I know…..you don’t really think it is possible to be organised with children but it really is. I’m not talking about a clinical home with no toys/children’s items anywhere but a family home which shows who lives there and what is important to them. Trust me, I know family life is busy but the more you can make organising a part of daily life, the easier it is for everyone to stay on top of it. From my experience, children can be very good at the decluttering process when approached in the right way.
Here are my top 10 tips on how to get your children involved (they work well for adults too):
1 – Focus on the positive
Rather than telling them they have to “get rid” of things, ask them the things that they really want to keep or enjoy playing with…..now.
2 – Give them permission to let go
Often it is the parent who turns around and say “oh, but are you sure that you want to get rid of that teddy as Grandma bought that for you when you were a baby?” Give them permission regardless of if it is sentimental to you as the parent or if they were only given it as a present 3 months ago (children move on quickly from things).
3 – Talk about where it is going
Children can get upset about letting go of a toy/game that they have loved playing with and thinking about it being “thrown away”. Talk to them about where it will go, for example being donated to a children’s ward so that the sick children have some fun things or your local Women’s Refuge for children who don’t have any toys. Just like adults, this can help with letting go when we know it will be helping others.
4 – Keep it simple
Toy rotation can work well, not only if you are short on space but also to reduce the visual overwhelm of seeing everything out in front of you. You’ll often find children will end up playing with the same things even if they have lots as it can be so overwhelming.
5 – Categories are your friend
Keep like with like and label everything – this can be written labels or pictures. Pictures works really well for younger children.
6 – Think like a nursery
Have a tidy up time after each activity or part of the day and give everything a place. Also, place things where the children can reach them, this encourages independence and makes it easier for them to tidy without an adult being involved. If you have more than 1 child, you can place items for the older children higher up – this helps avoid the “mummy, she is playing with my lego again”.
7 – Make it fun
Pop on a song they like and say “we are going to see how much we can get tidied away before the song finishes” or “who can fill their bucket with cars first”.
8 – Break it down
Rather than saying “we have to tidy the playroom/your bedroom”, try focusing on 1 key area/type of toy. This will help with concentration but also reduces overwhelm. You could say “let’s tidy your dolls/cars etc”.
9 – Be a good role model
When you are asking them to tidy, explain that you are also going to tidy your clothes/kitchen etc. Children model the behaviour they see, so make it part of family life rather than an onerous task that is only done when people are coming around. Teamwork makes the dream work!
10 – Recognition and reward
Praise them for what they have done and pick out something they have done e.g. “I really like the way you lined up all your cars”. We all like it when someone tells us we’ve done well, and this will encourage them to do it more often.
Rewards can be a great way of motivating yourself to get stuff done. It could be that “once we have tidied, we are going to choose a game to play together”.
I hope you find these tips useful and do share in the comments anything that you find works well for you. But most importantly, stop striving for the Instagram worthy ‘perfect’ house and focus on making your home reflect your unique family and home.
Louise Simpson is a Professional Organiser and Coach helping people reduce the feeling of overwhelm and get the time and space they need. She offers a range of support both virtually via Zoom and in Essex homes, to help with Organising, Decluttering and Productivity. You can find more about how she can help you improve your wellbeing here. She has been featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Essex, selected Podcasts and is co-author on the Amazon bestseller “Ready to Rise”. She is also a proud member of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers.