1. Talk to your kids about the organizational problems you see in their room. See if they share your concerns. You might try saying things like, “Do you wish you had more floor space to spread out and play?” “Do you wish you could find your favorite toys easier?” You have to get BUY-IN from your kids if you want them to help you organize, so appeal to what they get out of it. This is NOT the conversation for threats of punishment or ultimatums.
2. Need more buy-in from the kids? Show them some pictures on Pinterest or Instagram of how their room could look if it got cleaned up. Point out features in the pictures that could work in their room: “Look how they stored all of the stuffed animals in a net above the bed–should we get that for you?” “I bet we could put all of your Nerf guns in an upright wire basket too.” Get them excited about the possibilities.
3. Kids only have the stamina for about 2 hours of organizing in one day, so you may need to set aside a few afternoons if the room is extremely cluttered. Insisting that the whole room be cleaned up in one day will burn out your kids and make them even more resistant to organizing!
4. Agree with the kids beforehand about where their unwanted toys will go. Perhaps you can host a garage sale and let them keep the money from the toys that sell. Maybe there’s a favorite kids’ charity nearby that could really use the items. Sometimes clients pass down old toys to younger cousins or neighbors nearby.
5. Once you have decided the final destination of unwanted toys, phrase every decision about every toy to the child as “keep or give to Cousin Emma?” Phrasing it that way helps sentimental kids see that the toys are moving on to the next person who will love them, instead of heading for the landfill. Kids will often surprise you with how generous they can be!
6. If kids seem REALLY overwhelmed by the mess and are hitting decision paralysis, try a different tactic. I usually do a presort in those situations, and group like items together so all the child has to do is pick which, say, toy cars to keep. This method narrows the child’s focus to a manageable level. You can even try presorting all the cars into a bin, THEN moving the bin into another (hopefully calmer, cleaner) room for you and the child to sort in. A change of scenery can help nudge people out of that decision fog (this tip works well for adults too!)
7. Finally, don’t be afraid to step in and be the parent. If you know that your child isn’t playing with a certain toy, feel free to donate it for her. If you only have room for 10 dolls in her room, but she wants to keep 30, maybe you compromise on keeping 15 dolls. But I think it’s totally acceptable for parents to have the final say on what is allowed to take up space in the house, seeing as how they are the ones primarily responsible for keeping the house tidy.
Need more help getting your kids organized? Feel free to reach out to us here at reSPACEd. We have many years’ experience organizing with kids and their parents, and we know what works to clear the clutter. We are happy to lend a hand!
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