I’d like to welcome today’s guest poster, Professional Organizer, Liz Jenkins! Liz is here to talk about how we can help make it easier for our kids to part with their stuff. It’s not an easy task that is for sure but these are some AWESOME tips to help you with the process. Welcome Liz!
Noooo….that’s my favorite doll! I love that shirt! Don’t throw that away!! Ever heard any of these phrases when trying to clear out a pit of a child’s room? Amazingly, the toys or clothes that never, ever get used or worn suddenly become the only thing that makes life worth living and the world will end if it goes away.
When working with kids, we need to look at it from their point of view. They are kind of new to the world, and haven’t yet learned how to discriminate between things that are really great and they love, and, well, junk. And sometimes what looks like junk to us, is truly beloved to them. But don’t let your own emotions color your decisions to get rid of stuff. Just because you love something does not mean that your child does.
So what to do?
Well, the usual sort, purge & containerize that organizers do. But once you’ve made the decision to move forward with clearing out the clutter, here’s some tips to help children actually let their old stuff leave the house (other than under the cover of darkness):
- Pick a charity that they might find interest in – this could be a church, a domestic violence shelter, a homeless shelter, a fund that supports animals or their school. Use this for donations.
- Find a friend or family member that has a child 2-4 years younger than your child. 2 kids is even better. Then the child knows exactly where his or her things are going. Give them a choice, “Do you want this to go to Olivia or Sophia?”
- Set limits on the number of toys/clothes/art supplies/whatever that can be in a space, or on the amount of space these items can take up. For example, when the Barbie box is full, no more Barbies unless one goes away. Or when the limit of 8 sweaters is reached, one must be donated or tossed. Be firm on this or it is useless.
- Use “either, or” questions. As in, “Would you like to keep this one, or this one?”
- Help them sell their old items at a yard sale, or on Craig’s List. Then they can keep the money and use it for something else.
- Set up rules before starting. For example, “all clothes that are too small will be given to someone else who can use them” and “puzzles missing pieces will be thrown away”. You can invite a discussion about these rules such as, “If a puzzle is missing a piece, can we use it? What do you think we should do with it?” Get them involved in the rationalization of the decision making process.
- Use holidays or birthdays as incentive. If a child has a birthday coming up, let them know that since they are getting older and will be receiving presents, you need to make space for the new stuff.
These tips work best for ages 5 and up, although it depends on the child. I’ve been doing this with my 7 year old since she was 3 ½ and now she knows the drill. She’ll walk around the house saying, “Mommy, do we really need this? Maybe we should donate it!” The last time she had a playdate with a friend, that friend left with 3 grocery bags full of stuff. Interestingly enough, it was all clothes that were too small, and toys she didn’t play with anymore. You go, girl!
The great thing about using these tips is that if you are consistent, and regularly purge their items (while resisting bringing in a bunch more), these lessons will become easier and, if you’re lucky, second nature.
To read more organizing tips from Liz, please visit her blog, A Fresh Space.