Several months ago, my first-born came to me all serious and eyebrows-a-furrow.
Firstborn: “Mom. My room feels small.”
Granted, her room IS small. We basically live in a glorified matchbox. But, I dug a little deeper.
Me: “What about it do you think makes it feel small?”
Firstborn: “There is too much stuff on the floor.”
Y'all! Kids. Are. Stuff. MAGNETS! Can I get a witness?!?!?!
Back in Ye-Olden (aka Pre-Covid) Days, I could send my daughter to school for a week, and by Saturday her room was so full of cheap craft/office/party supplies that I could open my own Dollar General.
And y'all know I hate stuff on the floor. But I also don't want to pass along my neurosis to my offspring. So, I let my creative collector kid do her thing. As long as she has cleaned it up before her designated educational TV time (I am that mom), and I can vacuum with relative ease (it's shoved against he wall), I ignored the clutter.
That is, until the aforementioned glorious day SHE decided that SHE wanted her floor back.
IT WAS HER IDEA!!!!!
This is without a doubt the best case scenario.
Helping your kids clear the clutter works best if it is their idea. But what if they are not there yet? I got you covered!
How To Trick Your Kid Into Thinking
Getting Organized Was Their Idea
1. You Go First.
I know, I know. I say this ALL THE TIME. But if you set the example, your little people who secretly want to be like you will usually follow suit. I have seen it happen with nearly every single one of my clients' kiddos.
2. Watch “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” Together.
Specifically Episode 3: The Downsizers. The kids featured in this episode are older, and you know how the little kids want to be like the big kids!
3. Start 'Em Young.
Your kids crave one-on-one time with you. When my firstborn was little, I started spending time with her while we organized her room. She quickly learned that a guaranteed way to get lots o' quality time with mommy is by asking, “Can you help me reorganize my craft supplies?” 30 seconds later, I'm there with a trash can, a smile and the patience of Job. She thinks she's tricked me into spending time with her, but I know who tricked who.
How To Do The Actual Organizing
1. Start With The End In Mind.
Ask your offspring questions. What do they want their room to look like when they are done? With my girl it was simple:
A. Clear the Floor.
-Of everything except furniture and her trash can, that is.
B. Have All of Her Books Out on Her Shelf.
-As opposed to storing half of them on her bookshelf and half of
them in her closet for our highly anticipated quarterly-ish book
swap. This is when we trade the books in her room for the books
stored in her closet.
Pro Parenting Tip: A great way to simultaneously limit the amount of stuff in your kiddos room AND keep them engaged in their books and toys is to only have 50% out at at time. Store the other half in a way that is inaccessible to your offspring. For us, that is bins on the top shelf of their closet. Do the same thing with toys. Every quarter or so, have a book/toy swap. Let your kiddos trade books and toys from their rooms for those in storage. It's a great chance to discard things they have outgrown while simultaneously allowing them access to a whole “new” set of books and toys.
2. Clear The Room.
Take EVERYTHING out.
We emptied her room of all non-furniture/framed-and-hung items. We put it all in the living room. The only exception was clothes. We had recently gone through them, and it wasn't worth it.
Pro Parenting Tip: Going through clothes is A LOT. You don't want to wear your kid out before y'all even get started. Do this on a different day, or in the case of my secondborn, over the course of several days. You know your kid's stamina for this sort of thing.
3. Sort By Category.
Most kids have 3 non-clothing categories:
1. Books. 2. Papers. -This includes all of their school papers, birthday cards, and art. 3. Toys. -I include their sports and hobby stuff in this.
4. Set Boundaries.
Your kids need good boundaries, and so does their stuff. Here are some examples:
-Your books have to fit on this shelf. -Your memorabilia has to fit inside this box. -Your stuffies have to fit in these three drawers.
(My big girl LOVES her stuffies!)
Working by category, have them decide who stays and who goes. This is where the boundaries are your best friends. If it doesn't fit, something has to go. In the trash. In the recycling. To a thrift store.
Pro Parenting Tip: Beware of what you allow to be handed down to younger siblings. This is your chance to get that thing out of your house for good! Don't miss your opportunity!!!
You want THEM NOT YOU to be the ones to put their stuff away.
Keep. It. Simple.
Most kids don't care about sorting into subcategories. Resist the temptation and harken back to the days of the toy box if needed.
Go for broad categories and ease of cleanup. For example:
-Here is the bin where ALL the stuffed animals go. -Here is the drawer where ALL the dress-up clothes go. -Here is the box where ALL of the Lego's go.
If you kid wants to further sub-divide, more power to them.
Don't be afraid your kid will part with something and later regret it.
I guarantee it's gonna happen. This is an inevitable part of the tidy life.
Thankfully, there is a magical place on the interwebs called “eBay” where you can procure all of the things.
For example, when my firstborn chose to let go of a stuffed purple elephant originally purchased at Kohl's, she still regretted it years later. So I bought her a used one on eBay.
It was in perfect condition. She was over the moon. And I have maintained my status of:
Best. Mom. Ever.
Lilac Purple Returns