The Kids Are Alright

If you have children, you know that they come with a lot of stuff. Baby equipment alone can make your home feel like it's bursting at the seams, and most kid's rooms are overflowing with clutter of every conceivable kind. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be this way.

Here's an anecdote from my own life: My daughter hated (still hates!) cleaning up her room. It got so bad one year that I finally broke - I removed every single thing from her room except her furniture and her clothing. Every. Single. Thing. I told her that she could get her stuff back 10 items at a time if she could keep it under control, i.e., not strewn all over the floor. What happened? She never asked for it. Sure, her room started to collect stuff, and a few favorites made it back in, but the vast majority of that stuff sat in grocery bags in the basement for years, until I finally threw it away.

The takeaway for me? Kids don't really want or need all the stuff they own. They may have favorite toys or books or decorations, but most of that is either given to them by well-meaning friends and relatives, or represents a fleeting desire that fades almost as soon as the item enters the house. Kids also have a hard time managing their clutter. Asking a nine-year-old to clean her room may seem like a simple proposition to you, but with upwards of 1000 items in most of their rooms, it's not surprising that keeping it tidy is overwhelming.

I've worked with children on decluttering, and you might be surprised at how easily they let go of things. Like adults, they like to tell the stories associated with their things. Then they are often happy to say goodbye to them. As with so many things, of course, this is a much easier process if the children involved are not related to you. Left to their own devices, most children have trouble focusing on a decluttering project, and become quickly overwhelmed and/or sidetracked. 

I really recommend incorporating clutter-clearing into your child's weekly habits. When I make chore lists for my kids, they almost always include getting rid of a specific number of things, anywhere from 2 to 10. By making this a normal, incremental practice, you may find that there are fewer drawn-out battles about getting rid of things. Critical evaluation of your stuff is a habit. Do your kids a favor and start 'em young. And call me if you need help clearing the decks without tears.