“It is impossible to stay clutter free and organized with my family.”
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This was from an e-mail I recently received. How about you, have you ever said this or felt this way? Well, you are not alone. Let’s face it, it’s hard enough to handle our own clutter never mind other people’s stuff.
This is especially true if you have young kids, who constantly need new stuff, or a spouse who doesn’t share your aversion to clutter. But, I do have good news, even though it may feel impossible it’s not.
I know you may even be feeling a bit overwhelmed when I say that, but I promise you can help your family declutter. When you do, you will have soon have that calm and peaceful home you’ve dreamt of.
One thing to keep in mind, these tips are generally intended to apply to your kids and the family as a whole. If your spouse is the one you are struggling to help stay clutter free, then be sure to check out this article on How to Simplify When Your Spouse is Not on Board.
Now, are you ready to be clutter-free even when your family is not!!
1. Be the Example
Okay, my friend, it all starts with you!
You have the hard job of not getting discouraged and giving up when it feels like all your efforts are being undermined by your own family.
Really, it’s not as hard as it sounds. The first thing to do is make certain that you declutter your own personal possessions. Also, watch your shopping habits. Make sure you are not bringing in a bunch of new stuff you don’t need. If you struggle in this area, here are some great articles to check out:
- Curb Your Spending to Help Simplify Your Life
- How To Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need
- Shop Like a Minimalist
Let your family watch the value you add to your life by eliminating clutter and seeking less. They will see first hand, the decrease in the stress you carry. When this happens, you will see your family become more open to eliminating all their own clutter.
2. Give Them the Tools They Need to Organize
One of the biggest things that make it hard for your family to declutter is not having an assigned place for stuff to go. When this is the case, stuff quickly ends up all over the floors, tables, and dressers. However, by creating specific assigned places for everything to go, it is so much easier to prevent clutter creep all over your home.
For younger kids:
A good idea is to teach your kiddos that their toys live in the closet, not on the floor or dressers.
The easiest way to do this is by investing in a basket or bin that you keep in their closet. This will make it simple for the kids to toss their toys into the basket. You will eliminate any excuses for toys being on the floor or all over dressers.
Another great habit to teach your kids is that they should clean up all their toys every evening.
This habit, will not only teach them responsibility in having to care for their own stuff, but it has the added benefit of showing them the day is done. When young kids have a regular bedtime routine, it helps them fall asleep so much easier. The bedtime routine can start with tossing all their toys into their basket.
For those tween and teens:
If you have preteens and teens, who have passed the toy stage, these same principals can still apply. I have this cute basket that all of my teens’ wayward items go into. They then need to return the items to their proper place.
Have them do this each day so that it is not overwhelming or a long task.
These desk trays where another great purchase, all paperwork, and similar items go into the tray. I even have one for my husband. Whatever homework or other papers are left out, I easily toss into the tray. This makes clean up at the end of the day nice and quick.
Related: How to Stay Clutter Free for Good
3. Let them Suffer the Consequences of Too Much Stuff
If you are in my home, and someone cannot find something, the first thing you’ll hear is “Mom where is my…”
Not only did I tell them exactly where the item was, if I didn’t know where it was I would go and find it for them. This did nothing to help them learn the importance of putting their stuff away and left me staring at all their clutter.
Out of sheer desperation, I began letting them suffer the consequences of not being able to locate their stuff. Let me tell you, best thing I ever did!
It doesn’t take long for them to learn they need to keep track of their own stuff. They soon realize if they want to locate it later, they should put it away.
So my advice is to stop being the beacon for their stuff.
However, this does not work as well with little ones. If you have little ones, go ahead and clean up their wayward toys. But here is the catch. You need to put them all in a box that goes into your closet. Next, let your little ones know you have their toys and they can earn them back.
Give them the chance to earn them back by picking up their stuff when they are supposed to. If they do it, they can have one item back at the end of the day.
However, if after 30 days the toys have not been redeemed, donate them. Yes, I’m serious. If they didn’t care enough about the toy to earn it back, why would you want to keep it, at that point it’s clutter.
With the exception of a couple beloved stuffed animals, almost every stuffed animal my kids ever owned was gotten rid of this way.
4. Give Them Less Stuff
All kids thrive on fewer choices. Not only will they thrive better, they will be more engaged when they have less to choose from.
When my kids were younger, I would dish out their toys a little at a time. I limited the number of toys they could reach by keeping many of their toys on the top shelf of their closet.
Those colored bins are a great option for organizing their toys this way. You can assign each type of toy to a different colored basket, this will make it super simple to grab the specific toys they are requesting.
When it comes to your tweens and teens, instill good habits now. Purchase quality items over quantity. Don’t give into every fashion trend or the latest fad. No matter how much they whine, remember you are the parent.
It’s a good idea to limit buying new stuff, for both younger and older kids, to holiday’s and birthdays. With less stuff, there is less to declutter. Even more importantly, you help teach your kids important life lessons this way.
Limiting the stuff you buy them, will teach them to be content with what they have. In addition, they will learn the importance of not placing all of their value in material possessions or the latest trends.
Trust me, I know this is easier said than done, but you can do it! Be brave and limit the amount that comes into your home through your kiddos.
5. Schedule Regular Family Declutter Events
In order to really help your family declutter, regular cleaning out sessions is super helpful. I know, I know, your family has no desire to participate in a declutter event. But again, remember you are the parent. This is something you can decide needs to take place, at least with the kids.
There are a few things to keep in mind that will help your family purging session to go a little smoother.
Kids of all ages do better knowing what to expect. Don’t just wake everyone up and announce we are going to spend the day cleaning out the entire house. I can pretty much guarantee you that will not go well.
Look at the calendar and find an open weekend. Make sure it’s at least a couple weeks out. Let everyone know that you have planned that day and time for a purging session.
Write it down on the calendar the same way you would any other appointment. If something comes up for that day, let everyone know that day is already reserved for your clutter busting session.
Give a few reminders as the day approaches, this way they will know it’s coming and hopefully, grumble a little less.
The last thing you want to do is make this any harder than it has to be. Do this by setting reasonable limits in advance.
You can set a time limit and let everyone know that they will be helping for two hours. When the two hours are up that’s it, everyone is done for the day.
Or you can declutter by room. Let everyone know you will only be working on the family room for that day. Another alternative is to declutter by category. For example, all clothing, or all electronics like, video games, DVDs CDs games, etc. Use whatever limits you think would work best for your family.
Give a Reward
To make your family decluttering time truly successful, when the time is up, reward everyone’s hard work with a specially planned activity.
We love to go out for ice cream or frozen yogurt. Or perhaps let the kids pick a movie of their choice along with some popcorn and candy. The point is to pick something fun, and something the whole family would enjoy.
This way you get the added benefit of showing them experiences are worth more than all that stuff.
You want your family to walk away seeing that happiness is in memories shared together, not stuff.
6. Regularly Donate
Now that you’ve have successfully helped your family declutter, encourage them to stay clutter free by making a regular habit of donating or tossing things they no longer need or use. I have found the easiest way to do this is by keeping a bin in the hall closet so that everyone can easily toss things into. When the basket starts to get full toss it in the back of your car and drop it off at the local Goodwill.
7. Take Before and After Photos
Depending on how much clutter your family has, or how cooperative they will be, it can take some time before you feel like you are actually conquering the clutter.
Looking around and feeling like you did not make any real progress can be very discouraging and thwart any progress you make on helping your family declutter.
A great way to help them, and you, see all the progress their hard work accomplished, is with before and after photos.
Looking at the pictures can be a great motivator and encourage everyone to keep going.
8. Show Grace
No matter how much we love them or how hard we try to teach them, our family members are going to have views and opinions different than ours. The way clutter affects them may differ as well.
Keep this in mind to avoid nagging or getting frustrated with your family over clutter. This is especially important with your spouse. I recommend reading How to Simplify When Your Spouse is Not on Board.
After all, your end goal should be about creating an atmosphere of peace and comfort. One in which what truly matters is fostered.
Look for ways to show grace when it comes to your families need to hang onto their stuff. Be patient and keep working on you, as you do you will see your family move closer and closer to where you want them to be.
And this last tip will help you stay grateful.
9. Create Your Own Space
Have one area or one room in your home that is your space. This is the clutter free zone. Having a little space of your own will allow you to de-stress and to clear your mind.
Staying clutter free with a family isn’t impossible, all it takes is some creativity, some hard work and lots of grace.
Remember it starts with you, be the example and give them the tools they need to declutter and organize. But also remember to let them suffer the consequences of having too much stuff. Once they start feeling those consequences it will be easier to provide them less stuff. And when you schedule regular family decluttering times, you can be clutter free in no time.
As always, live simply, live intentionally and make each day your Favorite day!