Moving day went great. There weren’t too many casualties, and most of all we still like each other! While I finish unpacking today, Renee Tougas of FIMBY (Fun in My Back Yard) shares her wisdom about how she teaches her three school-aged children to keep their rooms free of clutter.
Spring’s here! Time to dig, time to plant, and hang the laundry outdoors. And to finally de-clutter the kid’s room. You know, the project you meant to start after the Christmas deluge of new toys but put off because really, who likes going through all those toy cars, Barbies, Polly’s, plastic lizards and bunnies of the dust variety under the bed.
When your kids are old enough to know when a neglected toy (“but that was my favorite!”) has been donated or have an opinion about how their rooms are organized, you have an added challenge.
Our family takes a three-step method to tackle that challenge, but let me first explain why we even bother. There are 5 of us living in a small house on a compact city lot. (Hence I love Small Notebook.)
Having less living space necessitates keeping stuff tidy because most of the space is shared and does double duty. The master bedroom is also the tv (dvd’s only) room, sewing and craft storage. The living room is the children’s play area and space to host visiting friends. The learning room (we homeschool) is also mom’s computer area and extra dining for large gatherings. Our son’s bedroom serves as the guestroom, and the girls share a bedroom.
To keep peace in shared space we’ve decided to have a tidy home.
Want to make peace in your shared spaces and kid rooms? Here are steps you might try.
1. Rally the Troops
Have a family reason for de-cluttering your house, beyond “it makes mommy happy”. Teach your children the value of less.
Our family places a high value on spending lots of time together outdoors in nature. We also value regular hospitality and time with friends and family in our home. Both of these goals require our home to be easily de-cluttered and kept clean because a) we’d rather be hiking than putting away our toys and b) we like having people over and want our home to be comfortable and tidy for friends and family.
Our children understand these goals because we communicate them often. “I’m so glad we have less stuff to take care of because I’d rather be in the woods on a Saturday than cleaning house.” — Yes, I actually say this.
2. Peace & Tidy
We have serious de-cluttering sessions once or twice a year in the children’s rooms. We spend 15 minutes a day for a couple weeks to get the job done. To not overwhelm the troops and keep them on your side, it’s important to stick to the time limit.
We sort through their creations and collections using the popular keep, give and throw away system. We also have a 6 month bin for items the kids can’t quite part with but probably will after not seeing it for 6 months. I also never get rid of something belonging to my children without asking their permission.
When each remaining toy and object of affection has a place where it belongs, in our case baskets under beds and on shelves, the kids know exactly where to put away their stuff.
3. Maintain the Peace
Daily clean up takes 10-15 minutes when every car, piece of paper, book, ribbon and dolly has a place it belongs. But it’s no good to get rid of a bunch of old toys only to be back in the same place in 2 months. So, we have household rules for the acquisition of stuff:
- Only keep what you have room to store. If you have a dolly basket, you can’t have more dollies than fit in that container, no overflowing storage.
- Something in, something out. For each new toy our children acquire as a gift, personal purchase or hand-me-downs from friends, another toy needs to leave the house — really. The only way to not acquire more is to… not acquire more. The only exception is maybe Lego, since one bin can store a lot of blocks.
Our family system of teaching values, de-cluttering in discreet periods of time, easy daily pick up, and not accumulating help to keep our small home a place of peace & tidy — just the way we like it.
Renee Tougas is a city-dwelling gal with earthy sensibilities. She writes about her natural urban family with a bit of homeschooling, photography and the Maine outdoors at FIMBY.