Seven Tips for Decluttering with Your Clutterbug

Written by NPN Guest on January 13th, 2015

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Carnival of Natural Parenting, Consensual Living, Natural Learning, Parenting Philosophies

Welcome to the January 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Household Chores

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and tricks on tackling household chores. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Seven Tips for Decluttering

Why seven tips? Because I like lists and random numbers. This is both. Hashtag: NAILED IT.

Even kids raised in minimalist households can often have trouble separating from possessions. The connection to possessions can be deep and complicated in adults, so it’s hard not to wonder if your packrat six year old is forming the neural pathways to one day be featured on an episode of Hoarders 2045.

An even more immediate concern is the impact that stuff has on your household already. More items often means more tidying up. It means more organization to find places for all those things. It means valued items often get misplaced or visually lost in the sea of toys. And have you ever tried to sneak out of a child’s room after they’ve finally dozed off when the floor is a maze of books and stuffed animals knowing that the path is a LEGO minefield?

I’m not a minimalist. I have stuff. I have a thing for coffee mugs with funny sayings. And my kids’ art work. And books. And craft supplies. But I am a declutterer. I’m a give-away-er. If I own it, you can probably just have it if you asked nicely enough. I’ve given away things we were still using because we weren’t using it that often. But my kids? My daughter had a collection of burned out lightbulbs for years, and I believe that fact alone qualifies me to write this article.

And with that, here are my tips to help your clutterbug clear their space.

First, the approach:

1. Don’t force.

Unless you really want reality show fame on Hoarders in 30 years, don’t force. Remember that your child’s connection to their items is real and it’s theirs. Throwing things away when they aren’t looking or telling them they cannot come out of their room until they’ve filled a bag with toys to donate will only cause the opposite reaction. They will become more guarded and less likely to voluntarily part with their items.

2. Stick to statements of fact rather than value.

You may think, and I agree, that the desk looks better when the items are put away. But my daughter likes her things out and likes how they look. So her three picture frames, box set of Beverly Cleary books, and desk organizer filled with pens and pencils sit on her desk. However, when the paper clutter creeps in, I say, “You have so much on your desk you cannot use it.” And then she clears it off. But her three picture frames, Beverly Cleary books, and desk organizer remain. And that’s ok because this is her space.

3. Allow for the retention of possessions, even if they are generally unused, provided there is a place for them.

Decluttering involves both removing the clutter from your home and removing the clutter from surfaces, floors, and other places they do not belong. Have your child stop and pause for a second when you catch him moving something from floor to desk to dresser to floor and consider where that item should “live.”

And now for the practical tips:

4. Find a home for everything.

Perhaps I should label this 3b, because it is regarding the home for your child’s items. This home? It doesn’t need to be a mansion. A basket for blocks. A corner net for stuffed animals. A round tin for pens. When items no longer fit their home, your child will have to make some decisions. Does she find a larger home? Where does that larger bin go? Does she part with some of the older items to make room for the new ones? Whatever happens, make this your child’s job. Just as I recommend you don’t toss their stuff away against their will, I also don’t recommend you provide them the space to keep everything.

5. Keep the organization simple.

While I think organizing LEGO bricks according to shape, size, and color is a brilliant idea, that’s impossible for my children to maintain. Years ago, a friend of mine was having trouble getting her son to pick up. She realized that the organizational bins had made it simply too much work. So she set up a bin for soft toys, a bin for hard toys, and a bin for building blocks. Sure, plastic and wood mingled like I imagine the organizational armageddon to look like, but he could maintain it.

6. Declutter as you go.

Think about it–is it easier to donate $1 in a single day or $365 once a year? It’s an easier mindblock for a clutterbug to overcome when he’s only being asked to let go of two shirts rather than five. It’s easier to pass down a single doll than a bin full.

7. Break it into smaller tasks.

Avoid it being overwhelming or time intensive for your child. You want this to be as positive and relatively easy as you can make it, especially if your child already has a hard time letting go of possessions. Don’t make it “let’s declutter your bedroom.” Make it the desk. Or even the drawer. Make it just dolls. Or just stuffed animals.


And what of the collection of burned out lightbulbs? After three or four years, my daughter finally threw them away. When she told me she couldn’t believe she collected lightbulbs, I responded that people collect all sorts of things. Her reply? “Mom, burned out lightbulbs? Seriously?” I knew she’d come around. Now, about that plastic bead collection . . .


Charlie, one of the amazingly awesome authors at Three Blind Wives, is an east coast transplant blooming where she is planted in Kansas City with her husband, five children, and all of their stuff. Her current favorite mug says “#muglife” on it. Charlie’s proudest achievement in the world of decluttering is that you can open her craft closet without risk of avalanche. Probably.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Seven Tips for Decluttering with Your Clutterbug — Do you have a child with hoarder tendencies? Help them declutter before the Legos and stuffed animals take over your home. Charlie of Three Blind Wives, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, offers some expert advice.
  • Chores, Chores, ChoresLife Breath Present talks about how her family divides chores, and how Baby Boy joins in to keep their home clean and running smoothly.
  • Of Toddlers & Housework — Holly at Leaves of Lavender talks about some of the ways she lets her not-quite-3-year-old son help out around the house.
  • Whistling While We Work: On Kids and Chores — Dionna at Code Name: Mama realized recently that she often feel resentful when she carries more than her share of the household load. And so several weeks ago, she brought a laundry basket upstairs and had the kids start folding. Thus began a regular series of household responsibilities for her kids.
  • The 4-Day Laundry Plan — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook doesn’t machine-dry all of her cloth diapers, but she stays sane while also working full-time outside the home. She’s sharing her tips!
  • Chores Don’t Have To Be Drudgery — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she gets the whole family motivated in the daily care and maintenance of maintaining a home. After all, chores do not have to be drudgery.
  • Morning Chores and Weekly Chores — Kellie at Our Mindful Life can get anything done, so long as she gets her morning chores – and her weekly chores – done!
  • A place for everything and everything in its place — Make it easy to tidy up by having just enough stuff for the space you have. Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about this goal in her own home and gives tips on how to achieve it in yours.
  • Cleaning With Essential Oils — What essential oils could add a boost to your cleaning routine? That Mama Gretchen has a round up of what you might like to consider!
  • Montessori-Inspired Sweeping Activities — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how her children helped keep their house clean and shares ideas for Montessori-inspired sweeping activities.
  • 9 Natural Cleaning Recipes for New Mamas — Dionna of Code Name: Mama, guest posting at Mama & Baby Love, shares recipes for safer, natural homemade cleaners that parents can make with ingredients they trust. Leave a comment on the post for a chance to win a copy of Homemade Cleaners – a book packed with tons of natural cleaner recipes!

Photo Credits

Modified with permission from Nana B Agyei via Flickr Creative Commons

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