Concepts for Kids: Controlling Clutter

The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Rachel at Useful Beautiful Home.

We all have trinkets. Things that don’t quite fit into a category or space restriction. Kids do too, but their trinkets seem like junk to us, right? At the very least, it looks like random clutter.


To children, trinkets are NOT junk nor clutter. Rather, they’re a fine collection of priceless valuables. I don’t know about you but I can’t throw those things away without a major twinge of guilt.

Here are 8 tips to help organize children’s junk… clutter… er, I mean, treasures.  Let’s talk about controlling clutter.

1. Designate a Clutter Container – and a large container, if you have the space.

I don’t want to constantly clean a small pile every week. It will drive me crazy and defeat my child’s sense of ownership.

Clutter Container

So, we use a large fabric tub (pictured above) in our family room. Childlike clutter tends to accumulate right in the hub of our home. So, keeping a tub here is convenient. Plus, an open bin like this makes trinket clean-up simple & quick.

2. Purge the items by using a habit hook.

Purging needs to take place from time to time in this department. But no need to make a stressful, rigid routine out of it! Try making this chore into a habit hook.

Habit hooks are two good habits you join together by combining one new process with an existing routine. I talked about this concept in a recent post (HERE);

It goes like this… take a good habit you’ve already formed and add to it another habit you would like to start. For example, when you brush your teeth at bedtime, hook on the habit of flossing first. Now you have two good habits that make sense to perform in tandem.

I hooked trinket purging onto vacuuming underneath the heavy furniture pieces. I linked these two together because of…

  • convenience – both habits are done in the same room
  • similar timeline – both tasks can be done periodically (not frequently)
  • different tasks – only one involves purging. I do NOT recommend hooking two or more purging projects together. You may overwhelm yourself! Hook a purging task alongside a mindless cleaning chore or something else simple.

3. Be a gate keeper.

If at all possible, limit trinket-y things from entering your home. Recently I discovered you can ask for free ice cream at Chik-fil-A in lieu of the toy that comes inside kids meals. One less item coming into the home is one less decision to make later.

Although, you do have to decide if you want your kiddo to have the sugar or the trinket. ;)

4. Give advanced warning that collected pieces are only around for a limited time.

My daughter LOVES to cut scraps of paper and turn them into random collections. I let her because I see value in how it builds her imagination. BUT, I also set the boundary that by a certain day/time the scraps must be thrown away.

paper crafts and cutting projects

It sounds cruel, but if I allowed her piles to pile-up we would be swimming in tiny bits of fabric, feathers, and paper!

5. Find a more suitable place.

Below is a picture of a few 4th of July treasures my girlie was given.


She does not wear the glasses, so those will be donated. However, the costume necklaces can transfer to where we keep dress-up clothes, a better fit than in the Clutter Container.

6. Have a secret stash.

Some trinkets are nothing more than that, having no special value or attachment. For those forgotten or neglected items, tuck them away out of site. If “x” amount of time goes by without them being asked for, then donate or dispose of them accordingly.

7. Just plain ask!

I’ve been surprised by what my daughter relinquishes. Sometimes I’ll let her know the bin is getting a little full and ask if she has anything to part with willingly.

Otherwise, when it comes time to purge, it’s something we sit down and do together. I don’t want to accidentally give away the treasure she intended to use in her wedding 20 years from now. ;)

8. Return toys to their designated places.

Often our Clutter Container will collect other toys from around the house. To give you an idea, below is a very small sample of what typically collects. Notice the chopsticks (chopsticks???), sometimes I wonder if we have a kleptomaniac in our household.

Clutter Container Snapshot

I understand this randomness because playtime isn’t segregated into subjects. Playing is free flowing and integrative, so naturally things don’t always get put away as intended.

However, it’s a simple problem she can fix since most of our other toy spaces are designed for a young child to manage (see Rotating Small Toys, Library Books, Stuffed Animals, or Garage Toys and MORE to come in future posts).

I hope that brings you a little inspiration. Now I’m off to clean my own clutter that accumulated on the kitchen table while I was writing this! :)

Rachel In the professional world, I’m a nurse by trade. But, around our house, I’m known as Mommy to our young daughter. My two worlds collided and began shaping into a blog. Useful Beautiful Home represents the hours I’ve dedicated to managing my household as efficiently as possible. I offer you motivation to keep your home healthy, organized, and welcoming. My goal is to share what I’ve implemented in my home to inspire you with fresh ideas and to encourage you to keep up the good work in yours! Learn more about me HERE or visit me at




Linking up:

Six Sisters Stuff

Your Homebased Mom

Thirty Handmade Days

Filed under: Clutter Control, Guest Bloggers, Kid Stuff, Rachel


15 Responses to Concepts for Kids: Controlling Clutter

  1. 1
    Dorothy says

    ” If “x” amount of time goes by without them being asked for, then donate or dispose of them accordingly.” Really? How would you feel if someone did this with your belongings?

    I have fairly conservative, traditional views about raising children. I was raised by older parents; our household’s rules were those of an earlier generation.

    But the notion of simply making a child’s belongings disappear seems disrespectful at best and cruel at worst.

    Your notion of setting guidelines and boundaries, and sticking to them, will be more work for you than simply tossing your kiddos’ precious things — but it send a much better message and helps your child develop her own organizational skills. And isn’t teaching your child life skills your job?

  2. 2
    Laura says

    Hi Dorothy, thanks for your comment. If you read Rachel’s next point she says:

    “Otherwise, when it comes time to purge, it’s something we sit down and do together. I don’t want to accidentally give away the treasure she intended to use in her wedding 20 years from now. ;)”

    I happen to know that she does truly believe it’s important to teach this valuable life skill. Please go on to read her other posts referenced at the end of the blog post to see a little bit more of her heart when it comes to organizing with kids. She is not advocating you simply throw your child’s belongings away.

  3. 3
    Anna@stuffedveggies says

    My little one gets much more motivated to purge (when she’s in the right frame of mind) if I give her a dime for each donated item. We take the donated items to the thrift store, and then let her use her “earnings” to invest in a new-to-us toy. This helps us keep the toy collection down to the things she actually enjoys having (even tho it’s still huge ; )

    • 3.1
      Rachel@Useful Beautiful Home says

      How creative and motivating of you! Thanks for sharing, Anna!

  4. 4
    Jodie says

    Why would u want to make your kids get rid or their stuff? If u don’t have space for it don’t buy it. But don’t u realise that when u encourage kids to get rid of things they’ll do it then they’ll miss the things they threw away. Can’t u just let ur kids be kids?

    • 4.1
      Jamie says

      My children accumulate constant junky toys from well meaning relatives, school, birthday parties, etc. If I allowed my children to keep every toy they brought through our front door there wouldn’t be room to walk in my house! Teaching them the value of generously giving their toys to others or making responsible choices about which toys to keep is far more valuable than any pile of toys.

      • Rachel says

        I completely agree, Jamie! Thank you for sharing. Most of our toy collections come from other people and I have limited control over what is gifted to us. However, there must be boundaries or we would drown in trinkets and toys. :)

        Like you said, “Teaching them the value of generously giving their toys to others or making responsible choices about which toys to keep is far more valuable than any pile of toys.” YES, using toys to teach opportunistic lessons is far greater than a pile collecting dust! Well said!

  5. 5
    Margot says

    My kids and I always cleaned out their stuff together. They had clear boxes we kept stuff in and slid under the edge of their beds. When the boxes wouldn’t close it was time to sort things through. If they weren’t sure they wanted to discard something we kept it until the next time. After listening to so many people tell me their kids never missed the things the parents discarded I tried it once. My son asked me about the item within the following week and I would swear it was something he hadn’t looked at in months! I never discarded anything on my own again.

    • 5.1
      Rachel says

      Thanks Margot! Clear boxes under the bed are anther great storage space that is self-limiting for children!

  6. 6
    Julie says

    For those special works of art (usually out of paper at my house) that would be completely impractical to hoard, I have a basket that they can be kept in for a while, but then once it’s full we do a memory moment. I let them line them up on the floor, and then take their picture with them. Voila! The kid is happy that there is a copy of them with it, and we can empty the basket and start again. For those pieces that are especially important, we either take a close up picture of it, or scan it. All the pictures are kept on a thumb drive that I keep just for these pictures. They’ve never once asked to look at it, I think they just like the security of having it there, and getting rid of items is much easier for them. This works great for clearing through the stuffed animals too – a picture with their stuffed buddies to treasure before donating can make it suddenly ok for them to find new loving families where they will be played with.

    • 6.1
      Rachel says

      Excellent idea Julie! I’ve done something similar with old toys and cherished memories, even for myself. However, I never thought to take a photo memory moment of child artwork and special papers. Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. 7
    april says

    I love the idea of a clutter container…my kids are ALWAYS leaving stuff around upstairs that belongs in other places (I have 18-month-old twins and a 4 year old always making messes) and this would be a great idea to let them clean it up in the bin and I (or they) can put it away when we get a chance. Where did you get your fabric bin? I love it!

    • 7.1
      Rachel says

      Thanks for your thoughts, April! Yes, a clutter container helps tremendously for quick clean-ups! I found our bin at Homegoods.

  8. 8
    Misty O'Dell says

    I love the clutter container idea! With three girls who love littlest pet shop, toys from the quarter machines in supermarkets, happy meal toys, etc. I am always making piles on flat surfaces in our main living area and it drives me nuts! Thank you!!

    Also, a few years ago my oldest daughter struggled with anxiety and compulsive behavior related to keeping things. All the things. Empty candy wrappers from classroom parties etc.
    I discussed it with her openly, and we chose a container she could use for her sentimental items. We compromised on the size, mostly so it could fit under her bed. From there we agreed she could keep anything she deemed sentimental/treasured excluding food. I agreed to not protest what she kept and she agreed that when her box became full she would purge things no longer important to keep rather than piling stuff everywhere.

    She was 8 then, and now at 11 I can say we’ve both stuck to our promises. And it’s working.


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