By Vicki Little
My son’s room is a bit intimidating to me. Every night when I go to tuck him in, I feel claustrophobic. I can easily understand that scene in “Poltergeist, ” where all the toys go flying into the closet. If a horror movie were to take place in my house, it would definitely be staged in my son’s room. With Christmas around the corner, I can’t even imagine where he will put new toys. Pokemon cards, LEGOs, and Star Wars figures fill every nook and cranny. Books are falling off the bulging bookcase. The furniture is carefully arranged tighter than a Tetris game. If Santa goes in, he is not finding his way out. The good news is, I have told him that Santa CAN’T bring anything new until the old stuff is out. It is time for the annual “declutter games” to begin.
Don’t even attempt to do more than one room at a time, or you will want to give up. You will need to have one — or more realistically, many — donate boxes, trash bags, and a “wrong place” basket (where your missing earrings or missing spoons go to be put away later). As easy as it would be to simply do this while the kids are gone, it is helpful to have them participate. It gives you an opportunity to teach them the things you’ve had to learn, such as: If you haven’t used it over the past year, you don’t really need it. They can help you decide which of their outgrown clothes are too worn to donate, and have them throw away those little toys that are just clutter.
Go through the room, section by section, and start sorting. Start with the clothes and bigger items and then progress to smaller toys. Each person has his or her own method, so mine might seem a bit crazy, but I simply dump and sort. Literally. I dump all the toys on the ground, plant myself and my son in the middle, and then we go toy by toy, putting them where they belong. For the toys we are keeping, we put them into the appropriate container. Puzzle pieces go in the right box (and will later be counted to ensure all pieces are there), small toys have their own container, large items are placed where they belong, etc. It is initially a big mess, but it encourages me to get it done in one day. It also ensures I go through everything and throw things away without “skipping over” items when I start getting bored.
Once you get all the extra stuff out of the room, you can start putting things back where they belong. Re-fold all those messy dresser drawers. Organize the bookshelf according to size and series (if the sizes are mixed, it is harder for the kids to put books back). Set up little areas of similar toys, try to carve out a free corner for space to play, and get all those empty hangers out of the closet.
Once the dust has settled, it is time to add some final details to make the process easier the next time. Add a large container to each closet where outgrown or unworn clothes can be easily tossed into for donating. Grab a few of the less-played-with games and toys and put them in a “rainy day” bin to pull out for trips or when the kids are “soooo boooorrrrred” they are fighting. Then glance at the walls. If a picture made it to the “wall of fame, ” it is most likely a treasure. Make room for new treasures by taking down some of the old. Consider putting up a picture display by attaching a string to two nails on one wall. Then add some clothespins so your child can easily put up and take down their latest artwork.
Now comes the fun part — getting all the clutter out of the house! Most areas have a Goodwill, Arc Thrift Store, and/or a Salvation Army where you can donate just about anything. Many animal shelters need towels and blankets. Your school library may accept books that are still in good condition. There are many great options! You might want to hold a garage sale or sell items on Ebay or your local Facebook classified group. Your child could put money earned into a saving’s account so decluttering can be something he or she will look forward to. Another option is Freecycle, where people take stuff off your hands for free. Whatever you do, the important thing is to get the stuff OUT. And then breathe a sigh of relief that you won’t suffocate when the Christmas decorations go up!
Do you have a decluttering process?
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, reading, camping, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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