My year of less is more: 10 tips for getting your kids de-cluttering

I had a query from a reader who wanted to know how to get teenage kids on board with the whole de-cluttering process.  The question came because the book I recommended does have a chapter on this but doesn't really address the issue of older kids very satisfactorily.

I'm far from a guru on this but here are some of my thoughts (and I would love any of your own experiences on getting your kids on board).

1. Think about why YOU want to do it.  Consider and reflect on your motivations.  For me, I believe that we can live with less and I'd like my kids to learn to be thankful for what we do have, rather than hankering for what we don't have.

2. A lot of what we do in parenting is driven by this set of values that we want to pass onto our kids.  This is one of those opportunities to teach your kids something that's important to you.

3.  Admit your own weaknesses but explain what you're aiming to do.  Try and highlight the positives (eg. you'll have more space, less tidying up to do, find your clothes more easily).  Start with your own stuff so you have concrete examples to show your kids of what you're doing.

4.  Give them small tasks to start with if they're reluctant.  Eg.  Find 10 things you'd be happy to give away.  Often they discover that they in fact have a lot MORE they'd like to give away and then they're off.

5.  Help them make decisions about their belongings by helping them think through the love or need principle.  One of my kids starts crying if I send them off to tidy up their room so I sit with her and we pile all her stuff that needs sorting in the middle of the room and we work through it together.  By showing her how she can break down her mess into categories (eg.  let's give that away because it's too small, or put that in the toy cupboard, or throw that out, it's broken) it doesn't feel as daunting.

6.  Make a big fuss when they have a clean space and help them recognise the enjoyment that space can give them.  I find that my kids are much happier to play in their rooms if they are tidy because it's not a space they're stressed by anymore.

7.  Respect their decisions but push them a bit on it.  Eg.  'I want to keep all my paintings Mum'.  'Well, we don't really have a good space for all of them so why don't you choose your favourite three and find a space on the wall for them'.

8.  Try not to create new spaces for clutter.  Sometimes by not creating a space for particular items, they just shrug and go, 'oh well there's nowhere to put it so I'll put it in the recycling'.  Sometimes things need a resting time until the love leaves the item and a few weeks later they're not so attached to it.

9.  Motivate them to de-clutter by NOT buying them more furniture.  My kids have always been limited to a couple of drawers each for their clothes because that's all the room we have for furniture and it forces them to de-clutter regularly.  They can't actually fit their clothes in otherwise.

10.  Aim to do a tidy-up every couple of weeks (or weekly but I'm not that organised) and give them a plastic bag to fill up with rubbish.  They don't have to throw out lots but by doing it regularly it becomes normal and encourage them to keep asking those questions of their possessions (Do you need it for something?  If you really love it then where are you going to put it?).

I'd be interested to hear your experiences and ideas!


Collect items for newly settled refugee families. Put in things yourself as well as collect from other families. Model generosity and contentment and they will get on board
Anonymous said…
No. 5 always worked for me as a child. And i still do it today. One way of doing it that is not good is putting everything lying around in a basket. better to space it out on the floor where I can see which things belong in the same room. The basket tends to overwhelm me as I can't see what's underneath the top layer so it usually ends up as a new piece of clutter.
SandyJ said…
I think it's easier to get rid of stuff if you can give it to someone who will use/appreciate it. I feel guilty about adding to landfill if something could still be used. What do you do about stuff that doesn't need to go in the bin but you can't think of anyone to give it to? Especially if the quality is not that great anymore...
As far as cleaning up goes instead of saying clean up your bedroom, I say pick up 15 things...and if you have enough kids in one room then that pretty much tidies it. 15 items seems more doable than a whole room...

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