Decluttering Kids’ Spaces Q+A
by Kate Saffle
A year ago
If you’ve been following along with the Simplicity Parenting series, then you know that we’ve spent the last several weeks focusing on physically decluttering the home (and especially kids’ rooms) as well as creating the values and vision to support those changes. Values and simplification work hand in hand to help you create lasting change in your home. What does this actually look like in real life? How do you handle tricky situations like in-laws or sentimental children who hang on to everything? Read on below for answers to some of the most common questions we received recently on implementing Simplicity Parenting at home!
Q | How do you deal with toys gifted from grandparents and friends?
A | This is one of the most common questions I receive, and so if you are struggling to set boundaries with gift giving, know that you’re not alone! There are two ways I recommend handling gifts:
- If you feel comfortable and are on good terms with the gift givers, share with family and friends your child’s needs and desires for gifts. Some people really enjoy creating and sharing a list, but I think these conversations are often better received when communicated verbally. You might also consider putting on party invitations that no gifts are needed as their presence is the gift. If you’re trying to avoid physical gifts, request experience type gifts such as zoo and museum memberships, a special outing with grandma, movie tickets, etc.
- If it isn’t possible to make your child’s needs and desires known, I recommend gratefully accepting the gift and then doing one of the following:
- Let your child play with the gift until they lose interest and then donate it
- If it’s from an over-gifting relative, set an expectation that those toys will live at their house instead, so your child can enjoy them while visiting. In that case, everyone wins: grandma gets to keep giving gifts, and you don’t have to keep them at your house!
If someone is not respecting your wishes when it comes to gift-giving, it may be time for a heart to heart and some boundary setting. Gift giving is so personal and also a love language for some; perhaps your over-gifting friend or family member is unaware that their generosity is over the top. However, I generally recommend gratitude and proactively setting boundaries as a surefire way to handle receiving gifts with ease and kindness.
Q | My child is so sentimental and wants to save every “treasure” including little scraps of paper, trinkets, and other things I would consider garbage. How do I deal with this when decluttering his room?
A | As a mama to a sensitive, collecting child, I can completely relate! For these children, they experience and attach to the world through physical items. The treasures that they find and collect remind them of special memories and also create a sense of order or control. The key here is to satisfy their need for collecting without having a house full of store stickers and gravel rocks. Here’s what I suggest:
- Give your child a “special” container with a lid. It doesn’t have to be large, but something that can easily stow on a closet shelf or under the bed. Explain that the box can hold whatever your child likes, but once it’s full, it’s full. The box acts as a physical boundary, stopping the inflow of “treasures.” You no longer are the bad guy, but rather are allowing the limitations of the box to set the expectation for how much can be collected. Once it’s full, your child will naturally have to go through the box and decide what to get rid of to make room for new treasures. This also gives your child a sense of control and ownership.
- You may also want to consider offering to take photos of special items that will then be decluttered. For my daughter, we spent an evening saying good-bye to old treasures and photographing them. She no longer even remembers them, but the act of commemorating these former treasures was enough to provide closure and much needed space in her room.
Even if it’s hard for you to understand WHY your child clings to what most people would consider junk, try to see it through their perspective and work as a team to find the right solution.
Q | Should I include my kids in the decluttering process?
Yes and no. Ultimately this one depends on your child, their maturity level, and their receptiveness to decluttering. A toddler probably won’t notice the items you decluttered, but a preschooler most likely will. An elementary aged child will possibly be upset if you declutter her room without permission. I want to encourage you to be respectful of your child’s space and figure out, based on the key points I mentioned above, whether or not they should join you in the decluttering session.
If you do decide to include your kiddos, remember to keep it fun and take it slow. Children have a heightened awareness of change; trying to clear out everything in an afternoon may be too much. You may also consider checking-in with your child to see if they prefer you take care of it. Many children are overwhelmed with the messiness of their bedroom, but don’t have the skills to take care of it themselves. Ultimately, you know best your child’s temperament and needs, and the end goal of a clean and simple kid’s room is worth it!
What questions do you have about decluttering kids’ spaces and simplifying the home? Let us know in the comments below!