Declutter for Good

How to kick out kid clutter
little girl in neatly organized playroom
© Can Stock Photo / Bialasiewicz

Clothes. Books. Cars. Dolls. Blocks. Bath toys. Stuffies. Jewelry. Costumes. Puzzles. Lunch containers. Oh. My. Clutter is taking over your life!

The amount of stuff that accumulates with children in the house is incredible. And so we buy storage solutions dedicated to keeping stuffed animals and bath toys in check. We have baskets and bins in every room just to have somewhere to toss the errant Legos and cars (or is that just me?). As you're picking up toys for what seems like the millionth time, do you ever stop to think what's actually needed? I do. Every. Single. Day. And while there are many days I just want to sweep everything into a bag and toss it to the curb, that's not the answer either. So how can you declutter kids' toys, without adding to landfill, and keep them from overrunning your house again? Here are three ways to declutter and keep it gone for good.

Buy less in the first place

Yes, I realize this isn't helpful if you're already dealing with a kid stuff explosion, but it's important to keep in mind. If you declutter and just end up filling all the empty spaces again, there's no point in decluttering in the first place. So, next time you want to buy your child an adorable but unnecessary trinket, picture having to pick it up off the floor 3 times a day. If the joy or benefit it will bring your child outweighs your stress level at the thought of it, then go ahead and get it. If not, take a pass. I'm not suggesting you avoid everything, but focus on things that will offer benefit beyond the initial joy of a new toy. You'd be amazed what kids will do with their imaginations, and how many things branded for kids aren’t really needed. And if well-intentioned friends and family contribute to your clutter stress, try asking for experiential gifts or go gift-free altogether.

Find solutions for the clutter

If the clutter has already come into your home, the next step is to get it out. Remove items as soon as your child grows out of them (toys, mini-cutlery, kid dishes, clothes, etc.). For gifts you don't need, consider keeping the packaging in-tact so you can donate them more easily (this will require a conversation with older children ahead of time). Shelters, hospitals, and Children's Aid may take toys, but often not if they've been opened or the tags taken off.

Before donating an item, check with the charity to make sure they'll take it. Ask your colleagues, friends, and family to see if anyone can use what you are giving away. Try neighbourhood yard sales, buy and sell groups on Facebook, and free trade zones like Bunz (you don't even have to trade--just give!). This will take time, but it’s worth it to avoid sending all your clutter to landfill. And remember: the less stuff you bring in, the less you'll have to find a home for when you're done with it.

Pay it forward

We all hate clutter, so why do we contribute to each other's stress levels? Check with parents before giving a birthday present to see if there's anything they truly need--mindful gift giving is appreciated. Opt for a book or crafts instead of miscellaneous toys (no matter how much the child loves a character right now). And if you're planning a birthday, I highly encourage you to avoid loot bags. Leading by example may encourage others to do the same for you.

With some effort up front, and a shift in how you approach kids' stuff before it enters your home, you just might regain some space and sanity you thought you'd never see again. And by consuming less, you're wasting less, and that's good for the planet too.

*Originally published May 10, 2016