Tips for Helping Children Get Rid of Stuff

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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?”
  3. 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.
  4. Use “either, or” questions.  As in, “Would you like to keep this one, or this one?”
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Related posts:

Empower Your Kids

Compromising With Your Kids

Organizing Your Child’s Room is a Process

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Kid Stuff


12 Responses to Tips for Helping Children Get Rid of Stuff

  1. 1
    Jena OrganizingMommy says

    And I think the obvious implication is: make sure they are brainwashed before they hit the age of 12, so they will be well-bred clutter-free neatfreaks before that age. It’s hard to curtail as they get older.

  2. 2
    Chaney says

    We get rid of toys right before any event in which they will be receiving toys. As we have 4 kids, we have birthdays every couple of months not to mention Christmas ect. So, we automatically purge then. And of course whenever I feel that there are too many toys in the play room.

  3. 3
    se7en says

    Hay what a brilliant post – I am all for doing decluttering alongside my kids – I really want them to master the skill. All kids need to know how to do this: clutterbugs and non-clutterbugs alike!!! I recently did a post on our se7en steps to decluttering, you might like to take a peak!!!

    Have a Great Weekend… It is in sight!!!

  4. 4
    Emily @ Under$1000Pe says

    I think a few of these would work with a husband as well, like a charity he cares about or selling items and keeping the money. Great tips!

  5. 5
    Women Living Well says

    Another thing that has worked for me is a 2 step process. First I put excess toys in bins in the attic. On rainy days they get to choose a bin and it’s exciting to see the toys after they have not been seen in a while!!! So we “rotate” our toys often – keeping small amounts in their play area.

    As a result, some bins of toys stop getting chosen – when they stop getting chosen for a long while – I know they have grown out of the toy and I give them away – and they don’t even miss it because by this point they have forgotten about the toy!


  6. 6
    Melanie says

    This is a great post! My daughter will be 5 in Nov. and we are re-doing her room for her. These tips will help me control the toys that are to remain in the room! Thanks!

  7. 8
    Tashia says

    The kids and I just did a major de-cluttering in the playroom. They just had too much stuff so we decided that we needed to pack it away until they can learn how to take better care of the things they do have.

    I let them pick out a few of their favorite things to keep as long as it fit in their 1 basket. They did not complain or whine, everything was getting packed away with the possibility of getting sold at our annual garage sale.

    They don’t mind the idea of the garage sale either because they get to help price their toys and they always make great plans for the money they get to keep.

    You can find garage sale tips and free printables at my blog:)

  8. 9
    SLC says

    Great post! I’ often try to do this with my 2 kids (5 & 7) especially before birthdays and Christmas

  9. 10
    Jen says

    I just did this with my 3 kids and am having a yard sale next week. My 11 year old son is the hardest. The only way to get rid of his stuff is when he is not around. My 8 year old daughter can be reasoned with and does really well. My 2 year old has no opinion at this time. I have learned with my 11 year old son to not buy things for him. I only get him things that he really needs. I do get him a new toy or 2 for birthdays and Christmas, but I only get 1 or 2 quality toys vs. a lot of cheap ones. My daughter gets much more since she is able to get rid of stuff easier.

    Thanks for the tips.

  10. 11
    Jerri says

    These are some great ideas.


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