If you’re like me, half term is over and the house is in utter chaos.
Not that long ago, everyone was Kon-Mari-ing their houses and folding socks into sushi rolls and checking if their frying pans sparked joy. I had to try it. My review of Marie Kondo’s book is below, and I gave it five stars, but that was before I tried it with the kids ….
Me: Can we throw out this broken Kinder egg toy?
Teenage DS (with just a hint of sarcasm): No. It sparks joy.
Me: What about this puzzle with a missing piece?
DS: No. I once did that puzzle when I was three. It brings back happy memories.
Me: What can I throw out?
DS: I don’t like this sock. (Waggles foot). It feels crunchy.
Me: Have you tried washing it?
For this type of challenge, you need a no-nonsense system. Less zen maybe, but something that works. I’m a big fan of Jules and her approach to decluttering. So I’ll hand over to her …
It’s Child’s Play: A Nervous Parent’s Ten-Point Guide to Decluttering Kids Bedrooms
Can’t put off decluttering your child’s bedroom any longer?
Daunted by the inevitable crying, door slamming and shrieks of “That’s so unfair!” – and that’s just from your partner?
Take heart! My ten-point guide takes you from start to finish – without breaking up your happy home or losing your mind in the process.
Point One: Kids Stuff Gets Old Quickly
Children outgrown stuff at warp speed.
Clothes they wore last year are now only fit for Teddy, while the toy they couldn’t live without six months ago lies forgotten under the bed.
It quickly adds up. So, you need to get clear of what is and isn’t relevant to their lives now.
Anything that isn’t is out of the door.
Point Two: One Room/Many functions
Children bedrooms are often mini “homes within a home”.
One, possibly small or shared, space may need to offer a sleeping area, a quiet place to study, room to play, storage for clothes, toys and books, and somewhere to entertain their friends.
It’s a big ask. Make it easier by checking if anything – sports equipment for example – be stored elsewhere.
Point Three: Involve Your Child
It may seem easier to “just do it yourself” – a bit like cleaning out the hamster cage.
But get your child onboard and you are more likely to see lasting results.
Older children especially won’t appreciate you sending their stuff to the charity shop.
Plus, you’ll be teaching them an important life skill.
Point Four: What’s Your Problem?
Understanding the problem is halfway to finding a solution. So get clear from the start.
Had your child moved on from their Barbie phase – but their room is still full of tiny pink outfits?
Is their bookshelf filled with books they’ve outgrown, while the latest Harry Potter sits on the floor?
Do school days get off to a grumpy start with a game of Hunt the Homework?
Point Five: What Are (Your Childs) Goals?
Emphasising what they will gain, rather than what you lose, can make a massive difference to attitude. What do they really want?
A peaceful place to curl up and read?
Hosting sleepovers without having to lie their brother trashed their room?
Or having the floor space to set up their Scalextric?
The aim is for a room filled with stuff that is in current use, that allows them to use the room how they wish.
Point Six: Pre-sort. Do This On Your Own!
Start by sorting all their stuff into “like-with-like” – books, clothes, Barbies, cars, lego, whatever. Don’t squander precious time or good humour doing this with your child.
If you and your child have already decided they have outgrown Stickle Bricks, My Little Pony or pony books (See Point Four) put these to one side to take to the charity shop. No need for further discussion!
Point Seven: It’s Decision Time! Do This With Your Child
Deciding what makes the “keep” pile can be an emotional minefield. Dodge meltdowns over whether Mr Potato Head stays or goes with a pre-agreed set of criteria.
Working one pre-sorted category (ie board games) at a time, ask:
- Have you played with/read/used it in the last six months?
- Does it fit?
- Is it in usable condition?
- Does it have sentimental value? (Panda, I’m looking at you)
- How much can you fit in the cupboard/on the shelf? Choose your favourites. (And no, they can’t all be your favourite.)
Point Eight: A Place For Everything…
You will now be left with things that your child plays with, wears or read, and it’s time to put it all away.
A place for everything and everything in its place might be Old Skool, but it’s got a lot of wear in it yet. So find a home for each category of stuff that you sorted and decluttered
Stuff should be stored at a child height. If they need a pogo stick to reach it, it will end up on the floor.
Point Nine: Containers And Labels
By now you are probably sick of the whole project. But if you can muster strength to store stuff in tubs or use dividers in drawers, this will really pay off.
It also creates a natural limit to how many little plastic gifts from Birthday Bags your child can keep without making you the bad guy.
For maximum benefit, stick on some big clear labels. Picture labels are good for young children, maybe they could draw their own?
Point Ten: Keep It Going!
Result! You and your offspring are beaming with pride at the state of the room, with your child convinced it was their idea all along.
But if you don’t want to be back to square one by Bonfire Night try these tips
Implement a daily “pick up”. Ten minutes with a timer – race each other – will keep things from unravelling
Put regular mini “declutter dates” in the diary, three or four times a year. If you do it regularly, it won’t be a massive chore.
And finally, parents – lead by example! It’s the only way.
Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo challenges everything we have been taught since childhood about tidying. She believes that “little and often” doesn’t work. Her method is simple: a thorough discarding must be done first, in a very particular order. Only then can you look at storage solutions.
Although she admits to be obsessive about tidying, her self-depreciating style and quirky anecdotes make this an easy and enjoyable read.
There are very few references to feng shui in the book, but an underlying influence is visible. Once finished, your wardrobe will have the dark colours on the left, and the lighter fabrics on the right. This is not negotiable under her method. She can even make your socks happy – apparently they don’t like being rolled up into balls – they like to relax in sushi style rolls.
Particularly helpful are her techniques for discarding items that we would normally struggle to part with – gifts for example. If you accept that the purpose of a gift was to be given, then under her approach it has fulfilled its purpose, so you can let it go without guilt.
Similarly, an unworn but beautiful pink sweater has served its purpose of teaching me that pink is not my colour, so I can let it go.
One criticism is that everything discarded is thrown out – an acknowledgement of recycling options would be more environmentally friendly.
This is the decluttering equivalent of a diet plan book. With over three million copies sold, and huge facebook fan groups, for many people (including me, apart from the rolled up socks) it clearly works.