OOUCH – Have you stepped barefoot on Lego again in the dark and broken your toe banging into that wooden truck? As soon as you are pregnant with your first child your house gets taken over by children’s paraphernalia. At the beginning it’s the bouncer, jolly jumper, exersaucer, baby bath etc., later it’s toys, books, CDs, DVDs and kindy/school papers galore. Everything child related seems to multiply overnight.
The most important condition to breaking the cycle of never-ending toy chaos is to lead by example. If you model the behaviour you want from your children chances are high they will follow your example.
Children get overwhelmed by too much stuff around them. It stops them playing creatively and their behaviour goes downhill. It seems the more toys they have the more screen time they crave. It’s our job as parents to provide a stimulating yet calm space for our kids to play and relax. Less is definitely more.
Here are my top 3 tips to clear the clutter in your children’s bedrooms:
Manage the inflow
You are in control of what comes into your house. Stop or reduce the inflow.
- Never give into temper tantrums at the shops.
- Don’t buy just toys, but also experiences for your kids.
- Suggest what to get for Christmas to the grandparents or even get it for them.
- Ask family to contribute to a bigger gift, e.g. trampoline.
- Assess the presents after a birthday party with your child: re-gift/donate/sell unsuitable presents (e.g. a 24-piece puzzle for a 5-year-old) and put away an excess of a certain type of toy, e.g. art sets for a rainy winter day.
- Choose quality over quantity. One year before we had kids ourselves my husband bought a pack of plastic toys for $100 for his nephew for Christmas and was really excited about how many toys he got for his money. By Boxing Day most toys were broken and piling up on the landfill.
- Follow the “One in - one out” rule: for every new toy getting into your house , one toy must leave the house. This way you keep your toy stock at the same size and won’t end up with a gigantic pile.
Manage the “stock”
Children thrive on routine and in a structured environment. With too many toys they often don’t know what to play with.
- Have a toy rotation system: choose a collection of toys and store the rest out of sight for your children. Exchange the toys regularly with new toys out of storage.
- Teach your kids early to tidy up after themselves.
- Little ones still need your help, especially after playdates, but they learn fast. Be consistent and let them tidy up every day or standards tend to slip. Let them do it just before screen time and the kids can be very quick. Make it fun with a game or a song or run a competition between your children.
Manage the outflow
- From about 3-5 years on children are old enough to make their own decisions about their clutter with your guidance. Some children are really good at that, others need help and boundaries.
- Define the space you have for toys/books/CDs/DVDs and have a place for everything and everything in its place. If that space gets overcrowded something has to go.
- Leave it to your child to decide what goes and you decide what to do with the discarded things. You might want to put certain toys into storage if your child is still a bit young for it.
- My 9-year-old is a great clutter clearer since she was about 4 years old. I remember she got rid of a puzzle at that age and donated it to our local toy library. She got mentioned in the toy library’s newsletter and she was proud as. Some things I am keeping for her younger brother, some things I sell and it goes into her horse-riding account – a hobby we wouldn’t be able to afford without selling outgrown toys and books. And once a year we have a table at a fleamarket which makes for great mother-daughter bonding time.
“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them as half as much money.”
Abigail Van Buren
Sources: Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett, Lighten Up by Michelle Passoff, It’s All too much by Peter Walsh, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston