WHEN and HOW to include your kids in decluttering their toys!

Previous to my organizing career, I worked as an au-pair for one family for four years. Living in big houses with big playrooms, we had an abundance of toys to play with, an ever-growing collection that was harder and harder to tame. It took me an hour to tidy up after playtime!

I knew it was important to educate the kids on how to tidy up after themselves and let go of old toys they no longer played with. But there would be no decluttering – every piece of plastic seemed important to them.

We moved houses almost every year, which seemed like the best opportunity to eliminate some overflow. With each new playroom, I tried different strategies of working with (or without) the kids to keep their room tidy.

After our 4th move to our 4th house, with a playroom size one-fifth of the first one, it looked like I figured it out. With 1/5 of the original furniture and space, we still managed to fit!

We had all our favorite toys and just the same amount of fun and play as we always had. And tidying up never took longer than 10 minutes…

What did I learn from setting up five different playrooms that grew increasingly smaller while still working with the same kids?

I. First of all – Consider their age.

Naturally, smaller kids are most interested in what they see at the moment. Whether it’s an expensive toy or a stick on the floor, it will be THE most interesting object just because it’s there. They have less concept of the things that aren’t in the here & now. So if you pick a toy and wave it in front of their face saying, “Let’s give this away because you haven’t played with it for a while,” you’ll probably fail.

So in the age of less reason, I found it easiest to declutter alone. I put away what I knew was unplayed with and took it away from the playroom for a couple of months to see if someone asked for it. Once they did not notice its absence for a long time, it was safe to pass it on. If they asked, I put it back in their space.

As parents, You know the best when you want to include your kids in your decluttering projects. I noticed that past the age of 6, I could start reasoning with the kids and had better success including them with their playroom re-organization.

II. Once you include them, understand them.

Their world is like ours, only condensed to a much smaller area. The adult world is huge – the personal history, the places we’ve been, the social contacts, the mental realm of ideas, a whole house of stuff – all to hold onto.

Our kid’s worlds are still growing, just getting past their room, home, school… It is natural that they, too, hold onto and put meaning to the things occupying their world. The rock from the neighborhood might have the same sentimental meaning to them as your souvenir from Australia to you.

Though reasonable, be compassionate when handling their “trash” not to develop an aversion to decluttering.

Make sure there’s a bin in their room that’s open and easily accessible so they can throw away stuff regularly when they are done treasuring it.

Observe what they play with and make donation suggestions for the less-used items.

III. Explain decluttering as a positive thing

1) Change the language and make it a winning game instead of a losing game

–> Forcing them to choose the losers and using the “getting rid of” or “throw-away” can be met with resistance. Turn it around. Empty the basket with toys and let them “choose their favorites” and “who’s gonna live in the robot basket” instead. It encourages more positive emotions.

2) Let them know where their toys go

–> Explain the process of decluttering: What isn’t identified as a “keeper” goes to [….] – ideally your smaller friend, smaller cousin, kids that shop in the charity store.

Tip: Kids love the feeling of growing bigger, so identifying toys for smaller children can be an easy trick. However, avoid manipulating them to get rid of things by making them feel like babies if they wish to hold onto their early toys!

3) Let them have their fair exchange

–> Living in the Netherlands, King’s day is in our favor! Encourage your kids to sell their old toys in May and celebrate their first own earnings.

IV. The last but most important lesson: Lead by example and with a relaxed attitude!

Walk your talk, and start with your personal decluttering. Make letting go a visible, regular, and normal part of life. Avoid dramatizing decluttering into either extreme (the “have to get rid of everything now” and the “have to keep everything forever”) if you can.

Your RELAXED ATTITUDE and normalization of decluttering will teach them the most… sooner or later, your kids will pick up on it and copy you.

In my professional experience, the most cluttered rooms were a mere reflection of the rest of the house.

Do you include your kids in the toy-decluttering process? At what age did you start?

If you wish to create & maintain an organized, clutter-free, &
welcoming home for yourself and your family,
Your SPACE home-organizing process™ is the answer.
Book a free consultation to discover how can our tailored solutions help You!

HOW TO DECLUTTER THE WORST ROOM IN YOUR HOUSE… WITHOUT GETTING OVERWHELMED

When Laura even thought about decluttering the messiest room in her house, she found it hard to breathe. It was her 3rd attempt and this time, she has to put it all in order.

“Why is it so difficult? How did I get to the place where I can barely see the floor in what was supposed to be the guest room? I wish there’d be a magic wand making it just all disappear!”.

She quickly found a few things to get rid of it, packed it in a donation bag, and brought it down to the entryway; Contemplating whether to return upstairs to the guest room.

This time the procrastination voice said, “You’ve done enough, got rid of some stuff; Let’s not go back. Don’t you have MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO?”.

35mins in she aborted the project, attending to the urgent tasks… But the inner nagging of her unfinished task had set the tone for the day: yet another defeat. “Is it even possible to NOT GIVE UP? Will this room even be the guest room I wish for?”

Luckily Laura invited me over to help her. And today, Laura keeps the door to this room open. With a victorious smile on her face, she can see the guest beds ready to welcome her family over, and the familiar feeling of shame is exchanged with pride.

How did we end up tackling this task she gave up 3 times over? Those are the 5 important shifts that made it happen.

1) Get realistic
You won’t declutter 10 years of stuff in one day!
To conquer the feeling of defeat, you need to set realistic goals that will make you feel like a “win” day every time you go to do the work. Account for who you are, how fast/slow you tend to work, how long is your attention span, and how sentimental you are over your possessions. Decluttering is not a matter of handling stuff, but a matter of handling your personal history and your emotions. Allow yourself more time and divide this project into realistic chunks. It took Laura 3x4hrs and helping hands to tackle her room.

2) From non-urgent to important
You might have 10 more urgent things to do and a hotel to put up your guests so it’s crucial to get clear on the importance of this task.
What will you GAIN out of having this task finally done?
If you experience the ever-nagging feeling at the back of your mind that behind that closed door is a big to-do, the frequent thoughts of “I am so disorganized”, or even feelings of shame you might consider this important. All the time you spend thinking about it, dealing with it, or loathing in negative thoughts you lose time, and focus, and set your emotional baseline for the day chronically low.
When the important tasks get done, you will have more energy, mental space, and time to do the urgent tasks with more ease.

3) Be held accountable
It’s super important that you are held accountable and motivated! Having real people helping (like professionals) you or at least making you company (like friends or family) oftentimes helps.
If your level of discomfort is too high, you might want to come up with a DYI strategy for your own accountability: PLAN your sessions as if you’d have an actual appointment with a person, put aside the time, and schedule it in your agenda.
Remind yourself of the IMPORTANCE and the WHY you want to show up ready. Set up a checklist for your appointments and mark them done to celebrate each step. Take before and after pictures of your progress to motivate you further.

4) Help your brain to make decisions easier
Those rooms are usually a catch-all situation with stuff from different times and chapters of life; Most likely unused and unseen for a while.
It takes a lot of executive power to skip from object to object, recognize it, and make a decision over keeping vs. letting go, especially if you haven’t seen that stuff for so long that it oftentimes triggers sentiment.

Such cognitive and emotional rollercoaster oftentimes results in overwhelm. To beat this, help your brain a bit!

Start your first session by CATEGORISING ONLY and spend your executive power on grouping like-items together (the sentimental, the practical, the seasonal, the ones that don’t belong to you, etc.). Not only it will be less mental gymnastics in your next session because the stuff is already categorized, but you might be less sentimental about seeing those long-lost treasures for a second time over.

5) Done better than perfect
When you face paralysis, it often times stems from perfectionism. We want to do it all and do it well. We want to think through how it’s all gonna look like in the end, and end up getting stuck in the planning and the fantasies.
Remember, that if you don’t start it will never reach perfection. “Just start” with decluttering and space-making and leave the organizing decisions and final touches for when you’re done with the hard part.
It will come more naturally when the room is free of unnecessary clutter.

How many times have You tried decluttering your worst room, and which one of the points have you missed to implement? Feel free to comment 👇

If you wish to create & maintain an organized, clutter-free, &
welcoming home for yourself and your family,
Your SPACE home-organizing process™ is the answer.
Book a free consultation to discover how can our tailored solutions help You!

WOULD YOU BUY THIS AGAIN?

Let’s talk decluttering strategies today. How do you declutter? What’s your method? Do you follow “Does it spark joy” from Marie Kondo, or think about the practical “Do I need it? Do I use it?” of the minimalism advocates? There seems to be no one method that works for everyone. And even the methods that do seem to work for you won’t work in all areas of your life/house.

That is why when people ask me what method I follow my usual reply is “none and all“. I find it important not to stay in the dogma of one approach, but to keep a flexible and intuitive approach based on listening.

However, there has been one question that seems to work for a good portion of my clients! And even though it won’t work with the sentimental category, it tends to answer both the practical and the aesthetical questions you might ponder.

“Am I buying it again?

To ask this question means to reverse the process of losing into the process of gaining. If you hate getting rid of stuff and love shopping, this might work especially for you.

Just as all the books recommend, we pull out everything from the area we’re decluttering. Why is that? Because it lets you have a fresh look at things! When you have your book on the shelf for ages, you won’t even see it. That’s how automatically it’s built into your environment. That’s why pulling it all out is a very important step (and a practical one as it allows you to dust off the unattended years).

Once all is out of its home, the fun part can start. I get you to imagine you’re in a shop. A clothes shop, a book shop, a cooking utensils shop…where everything has no label and you can buy as much as you want.

Go through the shop pile piece by piece and see for yourself which items you wish to re-buy because they’re handy, pretty, awesome, or something you always use. You don’t have to feel cruel for getting rid of the rest. Just the way you wouldn’t feel sad for the pieces you left behind in a usual shop. If you dispose of your decluttered stuff responsibly, it will get another life and perhaps become the very favorite piece of its new owner.

The magic of this approach lies in the fact that you’re doing a positive activity (=gaining) in the now. Basing your decisions on who you are now, what you like now, and where would you like to go in life from now. It lets you reset all previous hopes, ideas, plans, and identities and create a fresh base for your future steps.

This question eliminates the pieces which were part of your environment just because:

– Someone gave them to you (and you politely accepted it)
– You won them or got them for free (as a special present with your purchase, extra offer, loyalty reward, etc..)
– You used to pursue a certain identity, hobby, look, or career (and needed the accompanying stuff for that)
– You used to love it at the time of purchase (when it was fashionable)
– You were in a bad mood and needed a shopping fix (even though it was a bad purchase)
– You got tricked by an advertisement (yet the product is just not for you)
– You used to use it (in a different house, different country, different situation, …)

The sentimental category

As I said, this process doesn’t work for sentimental items because we hold onto them not because we like them for what they are, but because we keep them for what they represent. When you come across a sentimental object, just set it aside and come back to it after you go through your “shopping”.

For storing sentimentals, it’s important to realize their purpose. Are they just sentimental, or do they still serve a practical function? If they can be both sentimental and functional, that’s wonderful! However, that doesn’t happen all the time so make sure if they are purely sentimental, they’re not in a way of your practical life, but get displayed or stored in their appropriate manner – with care.

Watch my video to have a better idea on separating sentimentals from the rest of your stuff.
The “can’t get rid of it” category

It might happen, that with some objects that you don’t want to re-buy, you’ll still feel like you want to keep them. You don’t like it, you don’t use it, it’s not sentimental. But there’s still something pulling you back from letting go.

Here we come to the realization, that decluttering is an emotional and mentally confronting process as well. For now, I am just going to tell you, that the most probable reason you keep this piece is GUILT. Try investigating a bit deeper into your reasoning and see if you can find that familiar feeling within.

I wish to keep this article short and on point. Hence I will end it right here, and invite you to read on guilt and self-confrontation in my next blog post coming out in two weeks’ time.

“I WAS TAUGHT TO KEEP STUFF”

A lot of us have been taught by our parents (and especially grandparents) to hold onto stuff because “you never know when you need it”. Their mindset is right…most members of the older generations (depending on the geography) have experienced much more scarcity in their lives than we can imagine.

The way of life was different back then:

1. the dangers of war or political turbulence were more present

2. goods were much more expensive and it took longer to acquire them

3. goods were of better quality and longer lasting

Those and other reasons resulted in people keeping a lot of (possibly) useful stuff. We need to realize, that there wasn’t too much stuff, to begin with. But that’s not the case nowadays.

And yet, though in different circumstances, we were brought up by the same mindset.

Goods are so easily, so cheaply available to us all the time (at least in the 1st world countries and also in a lot of the 2nd world with a bit of higher price) .. the paste of life is changing and with one-click orders from Amazon and “free” second purchases, we don’t even realize how much stuff we have around us.

Decluttering is part of living in a consumeristic society. If you have trouble decluttering because of those old sayings of your grandmother, have a look first whether you live the same life she did.

THE SPACE IN YOUR HEAD

If you truly want to create more space in life, it’s not only about tackling your surroundings. To support more holistic change in your life, you should address your inner environment as well.

My personal go to is a pen and paper..and that is also what I recommend to my clients, after we go through a long day of decluttering. What is coming up for you?

DO YOU NEED TO BUY MORE STUFF TO ORGANIZE?

The first question I receive as a professional organizer from my clients is usually “What organizers shall I buy?”

Isn’t that kind of counterproductive when trying to declutter? We’re aiming for less in here, for the more simple solutions so don’t get overwhelmed with all the fancy organizers out there! Don’t be financially concerned when wanting to organize, because it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money to put your house in order!

Instead of falling into yet another marketing trap of companies producing “smart organizing solutions”, start with what you have first!

Declutter first! See how much stuff you actually have. See how much storage you have. Only THEN you can start thinking whether you need something extra to buy.