Kids & their stuff, have you had enough?

This 5 step plan for success will lead to less stress for you and your kids.

Kids and clutter – they kind of go hand in hand. Like crackers & cheese or gin & tonic, two of my favourite things 😊 but kids and their stuff is not. It just seems to create stress, mess and not a lot of fun – which is ironic since they’re mostly toys.

We often start so well in our first nesting stage during the pregnancy: folding, sorting, organising, having checklists and then sleep and feed schedules but before long it feels so out of control.

They don’t sleep when they should, they seem to quadruple the chores even though they are so tiny. Friends and family drop in with gifts and meals, and before long we are overwhelmed with stuff and the frozen dinners have run out. And that’s just the first couple of weeks!

As parents, we want our kids to have what they need, and doesn’t the world love to bombard us with a never-ending list of requirements that we didn’t know existed yet alone that we “needed”?

It doesn’t take long and we feel that tiny person has taken over the space, and it only gets worse once THEY start bringing stuff in ( anyone else had to care some special sticks, stones or other treasures found at the park?:P)

We can’t stop all the clutter coming in, but we can take back control and also train our kids on how to manage their things – and we can start young (but don’t worry if your kids are older– they are still trainable!!)

So here are some of my tried and tested tricks to keep your kid clutter under control.

1. Time Out

It’s important to actually schedule in the time to declutter/ tidy/ clean. There is no magic fairy in the home (although sometimes I feel like my family still believes there is one), so we need to not pretend it will just get done. Be generous with your time allocation too, its better to have spare time than to be constantly running behind on your schedule.

Here are some practicals time tricks my family uses:

  • Each afternoon before I would serve dinner, I would play one of kids’ favourite songs and this was the signal to pack up the toys.
  • Designate a time for a brief family meeting to run through schedules, plan dinners and the like.
  • Diarise declutter time not just cleaning to-dos

2. Contain yourself!

Not really yourself, but your kids’ stuff. They need designated spaces that have limits. I’ll never forget my first DD job, the mum was complaining that they kids never put their bags away when they came home from school. They just dumped it, and the contents. I asked her where they should go, in an attempt to understand where the systems was flawed. She replied “I don’t know”, to which I replied “if you don’t than neither do the kids.” We can’t expect our kids to be able to read our minds and know where items should go, but even more so, we can’t expect our kids to know this behaviour or habit. This is something we need to teach them in. Some will be more natural to it for sure, and some may find it challenging especially if they struggle with ADHD.

This is why containing our kids’ stuff is essential. You have all heard the phrase ‘everything in its place’, it sounds simple but can actually be a challenge especially with kids’ stuff, which seems to be ever changing, ever moving, ever growing!

Creative containing ideas:

  • Kids ride on vehicles – given them a designated parking station – make it cool with masking tape and signs to entice them to use it.
  • Bag, hat and shoes – allocate a space near the front door (if possible) for the daily go to items – not 10 pairs of shoes each, just the ones worn mostly in the week.
  • If you need to store kids’ stuff in your living area (ie you don’t have a play room) make sure you like the look of the baskets etc. Your home is your space too and it doesn’t need to look like a preschool. My kids had a wicker basket for their toys and they all got thrown in by the end of the day, so when they went to bed I could enjoy my grown up space. I learnt quickly that over-organising (I believe it’s a thing – when we organise just for the sake of being pretty) is overkill when you have 3 kids under 5.

3. Limit the labels

I feel some mums go a little trigger happy with their Dymos or laminating machines. Labelling can be helpful, but it also can be a recipe for perfection paralysis so keep the categories broad and try not to be too pedantic with it all – they are kids…in training.

4. Make it Fun!

Kids have short attention spans and need lots of positive reinforcement so let’s make it fun.

  • use a timer and do short, specific spurts of decluttering/ organising eg ‘the trashbag tango’, have a couple of bags one for rubbish, one for donations and set the clock and see who can get the most in the bags in 5 minutes
  • pay them 10c for every pair of socks they can pair.
  • Make a fun production line to assemble the weeks sandwiches and lunch box fillers – working together on the weekend to make the weekday morning easier to manage.

5. Practise makes good enough (cause perfect doesn’t exist!)

I want you, the parent, to resist doing it all for your kids. This is important!

We can’t expect them to just know what to do. And they will never learn if we don’t allow them the chance to try. We want to create problem solvers not direction followers. So try this: instead of asking them have you your book, uniform, lunch, bus pass etc ask them questions like, “What do you need to be prepared for school today?” “What’s the 1st step to do that?” or “What’s the plan?” Get them to do some thinking. Help them to be future aware – to look beyond the right now. Train them to utilise those Executive Function skills which are essential for being organised.

This month Decluttering Diva is focusing on kids – we will be sharing daily hints, tips and lots of motivation over on our social media pages. Lots of inspiration to get your kids and their stuff organised for 2021. But it starts with us, the parents, to be challenging our thinking and allowing our kids to be involved and being patient in the process.

We need to #letgotogrow.

6 thoughts on “Kids & their stuff, have you had enough?

  1. Isn’t it just amazing how kids things multiply before our eyes? I also used a few happy cleanup songs that encouraged clean up. It worked!
    I do believe this routine creates good life-long habits. My kids are grown and they definitely live clutter free lives. They still pick up and put away.

  2. I agree with all of this advice. Of course, I love my label maker, but it can go too far. I talk with parents about this with, for example, Legos. If you have a child who is particular, and wants the bricks sorted by type and color, and will spend the time to organize them this way, then go for it. However, if you have a child who doesn’t care about that, then a big bin for Lego pieces is good enough. If you bring more order than the child needs, the odds are it will be Mom sitting on the floor, sorting Legos after the kids go to bed!

  3. You are so wise! I love that you mentioned communicating your expectations with the kids and family members. This eliminates the frustration of expecting them to do something, plus we as moms, feel not listened too as a result.

  4. Lots of great wisdom here. My favorite is creating a real parking lot for ride-on toys with tape (masking tape is great, but even painter’s tape or washi tape can work!) to delineate individual spaces. I admit I’m always a little floored with houses piled with toys. I had a lot, but I was never allowed to have more than one toy out at a time; if I wanted to switch to a different one, I had to put away the prior one. That was a rule long before I was 2, so there was never any big cleanup to do. I never quite get used to the deluge I see!

  5. I love all of your great tips to help busy moms to help their kids. One of the things that’s so important, as evident from all of your advice is that modeling and teaching our children organizational skills will help them in their lives. And also learning how to create systems that are simple and easily maintainable is essential. For instance, you mentioned about labeling and not going overboard. Good enough is more realistic, and will elicit more cooperation. Because when the bar is reachable, the kids will be more motivated to get there.

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