A few years ago, I discovered “minimalism”. Not that I became a minimalist, but I started to learn more about minimalism and embrace it in small ways. Maybe it was a reaction to having kids and all the “stuff” that comes with them, or maybe it was just defining something that already resonated with my core beliefs. Either way, I find it really inspirational. Minimalism at its core is about decluttering your life of the unimportant things/activities so you can focus on what is important and lead a more intentional life.
It was through The Minimalists that I first was able to put the name “minimalism” on the philosophy of “living a more meaningful life with less”. Recently The Minimalists launched a podcast, which I have been listening to on my morning dog walks, and been inspired to more fully embrace minimalism in our own lives. One of the things they do in their podcasts is answer listener questions. Many of the questions they get are about decluttering with kids and minimalism for families. Since neither of The Minimalists have kids, they often refer these questions to other minimalists like Leo Babauta and Joshua Becker; who both write about being minimalists with kids.
Having recently taken our minimalism up a notch, I thought I would share some of my own learnings for how to declutter with kids.
1. If your kids are old enough (age 5 worked for me) involve them in the process. In the past, I have tried to involve Big D in decluttering toys, but if you ask him, they are all important and add value to his life. In reality, he plays with about half of his toys. It was only recently, when I tried to declutter toys with him, he was finally able to identify (some) toys that he and Tater Tot no longer played with or had outgrown.
2. But also get rid of stuff when they are not around. If your kids are too young to be able to let stuff go (or even if they are old enough), go through their toys when they are not around and don’t feel bad giving away toys they no longer use (or just the ones that drive you crazy). If I am decluttering when they are not around, I generally put toys to donate in a box in the garage for a couple of months before I actually give anything away. If it makes it 2 months in the garage and they haven’t missed the toy, I don’t feel bad about donating it, some other little kids will be very appreciative to receive our donated toys.
3. Declutter by category. To do a full-on decluttering, first collect all the toys of one category together (ie. toys, books, puzzles, loveys, etc.). For the decluttering in the photo, Big D and I collected all the toys from everywhere in the house. Toys from the living room, toys from D’s bedroom, toys from our bedroom, toys from Tater Tot’s bedroom, everything we could find, we brought into one room and then organized by category. We put all the trucks together, animals together, instruments together, etc. By doing this, we were really able to see how much we had, and where there was the most duplication. For example, I had NO idea how many cars/trucks we really had until we put them all together. Once they were together, it was easy to pick out the ones we wanted to keep and the ones we wanted to donate.
4. Stop the inflow. First you need to determine how are you acquiring so much stuff and then you can figure out how to address it. If the “stuff” comes from:
5. Get Rid of the Big Toy Bins: When we first had kids, we acquired the cutest toy bins with animals on the side. They were adorable and seemed like a useful way to keep toys organized. In reality, they are a bottomless pit of stuff. The unused toys fall to the bottom never to be seen until someone decides to dump the entire bin on the floor (annoying in its own way). Instead….
6. Keep Toys Organized by Category: Once you have done your big decluttering, keep toys organized by category. We have little baskets on shelves by category, with labels of what is inside. When one of our baskets starts overflowing again, we know we need to do some editing.
7. Its a Process and That’s OK: You will declutter and feel great, for a while, and then the toys will build up again. Like everything with kids it is a learning process and every time we do it with our kids, they will learn something, at least I hope they do. Maybe eventually they will turn into little minimalists of their own.
What are your best decluttering tips for kids? How else do you help teach your kids to lead a meaningful life with less stuff?
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