Kids seem to be natural pack rats, and it can be rather difficult to get them to let go of things. Around Christmas, I can usually convince my daughter to let us get rid of a few toys for kids who aren’t getting any toys themselves. But the rest of the year, it’s a battle.
So if you have been going through the same struggles yourself lately, or just want to start early to keep your kids from learning bad habits, here are some ways you can get your kids working with you instead of against you.
- Teach them that organizing and cleaning up can be fun. Make it into a game or turn on some music and dance the toys and stuff back to their places. Take a few trash bags into the toy room or bedroom and have your kids sit as you hold stuff up. If they don’t want it anymore, they can give you a thumbs down or you can actually let them “slam dunk” the stuff into the bags (or whatever helping step that gets them interested and keeps them motivated.)
- Keep the process short. Little kids have short attention spans. So 5 minute feels like an eternity to a 3-year-old. Once they hit about 6, they can focus for 15 minutes…but until, make sure you clean up sessions are short.
- Start a toy rotation. If you’re dealing with a LOT of toys that are currently age appropriate but your child is just overwhelmed by, pack some of them away and rotate out the sets of toys every two weeks or once a month.
- Get your friends & family members to stop buying huge toys. We all know that we love seeing the smiles on the faces of kids when they get cool new presents, but encourage others to buy practical gifts for your kids that will last and can be used for years. Or things that can be built upon & added to instead of just a bunch of random stuff.
- Help kids understand the value of their toys. If they want something new, explain to them that you had to work X number of hours to afford that toy, so if they want it, they will need to do the same amount of chores at home.
- Implement the “broken things” rule. If something is missing parts or broken, it goes in the trash. This will not only teach kids to declutter, but also to care better for their belongings.
- Explain the concept of charity. Kids have an amazing level of compassion that we as adults often cannot comprehend. So if you are trying to encourage them to be happy with less, talk to them about the less fortunate children in the world who have no fabulous toys or clothes. You may be surprised at what they are willing to let go if they know it is going to someone in need.
- Get kids involved. Kids 6 and over can help you sort out toys and other possessions. But younger may have more trouble trading things out or letting things go. So if you know there are some baby toys that just have to go, try to do it when they are out of house. My daughter is a pro at “dumpster diving” and likes to save every piece of paper ever created. So I have to throw things away at night and get them out of the house stealthily before she notices anything is gone (but more on that in a sec.)
- Give it time. Don’t force the issue too often and when you make a little headway, just let it be for a while. Kids (especially older ones) will remember when you get rid of their stuff and may probably will fight you even harder about the things they have left if you keep discarding their stuff when they leave the house. If it’s necessary to get rid of some stuff, try holding those things in a box in the attic/garage for 4-6 months. If the kids notice it’s gone, they can have it back. But if they have so many toys that they never notice it’s gone, then get rid of it. You can even ask if they want to look through it; but most of the time, they’ll have no interest.
- Keep it simple. The system you use should make it easy for kids to put things away. Label bins with pictures of what goes inside them so everything gets returned to the right place, without extra help from you.