Kids grow and change so fast, and you can see that in the clutter they create. Although they may seem not to notice, a well-ordered space is as important for them as it is for us grown-ups. Decluttering their room isn’t just for us moms, it gives them a private space without chaos and confusion.
If you’re wondering how to declutter your kid’s stuff, it’s not that different than decluttering your own. But … it’s not a good idea to do it without them. That doesn’t mean they make all the decisions, but it’s important for them to have a say. Follow the easy action steps and recommendations below.
No matter how crazy cluttered a kid’s room may be, you’ll use the same basic steps you use to declutter your home in other areas.
1. Take 5 minutes.
Before you start a major decluttering project, take a few minutes to think about all the ways the room needs to function now and in the near future. Sleep, dressing, play, reading, homework … ?
Kids’ rooms are always changing because kids are always growing and changing themselves. What wasn’t clutter 6 months ago may very well fall into that category today.
- What is currently working well in this room?
- What isn’t working so well?
- What interests is your child growing toward and growing away from?
- How can you involve them in the process?
2. Pick a target.
You need to start somewhere, but don’t let this decision become harder than it has to be. Then once you begin, just work your way around the room, completing one small section after another.
Need an idea? Here’s one way plan your tasks.
- Declutter the bed
- Then move to flat surfaces like nightstands, dresser tops and shelves.
- Go through drawers and storage boxes
- Clear clutter from the floor, including spaces under the bed and other furniture.
- Clear clutter from the walls and back of doors
- Declutter the closet.
3. Gather your supplies.
You probably already have most if not everything you need for this job.
- Trash bags for items to be thrown away. But they’re also good for transporting bulky, lightweight items like stuffed animals, sleeping bags, or blankets and pillows. Consider extra large trash bags for these bigger items.
- Ziploc bags or plastic food containers for small items.
- Cardboard boxes to sort, hold and transport decluttered items.
- Post-It Notes and a bold marker will come in handy many ways.
- Cleaning supplies to wipe down shelves, drawers and other spaces after you empty them.
- Vacuum cleaner if you’re decluttering the floor.
4. Empty and sort.
Now you’re getting down to the heart of decluttering. You know what area you want to work on and you have all your supplies at hand.
Empty all the items from your current target area.
Doing this has several advantages. It’s easier for you to see what all was hiding in a space. It gives you a chance to give the area a quick clean. And it helps you to make better decisions.
Sort the items into the following categories:
- Toss in the trash, garbage, or recycling
- Donate or give to an organization or person
- Relocate somewhere else in your house
- Keep in their room
5. Replace, remove and relocate.
Congratulations, you’re making real progress. But keep at it for this last step before calling it a day.
- Replace all the Keep items back neatly.
- Remove all the decluttered items from the room as soon as possible.
- Relocate all the decluttered items to their new destinations, whether that’s the trash can, a charity, or another room in your home. If you can relocate them all to where they’re going right away, all the better. But if not, create an area away from your living space to store them temporarily.
Questions to Ask
Decluttering a kid’s room requires a lot of decisions, and many of them will take some thought. You’re also going to experience some mom emotions. So let’s make this all a little bit easier with a checklist to help you out.
Here are questions to get you to the best decision as quickly as possible.
- Do they use it regularly?
Regularly doesn’t necessarily mean every day or even every week. But if you can say that something is used not often or not at all, reconsider whether it should be taking up limited bedroom space.
- Does it fit/look good/feel good?
Just like with grown-ups, fitting well is one thing. Feeling and looking good in a piece of clothing is another. Short of letting your child pick their entire wardrobe (depending on age, of course), have them try things on for fit and comfort.
- Can or will a sibling use it? Not trying to prevent you from getting things out of your house here! If an item still has a useful life in your family, consider keeping it. But make sure you’re not just finding a loophole to keep clutter.
- Does my child want to keep this, or do I? Umm, I have some of these in my basement right now. I get it. But don’t make it a habit.
- Should it be somewhere else in the house? Sports equipment, games, books, outerwear, electronics, craft supplies … so many things migrate to a kid’s room that just need to be returned to where they belong.
- Is it on the outs with your child? That game or action figure or book that you couldn’t unglue them from before is now being replaced by a new best thing ever. There’s not room for everything, so start to phase out past favorites.
- How many similar items are there? Excess, even when the items are in good condition and usable, is still clutter.
Items to Declutter
Kid’s definitely have their own brand of clutter. It’s fascinating to watch what is important to them and what they want to hold on to. It’s also the perfect time to model decluttering so hopefully they can avoid the consequences of clutter as they grow.
Depending on your child’s age, this category could be anything from blocks to board games to remote control cars. So. many. toys. One of my favorite types of toy to declutter has always been “prize” toys … like what you get with a Happy Meal or in a birthday party goodie bag. They really add up over time. I’ve also rescued a few favorite toys over the years that are now in keepsake storage, But there’s only so much bedroom space, so that creates a natural limit to work within. If you have too many toys for your space, help your child learn to prioritize what gets to stay.
My family loves books. You’ve probably received many of them as gifts for your child. And because well-loved books hold so many memories, they become keepsakes. And later on young readers collect volumes as they work their way through a favorite series. They can have a strong emotional attachment, and for some people getting rid of books is unthinkable. I suggest letting go of books that have been outgrown and make room for new reading adventures, except for a small number of truly special volumes that you may want to save. But very few books in themselves are not easily replaceable these days.
Some kids are just born collectors. And these collections change and overlap through the years. I don’t think we’ve ever been able to diplay everything at once and it hasn’t always been a snap to decide what to leave out. Given a limited amount of space, again it comes down to priority. Maybe that looks like using the space to show items from just one collection. Maybe it looks like a selected assortment of items to represent multiple collections.
- CLOTHES & SHOES
Just like with adults, decluttering kids’ clothes and shoes is about what they need, what they wear, and what fits/feels/looks good. What types of outfits does your child need based on your family’s lifestyle and schedule? And how many of each type of clothing is enough? Don’t keep every item just because they could wear it. Also, get their input on what items they like and show them that’s important to you.
- SCHOOL SUPPLIES
If your child does schoolwork in their room, it creates a unique category of clutter. So do projects and assignments that end up there. Keep the amount of supplies limited to what they use plus some backup. An excess of pens, notebooks, and Post-It Notes is still clutter. As for assignments and projects discuss a plan for how to store them. One space saving idea is to take photos of projects, or have your child show and tell about it on video, but not keep the originals.
Are your child’s electronics taking up more than their fair share of space? It’s not just the devices themselves, but also the cords, cables, earphones, controllers, and other peripheral items that can clutter up a space. Go through all the pieces and parts, label if necessary, and decide what really needs to stay.
Decor is important to make a kid’s space feel warm, inviting, and their own. But it can also work against this when there’s too much or its not suitable for the room. Take a good look at the things we can easily become clutter blind to, like curtains, blankets, pillows, lighting, wall art, knick knacks, even furniture, Are there too many? Are they in good condition? Does your child like them?
Tips for Success
- Have a donation plan before you start. Maybe you’ll donate all toys to one charity and all clothes to another, etc.. Keep things simple.
- Get your kids involved. If your child is old enough to understand, talk to them as you go through the decluttering process. If they’re old enough to help, give them small tasks to perform and let them make some decisions. The older they get, have them practice the steps of decluttering themselves.
- Set limits and let them choose. Limit items to a space or number. Then let your child help determine what items will make the cut.
- Clean as you go. As you empty out spaces during decluttering, take the opportunity to clean and freshen them.
- Separate by destination as much as possible as you sort. So whether you deliver then the same day or need to store them temporarily, they’re ready to go.
Kids’ rooms present their own unique challenges when you’re clearing the clutter. Yet the basic 5 decluttering steps are still all you need. It’s a great opportunity to train your child how to declutter themselves, as they watch you and you involve them in the process.