The powerful gift of your kid’s clutter

My daughter's bedroom

I hear you parents! You’re feeling overwhelmed by kid’s clutter. I’ve been there, I have 2 kids myself aged 6 & 9. 

You’ve got messy, disorganised bedrooms, playrooms or living rooms. You’re nagging, constantly asking your children to pick up after themselves.  You see toys that cost good money, being ignored (ah the pain of that lost money). And then there are other things which you have no idea where they came from! All in all, it’s too much.  More than your kids could ever hope to use and appreciate. And it all adds up to stress and conflict which I am sure is at odds with your parental desires. But the idea of deliberately getting down into the muck and having to ‘deal’ with it all? Daunting to say the least. You’re probably looking for the path of least resistance, and thinking about a clear out session when the kids aren’t looking, right?

If that is how you’re feeling, you’re not alone; but that doesn’t have to be your story. In fact, I am going to help you reframe that thinking from one of overwhelm to one of opportunity.

Because to me, if you’re ready to pounce with a big black garbage bag without your kids (or are trying to shove things back into toy chests, cupboards, and under beds with no real success) I say you’re in a prime position to teach your child super valuable life lessons: how to make decisions, be mindful, be discerning and take ownership.

Yes your child’s excess represents a perfect parent/child learning and bonding opportunity that not only facilitates their personal learning & development but also results in you reducing your own workload, saving you time and saving you money.

Too good to be true? I promise you, it’s not. Not only is it true, but it’s vital.

You see people who grew up with parents who de-cluttered their possessions for them - without consultation or agreement - regularly report that as adults they keep more things then they should, need or want. Why? Because they can. Because they finally get a say. Because the pain of the forced loss in childhood still echos in their hearts. To them de-cluttering means aching hurt. They never got the chance to learn how to decide which of their things matter, give them joy or add value.  Their parents made those decisions for them, and often got it wrong.  You see no matter how well-meaning other people are, no matter how close the relationship, no matter how well people believe they can predict what gives value and joy to others, it’s never 100% right.  And in those places where the wrong assumption is made, hurt and a sense of loss grows.

Woah, right? Because no parent ever sets out to create that outcome for their child. They just think of making life easier and better for everyone by getting rid of stuff. And getting rid of stuff is powerful and positive. Hey it’s one of my core beliefs and teachings! But it is in the who and the how that the real lessons and value is gained.

Parents - you can take this kid’s clutter opportunity and run with it. You can empower your child by teaching and supporting them through de-cluttering their own possessions. You can let them practice, ask questions and even get things wrong. You can let them make decisions, think about storage and even consider the style of their space too.  By doing this, they get to experience agency, and you get to help a little person grow into an adult with a keen grasp on how to create a happy and healthy home environment.

I believe in this so deeply that I have dedicated much time, love and attention developing and refining the best ways to empower children to de-clutter for themselves. I did this using my Mum superpowers and my skills as a Professional Organiser, working with my own children over 2 years. The results? My kid’s rooms are great. Not Perfect mind you, but 95% of the way there, and that is good enough for me.  Because as parents, in the name of self-preservation, we need to check our expectations at the door.

Go with me on this for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine your perfect outcome for your child’s room. Look around, notice the details of the order, the décor, the ambience. Got it? Now drop it like a hot rock. Your ability to keep it cool while supporting your child to de-clutter depends on you letting go of your perfect outcome, and allowing your child to develop their own. Stress and anxiety fills the space between your expectations and reality; and we are putting your child in the driver’s seat of that reality. So let go and enjoy watching your child take the wheel. Appreciate any and all improvement, and if at the end of the de-clutter session you can still see room for improvement (this is highly likely BTW) that’s ok - you can do it all again in  the future. Keep at it with regular sessions (I suggest each school holidays or 6 monthly) until you’re both satisfied, and be happy with incremental improvement over time. The bonus is your child will get better and faster every time they practice their new skills.

And what of that saved time and money I promised?  Here is the Red Hot Tip; the less stuff you have, the less time you have to spend managing, cleaning and maintaining it. And the more time spent with your child discussing what is important to them, learning how to release what doesn’t serve and modelling a less is more approach, the less stuff you will end up buying for your child. WIN/WIN.

In summary:

  • Embrace the opportunity that your kid’s clutter presents

  • Use this teachable moment to empower your child and create a conscious and mindful consumer who has practical skills for life

  • Avoid creating hurt feelings which can lead to adults who become keepers

  • Avoid anxiety by leaving your expectations at the door

  • Enjoy more quality time, and save money for the things that really matter