The following is a guest post from Andie at EverydaySmallStuff.com.
Scene: It’s nearly Christmas, and you have that sinking feeling as you gingerly step into your child’s cluttered bedroom. “Where on earth will we put all the new toys?”
Rather than swearing off presents forever (tried that!), consider throwing a decluttering party in your child’s room.
Yep, I said party!
Decluttering can be fun – with faster and longer-lasting results than tidying a room – and in the process you’ll introduce your child to more critical thinking about her space and “stuff.”
Willing to try? Here’s a 5-part guide to getting started. I’ve included estimated times for each step of the party, so you can stay focused. Remember, keep the party fun and moving! Use a timer to stay on track and finish on time.
Part 1: Mental prep – Why declutter? (Time: Varies)
Why throw a decluttering party? To have fun during the party, of course! With the added bonus of leaving the room neater than when you started. Fewer toys = easier cleanup, and cleared spaces = more space for play!
Step 1: Preparing the adults
Here’s the hardest part — you are not going to make the decluttering choices. Instead, you’ll teach your child to answer the two most basic decluttering questions:
- Do I currently love this?
- Do I currently use (play with) this?
I won’t lie — when my daughter chose to donate her collection of Disney princesses (a collection we had made together over several years!), I wanted to scream, “No! You love those!”
But, actually, she didn’t anymore. I did. So (with superhuman strength) I smiled and praised her decision. She went on to donate a lot more than I would have, and she hasn’t missed anything.
Step 2: Preparing the kids
Let your children know that you want their room to be awesome for them, filled only with what they currently love. Explain that our tastes can change, that we outgrow toys we once loved; and that toys — even gifts — can be passed on to another child who will love that toy right now.
Also talk about the function of the room. What does your child like (or need) to do there? Empty table space to build Legos? Set up homework? Make shelf space for displaying art? Those needs are great motivators.
Part 2: Plan the party! (10-30 Minutes)
Now that you and your kids are motivated, it’s time to plan the party!
Step 1: Block off about 3.5 hours on your calendar.
Pressed for time? Order pizza and declutter over dinner! Be creative.
Step 2: Gather 3 (or more) boxes
- Box 1 — Keep elsewhere. These items belong in another part of the house. (A younger sibling can get these to the proper room.)
- Box 2 — Donate! Seal this box right when you finish! No second-guessing.
- Box 3 — Trash. Even a clean bedroom can hide an astonishing amount of trash!
Adjust the boxes as necessary for your family. Do you sell online? Add a box for selling. Siblings? Have an “intermediate” box for siblings to look through before items are donated, or for you to pull toys to store for younger children. If you store toys, make a note on your calendar to open that box!
Step 3: Clear space to work.
Piles in a narrow hallway work fine!
Step 4: Prepare cleaning supplies.
Gather your vacuum/broom, cloths, & spray bottles.
Step 5: Choose snacks and music.
Pick food that isn’t messy and music the kids enjoy — these will keep the energy high!
Part 3: Party time! Empty the room. (20 minutes)
This is the fun part. Run around the room, grabbing fistfuls of books, dumping toys into baskets, piling everything into an unholy mess in the hallway. Every single book, pen, Lego, scrap of paper. Go as quickly as possible…without breaking anything!
Loud, fast music can be very motivating here!
Part 4: Clean the room (15 minutes)
A completely empty room is very fast to clean. Let kids spray shelves & tops of dressers, then wipe them down. Finish by vacuuming or sweeping, even under furniture. It’ll never be easier to reach these less-cleaned places.
Part 5: Replace Items (2.5 hours)
The heart of the party! Everything is outside, and the only items that make it back inside are the items your child uses or loves.
Make sure your child is answering these questions for every item:
- Do I love this? Is it currently one of my favorite toys?
- Do I actually use it (play with it)?
Only touch an item once! Stay or go? Stay — put it back in the room immediately. Go — place in one of the boxes. Move to the next item.
- Question every single item, no matter how small. Yes, even empty the treasure box!
- Exception: Treat sets like Legos or Magformers as one item. The set stays or goes. Micro-sort another day if needed.
- Remind your child that she doesn’t have to keep every toy she likes, or that she once loved. Help her choose the toys she loves right now!
- Remember: this is decluttering, not organizing! Simply separate big categories — like art supplies from floor toys from books; organize another day.
- Whatever you do, finish! You’ll be more motivated to declutter again when you feel the space and creative possibilities it opens.
It Was Crazy – But It Actually Worked
I didn’t really think a decluttering party could work. I pictured miserable kids who didn’t want to get rid of anything, and a bigger mess than when we started.
My son was equally dubious, but ended up loving his new space so much, my daughter begged for her own party! Both kids have continued to bring me toys they no longer want to keep.
Best of all, we had a wonderful time together. Undivided attention. A sense of accomplishment. Silliness. All of which is possibly even better than the decluttering – wouldn’t you agree?
Andie is on a journey to learn to notice a mess before the floor disappears; to overcome a lifetime of valuing “stuff” over experiences; and to accept and explore an unexpected desire to pursue a more simple life. She writes notes about choosing simple (sometimes!) over at EverydaySmallStuff.com.