How to declutter with kids around

Honestly? There are two methods, the quick way and probably the right way (probably)

The quick way – do it when they aren’t there and download my free guide to declutter success and get cracking.

It sounds harsh but I am a busy mum of two so I know the reality of getting the kids involved in anything can be a challenge and if you are short on time, then doing it with them is probably not going to make it a stress-free experience.

However, I also believe it is important to teach children young the benefits of decluttering, organisation and respecting their toys and keeping things tidy and safe. If this is something you also agree with then here are my top tips on how to declutter WITH your children around (plus you may have no choice as I can’t even go to the loo without one of them needing me).

  1. Talk to them first about the toys they use and why others could use them better if not being played with. I think many of us underestimate the kindness and empathy another child has. By simply teaching them that unused toys are sat doing nothing and serving no purpose, you could be instead passing them on to children that are less fortunate or raising money for a charity. Most children love the idea of helping another child and feeling like they have done a good thing. It is a great lesson at any age.
  2. Ask them to help you sort them into categories and start with the outgrown categories first and remind them of the age range if not played with anymore. This is something you can turn into a game. Let’s sort all the cars into one pile, now let’s put all the things we use to colour in and paint into another etc. You can then ask them to pick out those things that look like they are aimed at younger children if you know they no longer use them anymore. 
  3. Make it a game 
    • Hold up two items. Ask them to choose between them. One they can keep and one they must donate. You win either way but they feel like they have a choice, of course you can load this game to your advantage too and pick a well-played with item vs an item not played with anymore.
    • Ask your child to find 5 things they don’t play with anymore. The first to find 5 wins a prize.
    • Pick an appropriate size box and say they can only keep the number of toys that fit into the box. This could be broken down into categories of course.
  4. Give them an incentive e.g. raised money towards a fun day trip. Kids thrive on a reward system. If you are going to be selling the toys that are not staying in your home, why not tell them what the money will go towards. Depending on the child’s age and their understanding of money, you can make a little chart showing them their progress towards affording a family fun day out.
  5. Get rid of things asap after decluttering. The quicker they are out of site, the quicker they are out of mind. This rule applies to adults too though.
Photo by Markus Spiske on

After decluttering make sure your organisational system is simple, broad, and accessible to them. Think:

  1. Broad categories for easy and quick tidy up times so that kids can help too. For example, have one big pot for pens and pencils, don’t try and ask them to colour code them every time they tidy up. You are more likely to get some help tidying away the toy cars for example if they are all in one big box rather than asking them for individual categories for electronic cars, wooden cars, cars that make noise, cars that don’t, cars that come with a track etc
  2. Accessible so kids can choose and find their own things. It is important that children can exert some level of independence choosing what they would like to play with. Although we may be tempted to keep them all locked away in a cupboard so they can’t make a mess when we turn around. Children are meant to explore and start to develop their preferences. Of course, perhaps the craft items may want to stay out of reach but try and have a range of toys at a low level in baskets or on shelves so little hands can get to them too. Plus if they can get them out easily, they can tidy them away easily too (in theory)
  3. Baskets for toy rotation. If you find that your children are constantly playing with the same things over and over again, perhaps have a think about having a toy rotation system. I love IKEA’s Kallax units for exactly this. Each box is filled with a category of toy in my children’s rooms. Each day I bring down a different box of toys to be played with. They stay excited and all our toys are regularly played with. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyday favourites can’t still come out as often they do but it does mean you get more use out of your belongings.

If you have found this useful and would like some more tips on how to declutter your space, you can download my free guide to declutter success here. You can also join me over on Facebook and Instagram where I post daily with challenges, hints, tips and masterclasses.

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