Three steps to tidy kids

Again and again you hear, “My kids are so untidy! I’m neat and tidy, and I want to be a minimalist, but I have kids!”

Teaching kids good habits starts when, well, when they’re kids. I’ve never met a clutterbug adult who wasn’t a clutterbug kid. Or a slob adult who wasn’t a slob kid.

In my case, I grew up in a family that practically worshipped consumerism. Add that to the fact that my mother spent her whole life cleaning up after me (she made my bed for me well in to my twenties, I’m ashamed to say), and it took me a lot of work to learn how to be neat.

I’m still learning!

Teaching your kids neatness is a three step process:

Step 1: Edit their belongings.
Step 2: Capsule their belongings.
Step 3: Teach them to edit their own belongings.

Step 1: Edit their belongings.

Kids generate clutter. Everything from McToys to kid art, junk just seems to accumulate wherever there are children around.

It needs editing, and most of it can find a permanent home quickly – in the rubbish bin!

Kid clutter comes in four main categories:
1. Toys and games
2. Art and old schoolwork
3. Clothing
4. Plain ole rubbish.

Toys and games

McToys are a simple one – bin them! Sometimes we’ll keep a McToy for a day or two, but then out it goes. My kids never miss it.

My rules: If a toy (any toy) hasn’t been played with for six months, out it goes.
McToys (includes giveaways, birthday gifts and disposables) are fair game from the moment they are given.
Don’t be afraid to re-gift or onsell.

Child art

Child art goes on the fridge, and is rotated. Art projects have a short, one-month deadline before they’re binned. If you want, take a photograph and send to loving relatives. But remember that the most important thing isn’t the end result, it’s the process, and the learning your child does along the way.

My rule: if it isn’t good enough to frame, put behind glass and hang on the wall, it needs to go in the bin after a brief “approval period”.

Child clothing

Likewise, child wardrobes needs regular editing. We edit ours every season, when I do mine. Don’t expect a child under the age of 18 to do this alone – they need help and support, and often a ruthless hand and eye.

My rules: No child needs more than four pairs of shoes and six t-shirts.
No child needs outgrown clothes, or damaged clothes.
No child needs clothes they never wear (for whatever reason).

Plain ole rubbish

You know where this goes!

Ensure your child has a rubbish bin in their bedroom, and they use and empty it regularly.

We have a no eating or drinking in the bedrooms policy for our kids. It works wonders in keeping bedrooms free of rubbish.

Step 2: Capsule their belongings.

Ensure everything has a place, and your child learns the correct place for their belongings.

This is called capsuling.

Plastic crates and tubs are ideal for toys and games.

Clothing belongs in drawers and hanging in wardrobes (if your child has problems reaching their hangers, you can buy lower racks for wardrobes like these, or an adjustable portable clothing rack). Not on the floor.
If your child leaves an item on the floor, remove it and charge dollars (or chores!) for its return.

Shoes – and nothing else – belong on wardrobe floors.

If counters become cluttered, remove the items and charge the child for the items return. Or simply bin the items. Be ruthless!

Step 3: Teach them to edit their own belongings.

Teach your child how to dispose of their belongings that are no longer needed.

Children under the age of 10 are usually unable to dispose of their own belongings, but as they get older, they become quite good at this.

Sell old items and give your child the proceeds. They’ll soon learn to love selling items they no longer need! My son made a lot of money selling his old lego, and my daughter made plenty from her old dollhouse. Now she wants to sell her outgrown dolls pram! 🙂

Children often also love passing old items on to charity. Teaching children how to be generous is no bad thing, I think 🙂

The key to success…

The keys to success are:
Declutter with your child
Declutter regularly
Be ruthless with art, McToys and gifts
A place for everything, and everything in its place.

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