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Getting rid of stuff can be tough. Getting rid of kid’s stuff can be even tougher, as they cling to broken toys or bits of junk from restaurants. But it is possible to show a child how to pare down their possessions with a minimum of fuss and tears.
You are going to need a few baskets or boxes. Low laundry baskets work well. You will need one each for “things to put away elsewhere”, “things to give away”, “things to consider giving away”. I actually use several for the “things to put away elsewhere”: one for elsewhere in the room we are working in, one for the other level of the house, and one for another room on the same level.
Why do I divide these up? Simply because my daughter is more likely to put things away upstairs if she doesn’t have to dig through all the things that need to be put away downstairs.
In addition, you will need a trash can and a recycling bin. A small one will do.
The process is actually fairly straightforward. Although I had done this several times with my daughter, I laid it out for her last week and she was able to follow it on her own.
- Do one small section at a time. One small area is enough to get clean, but not too overwhelming. I pick things like a desktop, a drawer, or under the bed. You can combine cleaning sessions on multiple days and everything will eventually be gone through.
- Clear everything out to start with. Remove everything from the area in question. This will ensure that stuff doesn’t get just moved around, and gives you an opportunity to clean the container or surface.
- Pick one item up, decide and move on. The decision should be made quickly; if there is hesitation, the item should go in the “things to consider giving away” basket. These items can be boxed up and dealt with in 3 months or so.
That’s all there is to it.
Some Basic Rules
There are some basic rules that will make this progress go faster and smoother.
- Touch things once. If you pick it up, you have to deal with it. A decision has to be made if it will go back, get put somewhere else, or tossed.
- If it’s broken, it goes. Same if it doesn’t work right. If you honestly think someone could use it, put it in the give away basket.
- Group like things together. If you have a container for crayons, there is no question where the crayon should go.
- Label. When you are just getting organized, labels can help remind everyone where things go.
A Word About Parental Intervention
For young children, parental help will be needed. A good way to approach this is to let your child know that their excess toys will go to children who don’t have any. This is usually enough to inspire children to give away things they don’t use.
For older children, it is OK to get them started and let them work on the process on their own. It’s good to make sure they don’t get distracted, but if the job is small enough, they should need minimal intervention on this score.
For really tough cases, where kids refuse to get rid of anything, you may have to go in and do a pre-clean. This means that you go through and toss out the garbage and broken items. But be prepared for the caterwauling should you get caught.
Have you ever had a child declutter? What methods did you use? What worked, what didn’t? Share below.
Photo by AngryJulieMonday