So far this summer I feel like my days have been filled with packing bags and snacks, cleaning the kitchen, getting kids in and out of the car, then cleaning the car, unpacking bags and lunches, cleaning again, washing dishes and laundry, and the list goes on and on… Because of my endless cleaning and packing with a house full of kids, I’ve been getting a little weary of all the STUFF in our house. I decided to embark on a decluttering and organizing journey. A first step toward “minimalism” which I’ve always been very interested in. Here’s my journey!
I have to foreshadow this by saying I am in no way an organizing or minimalism expert but there are lots of people out there who are! I will share some of the resources I’ve used during my decluttering journey.
There were two steps that I took to begin that it seems like most of the experts recommend, the first is your why: why are you decluttering or minimizing and the second: make a list of everything you want to get done no matter how big or small. Also, helpful to know; start small and start in one place at a time! I am the type of person to do 50 things at once so this was hard for me. Most experts suggest starting in one small, easy to tackle area, like a hall closet or your kids' clothes.
The why is about a goal, an endpoint, or what you want to feel like at the end. One podcast I listened to explained it like this, “How do you want to feel about your house or your life at the end of your journey?” My reason was something like this, “I feel like I’m always cleaning and organizing and then cleaning again. I want to have less cleaning time and more time to relax and hang out with my family.”
My biggest stressor was the kids' toys/play area and I think this is something we can all relate to whether you are a parent or a teacher or a grandparent, etc., so I really wanted to focus on this! I spent a lot of time with my daughter’s things, and if I’m being honest, I’m not even finished yet!
I hope you know, or will soon learn, that kids will be more likely to play or get into deep play with LESS items and when the items are clean, organized, and within reach! This is the case for my daughter and also as a teacher, I believe it’s the case for the children in our classrooms too. We wouldn’t start the morning in our classrooms with cluttered toys and stuff everywhere, right? I think most of us set toys and materials out for the day, or at least tidy up at the end of school.
Here are a few quick tips for kids' toys and materials:
Downsize! Take away things that aren’t getting used, that are broken, or that are being thrown on the floor every day but not actually played with.
Donate, sell, or toss. In Missoula we have a children’s swap group that I use often, or you can consider posting on a similar “Buy Nothing” group. In our mall, H&M has a clothing recycling box where you can bring your clothes that are in too rough of shape to be donated or if you don’t want to throw them in the trash. IMPORTANT: if it’s been sitting in a box for months and you haven’t dealt with it, just get rid of it.
Rotate toys and materials. My daughter has a shelf with 8 cubbies. I aim to have one thing in each cubby. For example: her doctor kit, a basket of blocks, a basket of coloring books and painting stuff, a bus with people in it, a basket of play food, and a few puzzles and books. She can see everything easily and it’s very easy to clean up. Everything has its place.
Put things that aren’t being used but you still want to keep in bins or in a closet (you may have to declutter your closet first). I just bought 3 large bins for all of our extra books. I split our books up into seasonal/social emotional, sentimental/baby books, and random books. I rotate books every few weeks just like I do toys. I try to just have one extra-large bin for her toys that I rotate. You can also adopt a “One in, one out” policy. She’s more likely to read books when they’re easy to see, easy to grab, and easy to put back!
For kid’s clothing, consider a “capsule wardrobe” (links down below). This is a great way to declutter clothing and makes things very easy for you and your kiddo!
Be intentional about what you bring in. Think twice before buying new things. If possible, ask relatives to buy experiences instead of things, or make and send off a wish list of things you really need!
Buy higher quality toys and materials that will last longer!
Invest in open-ended materials that can be used for a variety of purposes, like plain wooden blocks! The possibilities are endless. If that’s all children have, they will use them for beds, for food, animal homes, and so on.
Try the one-year tip. If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s probably time to get rid of it!
Finally, be kind and gentle on yourself as you go through this process. This can be both a physical and mental journey, especially as you declutter sentimental items! Do what you can, take breaks, set small goals, and enlist help if you need it!
Stay tuned and I’ll post another article next year about decluttering my classroom!
Resources for Decluttering:
Get Organized with The Home Edit
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
Sparking Joy with Marie Kondo
The Minimalists: Less is Now
Meghan is a born and raised Montanan, mama to a rambunctious toddler and a bonus mom to two amazing preteens. She recently earned a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. In addition to her position as an Early Childhood Specialist at the University of Montana, Meghan enjoys a variety of odd mix of jobs; nannying, creating and selling travel play dough kits, making essential oil blends for kids, providing families with child guidance on Facebook and Instagram, and now providing ideas and tips to child care providers in partnership with Raise Montana! Meghan is also a content contributor for 406 Families, a site dedicated to connecting families to local events and resources.