The clutter is real! Birthday presents, goody bags, holiday memoirs…for many of us, our kids’ rooms are getting so full of stuff, that it’s hard to find anything, especially the toys they really care about. However, your kids grow out of their toys, which makes the decluttering process easier …that is, if they want to let go of their favourite items!
So, although you cannot do your konmari without your little one asking questions and being in the way, decluttering WITH your kids can be an experience that will spark joy, not just for you, but for your child. Read on, and see why!
Before you start
Aligning what to expect of this process is important if you don’t want to get too frustrated or end up with a child leaving the project in a strut. Go through the following:
Have a chat:
- Ask your child: What do they want out of this decluttering? Is it finding the toys easier, getting a more airy room or finding toys to pass on to a sibling or a person in need?
- What rewards can you work out together? Short-term could be a swim, playing a board game or getting an ice lolly. Long term: a cosy corner, space for an instrument, new poster up, etc.
- Timing. Find out when you have a weekend or consecutive days to do it together, as the project could otherwise get stalled. Also ask, how much time they expect to put into the work and how many hours you both want to put into it each day?
- What do we do with the disposed toys? Do you want to pass it on, donate it, swap it or sell it?
First job for your child is to write a list of categories for the piles you’re about to add to. These could be:
- Sibling – for storage or now?
- Cousin or other family members
- Kids you know are in need
- Donating to kids in need
- Selling (for older kids – think about setting up a flea-market stall for this)
- Throw away (please consider if this category necessary, even old drawings can be reversed and reused)
- Start in one area – unlike with clothes, this is not the time to do a big pile in the middle
- Split the jobs, one child can disassemble lego well, perhaps you are good at sorting out books
- Mix up the jobs – your child can do homemade labels for the drawers – it’s creative and fun to both draw and decide what the categories should be
- If tempted to leave the project and play by others – get siblings and neighbours involved too!
- Allow breaks for play or your agreed short time rewards. Also, allow longer breaks if your child is young. They will come back, when they see the result – but perhaps not until the next day. The important thing is not to put them off the process
- Chat to each other – talks about who will be getting what – makes it a lot easier to let go off precious things for your child as well
- When done for the day – agree on a new time to continue – remind your child of the long-term rewards.
The tough parts
The toughest part of decluttering – especially when you do it with your child, is the sentimentality that goes along with it. Every item has a story – the finds, the presents or the homemade toys that have ended up in the bottom of a drawer but are now seeing new light. Here are some tips to how you can declutter most effectively.
- If many duplicates, just pick a few LOLS, drawings or Sylvanian family cats.
- If passing on to the opposite gender, think carefully about what they would really like, perhaps a Frozen ruler isn’t really what the cousin fancies.
- Books: Separate into age-appropriate. Dispose of duplicates and consider if e.g. all books from two siblings will be read by one person who usually has his favourites already.
- LEGO – and other stuff with instructions – sets with everything put into ziplock bags with the instructions. The rest – separate into colours.
- Letting go – KIDS: If they won’t let go of something, you know they don’t play with. Do you dispose of stuff when they are not there? It can be a tad dangerous – kids have a habit of asking for stuff you just got rid off! If you do, take duplicates only and leave some. Otherwise, tell her that you will keep the item for now and look at again in 3 months. If he hasn’t played with it, it will have to go. This happened to my daughter’s Barbie Dolls, she kept them, and 3 months later, she sold them at a flea market.
- Letting go – PARENTS: Letters, diplomas, drawings, discoveries can be tough. Make a thin file for this and try to stick to this and not fill it up. When your kids have grown up you’ll discover that you only need 1-2 drawings from each of their years to get the memories to flood back.
How to organise the clutter?
This is of course very dependent on the size of the room, whether the kids are sharing a room, what storage is already available and if you have storage space elsewhere.
Here are some general tips:
- Desk Space. If your child is above 6, they love having a desk, but one that is tidy and where you can actually sit and do your work or play. Make it cosy with easy access to pens and other stationery. Let them have a board they can look at with family pics, awards and cards from friends. Keep their most special and valuable stuff in the desk drawer, so always handy, when on the way out.
- Toy drawers. Categorize them with labels, organise so you see all the toys and careful not to pack them too much, as you will be back to clutter very quickly. If short of space – look at options like a hook for bags and drawers to put under the bed.
- Shelves. Depending on whether these are in reach or up high, have a think about whether they are for display only or the toys need to be handy. Again, careful not to clutter as it will attract a lot of dust and be difficult to clean.
- Cupboards. If not too many clothes, cupboards can be used for toys that can be stacked, such as board games, and boxes with eg. a racing track. IKEA also has a shelf hanger out of material that can hang on the rack, so you get 3 new shelves for toys that are not too heavy.
- Hooks. Don’t underestimate hooks for things the kids like to have handy or on display, like bags or medals.
What does my child get out of this?
“This is actually quite fun” my 9-year-old son said after one hour of decluttering! Of course, this is individual, but for my kids, these were the reactions:
- Into the process, they got excited, wanted to be part of it again – my daughter came back every day and said ‘can we declutter’! My son also, but mostly because his reward was a wall where he’d be able to draw + a cosy corner behind his bed.
- As the decluttering went on, my kids had a sense of liberation and loved finding toys they had forgotten about.
- Knowing where their things were and being in a tidier room, they wanted to spend more time in their rooms, trying out all the new (as in old) toys.
- Donating. My son loved finding his favourite toys and putting them in a box for his brother, 6 years his junior. My daughter took pride in finding the best bits for a cousin, two years junior to her and a ton of stuff that she’d donate to other kids in need.
Where can I dispose of the toys?
- Selling: online at Carousel, or Gumtree
- Selling or trading at Preloved BabyGoods , SG Preloved Goods , Singapore Mum’s Preloved and Blessing group.
- Books: Swap your book at Sekabook or donate it at the National Library.
- Donate: You can also post your free giveaways on Freecycle.sg and Art Don’t Throw .or donate the goods to the Salvation Army
Want to see how 7-year-old Sienna got on with her decluttering? Check out orgayana’s IGTV.
You can also see how Philip got on with his decluttering here.