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From chaos to calm: Decluttering kids spaces

It was hard enough to keep your home tidy and organized before 2020. Now that we’re working at home and kids are doing their classes online, there’s a lot more stuff to keep track of. The likelihood of the dog eating their homework or some other mishap has become more likely. So, when you’re ready to shift from chaos to calm, here are tips for decluttering kids spaces.

It’s a team effort. You can certainly tear into your child’s bedroom or study space with the intensity of a cyclone but that’s a short-term strategy. You’re simply moving things around and not impacting the behavior that caused the clutter.

Bring your kids into the space you need to clean. Explain your goals for organizing:

  • “It will be easier to find what you need and, conversely, you won’t lose stuff.”
  • “You won’t spend so much time redoing the homework you lost.”
  • “Your things won’t get ruined.”
  • “You’ll earn: (a) your allowance; (b) that thing you’ve been wanting; (c) my undying gratitude; (d) all of the above.”

When you involve your children in a clean-up that directly affects them, they’ll take ownership. They’ll also feel respected that they have a say in their living space.

Start with a walk-through. Every room has a function, and within that room, each nook has a function. Before you decide what stays, goes, or moves, let your child give you a tour and explain how they use the items and area. In this way, you understand their thinking and can shape the solution around their needs. 

For example, “I put all my binders here so I don’t have to get up to get them.” That’s understandable. So, to get rid of the unsightly stack, give your child a small chest or bookcase where they can stash books and binders. Apply labels to identify what goes where so they can keep to a system.

Give discards an interim stop. As soon as you earmark certain things to be thrown out, you’re going to hear complaints. What is trash to you could be treasure to your child. Give them a box labeled “HOLD”, in addition to those marked “DONATE”, “DISCARD”, and “KEEP”. Think of the HOLD box as limbo. It can be difficult for a child to get rid of something that still feels like it has value. While there are certainly disposable things, let your kids put those “I’m not sure” belongings into the HOLD box. Set it aside, away from their room, for a certain period of time—two weeks is good. If they haven’t experienced a burning need for whatever they placed in there, move it along to “DONATE” or “DISCARD”, depending on its potential use.

Give each thing a home. Personal organizing coach Maeve Richmond explains that, “Kids have a natural ability to personify things. So, I say things like, ‘Do you want this item to live with you?’ or ‘Where should we give this a home?’ when organizing with them.

Maeve says that instructing a child to “put that away” can come across negatively. “Instead, try ‘Can we put that where it lives?’” This simple change in language turns organizing from a chore to a thoughtful activity.

Establish goals and a timeline. Organizing your home can seem like a tedious chore with no end, which leads to procrastination. Create finite boundaries by making a checklist of the tasks and your expectations of when they should be done. Don’t expect your child to spend more than an hour cleaning their room. They’ll inevitably succumb to distraction. Give them the task of “Clean out your closet”, which is separate from “Separate your clothes into ‘Keep’ and ‘Donate’ piles.” This approach to task-making breaks it down to digestible activities.Tell your child how much time is being allotted, after which you take over and make the decisions for them (let’s call that “incentive”).

Make them squeamish. Does your child have dust bunnies floating around their bedroom or study area? These little fluff balls may seem innocent enough and not worth vacuuming or sweeping. Educate them about what a dust bunny is: skin cells, dead insects, dust mites, mold spores, and hair. Tell them that just one gram of these clumps can contain as many as 200 dust mites. Not so harmless any more, is it?

It’s hard enough for an adult to purge their possessions. It can be even tougher for a child. Be patient. Offer assistance and clarification. And do your best to remain patient.

If there’s simply too much clutter for you to handle, maybe you’ve outgrown your current home. This year has inspired a rush of people to buy a new home for that very reason. Kettler Forlines Homes build new construction homes that fit today’s active family lifestyle. We include features that make your home easier to manage, like more storage spaces, smart home automation, and our award-winning indoor air quality and energy efficiency standards. Take a look at our homes and contact us to turn chaos into calm home life.