Now that a new school year is right around the corner, it’s a great time to really clean out your children’s rooms! You’ve had a brief respite from the influx of papers, toys, school notices, clothing, trophies, school projects, and books, that need to be constantly addressed, so before it starts up again, take stock of your children’s stuff. While a child’s room shouldn’t be as sterile as an operating room, no one can relax, let alone study, in an environment that’s filled with clutter. And you and your child shouldn’t lose countless hours looking for things, trying to decide what to do with things, and moving things around.
So, what can you do to eliminate the stress of a child’s room that is overflowing? The first step is to get you and your child/ren comfortable with having less. You can throw away, give away, or recycle, but you have to ruthlessly pare down. Here are my 10 tips for de-cluttering your child’s room.
- You don’t need every scribble and finger painting. You don’t need the life size self-portrait or the toilet paper roll robot. You don’t need the diorama, the Lego airplane or the Play Do sculpture. And, you definitely don’t need the skyscraper made out of recyclable material! Almost all of the artwork that comes home from school should be discarded with the exception of truly special pieces. If your child is really attached to something, take a photograph for posterity, and then let it go!
- Implement the 48 hour rule or the “through the weekend rule” for party favors, 3D artwork, McDonald happy meal toys, and anything else your child wants to keep that looks like junk to you. After 48 hours or at the end of the weekend, it disappears.
- Your child will learn how to read and write, add and subtract. You don’t need the evidence. Worksheets, math problems, and handwriting practice sheets should be discarded immediately. For older children, save creative writing and longer term projects, and for younger children, clever quips jotted down by the nursery school teacher.
- You don’t need to save team uniforms once the “season” has ended. There will always be another Super Soccer Stars t-shirt in a different color or another baseball jersey with a different sponsor once the new season starts. Remember, your child isn’t a professional athlete!
- Instead of storing the soccer socks with socks, the soccer t-shirt with other t-shirts, and the soccer shorts with other shorts, store everything together in a bin, along with the shin guards and any other equipment you might need. Ditto for the ballet ensemble, football uniform, and baseball uniform. Leaving the house before lessons and games will be much easier!
- Go through your child’s closet, eliminating anything that doesn’t fit, is stained, or in poor condition. If you travel regularly through the year, packing is a wonderful time to review and eliminate what’s seen better days.
- Get in the habit of reviewing your child’s bookshelves and toy shelves at least twice a year. Your child’s reading level and interests will change and s/he will outgrow books and toys frequently until about third grade. For older children, review the “sentimental items” s/he has saved that are piling up on the bookshelves.
- With the exception of a train table and toy kitchen (multi-year, frequent use toys), there should be no toys that reside on the floor and can’t be put away at the end of the day. You don’t need the castle, the pirate ship, and the playhouse. If you think it’s too much, it is!
- Group like things together, so you’ll know how many magic markers and video games you actually have. Try to create broad categories, such as “Travel Toys” and “Vehicles”. Place each toy grouping in a labeled container that can then be stacked to maximize space. For electronic toys, ensure that the games haven’t been replaced by a newer version.
- Clutter will expand to the space you allot to it. Instead of focusing on how much more space you need, consider how much more space you’ll have if you discard the clothes that no longer fit, the toys that are broken and are missing pieces, and the gifts your children have never used.