how much less resistant the kids become to the task! Here is what I love to do with my kids: put some fun, up-beat music on the stereo to make the moment enjoyable (Raffi is always a crowd-pleaser)! Then break down the clean-up tasks by age: older kids put back clothes, place dirty laundry in hamper, get back pack ready for school, etc. while the younger kids put back toys, arts and crafts, and other stuff in their proper containers! Make sure you begin this “clean-up jam session” about 15 minutes before bath time! Once you recognize the importance of a clutter-free environment, I promise that you will be able to get your whole family out of the house in the morning with much less stress. I also guarantee that your kids will become more autonomous! It’s a long haul, like many aspects of educating children, yet teaching your kids the responsibility and benefits of being organized (even if the job isn’t done perfectly) can only be positive for their future!