One of the upsides to having all this extra time indoors is that we can take the chance to blitz our homes and get rid of all that unwanted clutter. If you're working from home like us, you can also clear yourself a workspace. Here are our best decluttering tips on getting started, making it fun, and encouraging the kids to join in. Before you start, gather together a few decluttering supplies - gather together three boxes and some bin bags. If you have no boxes, you could mark out two areas on the floor, use two (clean) bins, toy boxes or just use bin bags - you might have to get creative!
Next - and this is most important - get the kids to choose their favourite music to play, or ask them to select a much-loved film to provide the entertainment while you're all busy.
One of our favourite declutter tips is to set up a timer on your phone, or kitchen timer. We reckon 30 minutes is a decent length of time - if you have smaller children, you might need to work in 10- or 20-minute chunks. Here are our top decluttering tips.
Keep it small
Seeing results quickly is the best way to motivate little people, so begin with a small area, just to start you off. Perhaps an art and craft area, or if you have a dining or kitchen table that is used as a dumping area (and we all have that place!), start work on that first. Get everyone to help and inject some fun into decluttering by setting a timer to see how quickly you can all finish. Then, when it's done, you can sit at the table and enjoy a drink and a snack or lunch together or play a board game on your lovely clear table.
Focus on one room
We find it's much easier to tackle one room a day when you're decluttering, so that you - and the children - don't lose interest. Resolve to purge the whole house and you'll end up frazzled and with a load of messy rooms - we know, we've been there! Start in the living room or family room, so you all have somewhere nice to chill out once you're done. Plan a treat as a reward when it's done. Depending on the age of your children it could be a movie night with popcorn, some time on the computer or games console, baking some cakes or cookies - whatever works as a good motivator for them!
Decluttering with toddlers and babies
As much younger children aren't really going to be able to help, your best bet is to tackle small jobs while they are happy in a baby swing or bouncing chair and watching you, or for toddlers, find an activity that will keep them busy for 15 minutes or so while you're busy. Or fit it in during nap time if you have the energy! You could set them up in the kitchen with some play dough while you blitz a drawer, or get the train tracks out so that you can sort out the living room while still keeping an eye on them. Whatever activity you know will entertain them happily on their own for a few minutes.
Declutter a room step by step
So, if you are ready to tackle a whole room, this is how it goes...
Set up three boxes (or areas) - label them keep, bin, donate (to go the charity shop when they are open). You might want to add a fourth box for items you want to sell on eBay or Facebook. If you're working on a home office, add a box or file for paperwork to be sorted.
Even quite young children, say four-plus, can help with this process. They can act as your runners - bringing things to you for sorting - and you can make a game out of throwing out the rubbish. How many points can they score by flinging items in the rubbish box? Ask someone to keep score and ensure there is a reward at the end - pennies or some chocolate as special treat.
Tackle toys first
Make tidying a game and the kids will want to join in! Give everyone a small box or basket and see how quickly they can fill it with toys. For slightly older children, they can hunt out their own toys, all the cars, all the soft toys, or all the red toys, maybe.
Set them the task of gathering the toys in groups - all the dolls, all the soft toys, all the art materials. Once they are all in one place, it will be easy to see that there are just too many toy cars for instance - there's always too many cars! - and maybe you can persuade the kids to get rid of some, especially if they can sell them and make a little profit, or pass them on to a child who isn't so fortunate.
First step with sorting out a child's room is making sure they are on your side. Talk to them about how much nicer the room will be when it's decluttered - maybe there will be room for a craft area or games playing area.
Get the kids working on lots of little tasks so they don't get bored - Give them a big sheet of drawing paper and ask them to test out all the pens and crayons and throw out the duds. They can line up all their collectable dolls in a row on a windowsill. and put any duplicates in the donate box.
Store toys together in their groups, so they can be found more easily when the children want to play. Create storage at child height for easy access. Use higher shelves for display or to put away items that are only occasionally used.
Play declutter Twister
Get out the Twister spinner and relabel it so instead of right foot, it says dolls. Instead of left hand, it says art materials and so on - whatever it is you want to gather up. Mark up some storage boxes or baskets with the same labels. Get spinning and send the kids off to gather items and place them in the right box or basket. Who will grab the correct item the quickest?
Sort out storage
Storage, storage, storage is the answer when decluttering! If everything has its place (once you have got rid of the rubbish, the broken toys, and the stuff you just don't need) it will be so much easier to keep everything clear and clutter-free.
Order a filing cabinet or box to store all essential paperwork together.
Clearly label boxes, baskets or drawers for children so they know where things go.
Soft toys can find a spot in a toy hammock - or even be used to stuff a bean bag cover!
Clear the kitchen
Lots of our kitchens include stuff that isn't actually kitchen-related. It might be where the children do homework, where you sort out the mail, feed the pets - all kinds of things. Try to allocate these tasks a specific storage area, so they don't take over - get the kids to set up a homework station with pots for pens and things, where they can do schoolwork while we are in lockdown, while you sort a recycling bin and a file for sorting the bills.
The secret with kitchens is to keep counters clear. But first, the cabinets and drawers need to be organised, so set your timer to 30 minutes and tackle a drawer or two. You've got this! Work your way through the rest of the kitchen drawers and cabinets in this way.
Check dates on foodstuff and bring the oldest to the front (it's good number practise for a school-age child), decant open packets into plastic containers or glass Kilner jars if you have them. While you're doing that, if you have some labels in a drawer, younger members of the family can create some lovely artistic labels for the food jars.
Then challenge them to match up all the Tupperware lids and pots. Maybe it's not an impossible task after all!
Keep your house clutter-free (mum goals)
Put up designated hooks for coats, bags, PE kits and so on. Each child can draw their own label for their hooks.
Place a bin in the hallway for junk post. Keep a file in the hallway for post that needs to be kept, and make sure everything that comes through the letterbox is up to date each day.
If you have room in a utility room or garage, set up a donation box. Anything that is unwanted can go straight in here and the box can go to the charity shop when it's full.
Make everyone responsible for doing a quick clear-up before bedtime; putting away toys in the right place, hanging up clothes, throwing out rubbish and so on. Even younger children can have a small task to do.
Make empty surfaces decorative - people are less likely to dump piles of paper, or odd bits of toy on a sideboard that has a nice vase of flowers, or a display of scented candles.
Operate a one-in, one-out system. Buy a new shirt? Donate another item to charity. This way your cupboards will not be full to overflowing.
Declutter toys before birthdays and Christmas, to make space for new ones.
Buy experiences, such as a trip to the theatre, a kid-friendly afternoon tea or an outing to a trampoline park instead of toys, ornaments and other things that are going to clutter up your beautifully decluttered house. Good luck!
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