Erika and I have been working hard everyday for about a week on minimizing our possessions. Let me say that we are not owners of may possessions, and I wouldn’t think that we have lots of stuff. Either way, we started with the dreaded game closet, worked through the family room, boys rooms, front room and all the other spots where crap piles up. We found piles of books & games to give away, coat that we no longer use, got rid of fish tank, desks, tables and other misc stuff.
After all this is going, I found this nice blog post on how to clear out a house, when you have kids. It has some really good ideas, here are some that I found useful:
Identify the important. The first step in decluttering is identifying which toys and other possessions are truly important to the kids. What do they play with, what do they love? Then get rid of as much of the rest as possible, keeping only those they use and love.
Massively purge. In the beginning, if you have a lot of kid clutter, you’ll want to go through a massive purge. The way to do this is to block off a day to go through their rooms. Do one area at a time: a drawer, a section of the closet, a shelf. Take verything out of that area, put it in a pile. From that pile, take only the really important stuff (See Tip 1). Get rid of the rest. Donate it to charity if it’s still good. Get some boxes and put all the stuff to donate in there, and when they’re full, load them up in your car to donate on your next trip. Then put back the important stuff, and tackle the next area. If you do this quickly, you can do a room in a couple of hours.
Leave space. When you put the important stuff back, don’t try to fill up each drawer, shelf or closet area. Allow there to be some space around the objects. It’s much nicer looking, and it leaves room for a couple of extra items later if necessary.
A home for everything. We haven’t actually completely succeeded at this, but we try to teach the kids that everything they own has a “home”. This means that if they’re going to put away a toy, they should know where its home is, and put it there. If they don’t know where the home is, they need to find a home for it, and put it there from now on. Actually, this is a useful concept for adults, too, and it’s one that I’ve mastered and found very useful. Our kids understand this idea (at least, the four older ones do), but sometimes they forget. Still, it helps keep things organized.
Teach them to clean. Our 1-year-old daughter, Noelle, doesn’t know how to clean up after herself. But all of the other 5 kids do, including our 3-year-old. So, instead of us continually stressing out about the messes, we just ask them to clean up now and then. Sure, things will get messy again soon. But at least the kids are doing the work cleaning up, not us.
Purge at Christmas, birthdays. On these two occasions, new stuff comes into their lives en masse. If you just add this new stuff to their old stuff, you will have a huge mess. Instead, we ask them to put all their gifts in one place. Then, a day or two after Christmas or their birthday, we go through their closets and bins and ask them what they want to get rid of so they can make room for the new stuff.
Go for quality. Instead of getting them a huge pile of cheap junk, go for quality toys or possessions that will last long. Wood is better than plastic, for example. The classic toys are often the best. It’s best to spend your money on a couple of great things than a whole bunch of cheap things that will break and be relegated to the junk pile in no time.
Once again, these ideas are part of this blog post.