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Forget the congratulations. What are you going to do about your house? That was the first question our friends and family asked when we announced our second pregnancy.
These days, the definition of inconceivable is a young family of four living in a two bedroom, 85 square metre (915 sq foot) house. Minimalism with kids – impossible!
Of course, physically accommodating a new human is relatively easy. They’re pretty small and mostly just want to be wherever you are. What’s not small is the amount of stuff they come with – funny really given they’re born naked without as much as an instruction manual.
Kids’ clutter is a bit like the ocean. Every day it washes up to the high tide line as you battle to contain it. And then come the storms (AKA birthdays and Christmas) where stuff rains down on your children, surging through your house, eroding your patience.
Australia, with its honourable distinction of building the biggest houses in the world, has a bit of a storage problem.
- Australia’s self storage industry is worth approximately $1.1 Billion per year.
- 88 per cent of homes have at least one cluttered room, and the average home has three or more cluttered rooms
- The average Australian spends $1226 a year on items that have been purchased and never used.
- And no surprises, households with kids have the most clutter.
So we’re spending a ton of money buying stuff we don’t use, then spending even more to store it and upgrading houses to accommodate it all. Because the question mark over the size of our house isn’t aimed at the new human we’re about to bring home, it’s their stuff.
Of course, there’s also the psychological burden of clutter which disproportionately affects women.
15 Tips To Declutter and Organise Your Home With Kids
We’re not planning to upgrade house in the next 5 years. Minimalism with children is possible. Here’s how to create a clutterfree house with small children.
1. Don’t buy in the first place. Avoid the temptation to buy a million things in the first place. It’s tempting to fill the need of being prepared by buying everything, but in reality, you can’t be prepared for parenthood. For the first few months, all your baby really wants is you.
2. Avoid boredom. Put away all the toys in cupboards and bring them out on rotation instead of everything being available all the time which seems to lead to boredom on the part of the child. This seems to keep my toddler interested in whatever is in play for the week and prevents me from needing to add to the collection.
3. Set a good example. Train yourself and your children to put their stuff away before the end of the day or when transitioning from one activity to another. Do it from the beginning, even before they are old enough to get it, so as to create the habit for both of you and create a clutter free home. Yes, it means a lot of picking up for you initially, but it does pay off in the long run when your kids think tidy is normal.
4. Give everything a home. Start with some kids room organization. It’s much easier to tidy when you know where things go and when you run out of space it becomes pretty obvious. This also empowers you to decide where the limits are to the clutter. You can decide if you actually want toys stored in the lounge room.
5. Check your purchasing motivation. Kids don’t usually buy toys for themselves, you do. Avoid buying new toys because you’re bored of playing with the ones they have. True story, this really does happen. Ask yourself why you’re really buying more toys. Are you worried about depriving your kids?
6. Make stuff. If you’re getting bored, make your own toys and activities using the trillions of ideas on Pinterest as inspiration. This not only gives you something to play with, but a fun activity to do.
7. Encourage sharing. A surefire way to get your own kids interested in their toys is to have their friends and cousins over. Nothing like a bit of sharing to make them realise how much they value toys they were getting bored of.
8. Embrace non toys. Allow your child to collect interesting things from around the house and outdoors. It can be surprising what they find to play with and what amuses them when left to their own devices. After all, who knew a smooth rock from the creek could be a source of fascination? Also encourage activities that don’t involve toys. Like folding and putting away washing, currently a toddler favourite!
9. Keep Christmas and birthdays magical. That’s the time when kids should get new stuff, not every week of the year. This really bothers me because it’s sets up the expectation that they are entitled to new stuff all the time. And those special occasions? Well how special are they really if Christmas comes every time you walk into a shopping center? So, if a grandparent turns up with a package and it’s not a birthday or Christmas, pretend you’re not at home.
10. Set storage limits. Decide how much space each child can have for their toys and tell your children about their storage limits. When they get to their limit encourage them to decide what to get rid of.
11. Find a toy library in your local area, or set up a swap with friends. I actually never believed these mythical places existed and then I found our other local council provided this service. It’s been wonderful because I’m always amazed at what my toddler is interested in and what she’s not. Since the toy library discovery we been able to try out toys, without needing to buy. Which is lucky, because she hasn’t been interested in most things we’ve borrowed even when I thought she’d love them.
12. Give away duplicates or anything else that doesn’t get any use, through lack of interest.
13. Use the library. Having a million books around feels like the right thing to do given the studies that show book ownership is linked to success in life. But honestly, keep book buying to a minimum. Borrow from your local library for your own sake and to get the most out of your council rates. The day I had to return “Dinoshapes” was a very happy day. On the other hand, we loved “Yak and Gnu” so much, it was a special Christmas delivery last year.
14. Purge regularly. As soon as your kids grow out of their stuff, whether that’s clothes, toys or books, sell or donate them. I know it’s hard, but holding onto their stuff, doesn’t stop them from growing up.
15. Treasure the important stuff. Create a box for keepsakes and treasures from your children’s early years. Keep the really special stuff and let go of the rest.
Keeping kids clutter at bay won’t necessarily be easy, but it’s a critical life and money lesson. Good financial management is centered on living within your means and avoiding materialism.
Teaching kids there are limits to how much they can have is not depriving them of a happy childhood, even if they act like it is.
Given all the benefits, clutter free living is one of the most loving things a parent can give their children.
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