You’re reading this because you already get that decluttering is so important. I really think kids need to learn how to declutter for themselves. You are not doing your child any favors by keeping all their stuff. I think parents doing sneak-attacks of decluttering backfires and causes some kids to latch on even harder to their stuff.
Certainly, you need to declutter for your babies and toddlers. As kids approach kindergarten-age, though, you need to start exposing them to decluttering. By early elementary, you should expect your kids to be able to make most of the decluttering decisions with guidance from a parent.
My youngest boy is 6 and he is really starting to get it! Two years ago this didn’t work with him so easily. Over time, I’ve continued to give him chances to help declutter his things, in small spurts at a time. He definitely needs guidance every step of the way, but he is really getting it. (It will be a few more years until I expect him to do some decluttering alone.) Here he is making decisions about his cars! I don’t know why he chooses some cars to keep and not others, but I’m focusing on progress over perfection.
(And I’m sorry about the dog barking in the background. We had to lock her out of his room or she would try to eat the cars since she is a puppy. She doesn’t like missing the action!)
Eventually he filled that entire bucket to overflowing with stuff to donate! I am so happy for him!!!
Two of my three girls were able to start doing this at ages 4-5. One of my girls took a little longer, but she still got it eventually. (I tell her story in my FREE eBook: Guiding Kids to Declutter.)
Each kid is so different, and boys and girls are definitely different. I never lost hope for him or for my daughter, because I know that decluttering is a skill and if I kept trying to teach them, they would eventually get it.
Tips: Make it Easier to Declutter with Kids
Start with a clean room. Izzy helped Brian clean his room the day before we decluttered. It is so much easier to declutter a freshly cleaned room!
HE was in control of the donate bucket. It was near him and he decided what went in it. When he realized he had all the power, he shocked me with his willingness to declutter! Do not let decluttering with your child become a power struggle, because you will both lose.
One at a time, I would pull out a bucket of toys off his shelf and set out the contents on the floor. He would then put keep items back in the bucket or put something in the donate bucket. Sometimes he would pause to try on dress-ups to help him decide. Importantly, his room was never “destroyed” in the process, which is important, because kids do better in calm environments.
If your kids room is so full that you can’t get to the buckets, start by clearing and making the bed. Use the bed as the decision-making place. Then, start to pull things off the floor, following the advice above by laying things out and letting your kid put in a keep or donate bin.
Raising the Next Generation of Organizers
If you’ve ever read my post Raising the Next Generation of Organizers, that tiny baby girl featured in the main photo grew up in the last 7.5 years to be the girl helping her little brother.
Izzy is my full-blown organizing sidekick. She was with Brian and me while we worked on his room. After she watched me do several rounds of buckets with Brian, I let her take charge of guiding him through decluttering some of his buckets.
She did a great job pretty much doing it exactly like I do: laying stuff out and asking Brian to pick things up and put it in the keep bin or donate bin. She is amazing!
Organizing is definitely one of her natural talents and something she really enjoys. It is so fun to watch our kids learn and grow.
I hope you feel encouraged to keep trying to help your kids learn. And it is okay if they are learning while you are learning! The effort really pays off, I promise.