Pre-Christmas purge: Tips to help kids declutter

This past week-end, my daughter tackled her annual ‘pre-Christmas purge’.  Before my daughter completes her ‘Christmas Wish List’, I have her go through her stuff (toys, crafts, etc.) and weed out what she no longer plays with.  Before Christmas and her birthday tend to be a good time to go through this exercise as, generally speaking, the idea of giving things away is somewhat easier when she knows there will be new things to take their place.

Having said that, she has been doing this for years now and does a pretty good job of ‘decluttering’.  Truth is, she doesn’t really mind the process, since it gives her an opportunity to ‘find’ things she had ‘lost’ or reacquaint herself with things she had forgotten she even had.  When she was done, both she and I had a much better idea of what should and shouldn’t be on her Christmas list.

Although she will perform this task on her own, her preference is for me to keep her company (after all, it’s more fun when you’re not alone).  Truth is, it’s probably not a bad idea to be on hand so that you can provide some direction (and possibly a little focus…there’s a tendency to get distracted and end up playing more than purging).  Having said that, it’s a good idea to make it a little fun, so that they aren’t turned off of the process completely.  A little music and dancing can’t hurt!

I have my daughter divide things into piles – one for keeping, one for throwing away/recycling and one for giving to charity (thrift stores always appreciate donations at this time of year).  Once she’s done sorting things into piles, it’s the perfect time to take the things she is keeping and to neatly organize them before she puts them away.  Remember, you may love your child’s closet to look like it came out of the pages of Good Housekeeping magazine, but you might want to lower your standards a bit.  Imposing an impossible standard of tidiness on your child is only going to frustrate both you and your child and cause a rift in your relationship (it’s best to choose your battles carefully).

I came across this infographic today (too bad I didn’t see it earlier!) and thought it would be helpful for anyone who is looking to declutter.  When your children are doing their pre-Christmas purge, use these questions to help guide their decisions and teach them decluttering skills that they can use for many years to come.

Need to #declutter ? #realestate

Click here to read this article in detail.

Let’s be honest, most kids aren’t going to love going through their belongings and making decisions about what to keep and what to give away (to be perfectly honest, it’s not my favorite thing, either), but these ‘decluttering skills’ will benefit them throughout their lives (we’ve all watched shows on hoarding and seen the impact on peoples’ lives).

If you’re interested in teaching your children organization and personal responsibility, you may also wish to read my post on ‘Teaching responsibility at home: Implementing an after-school routine’.

Teaching kids to declutter

Let’s face it, tidying up and making decisions about what to keep versus what to get rid of, are probably never going to be your child’s favourite activities (in fairness, which of us can honestly say that it is ours?), but teaching kids to declutter is nonetheless an important life skill (we’ve all seen the shows where stuff is piled so high that a path has to be made to move throughout the home).

Here are some tips to help make this process a little less painful for both you and your children.

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  • Typically, prior to a child’s birthday and Christmas are good times to have them go through their stuff to get rid of what they’re not playing with, and make room for any new things they may get (this is when they are the most motivated, as they know that items they give away are likely to be replaced with new ones).   This is also a good time to stress to them that many children do not have the toys that they do and to outline the importance of giving the toys they no longer want to charity so that others may enjoy them.  We go through a “culling” process with my daughter’s toys at least a couple of times a year.  We’ve been doing this since she was three or four, so she knows the drill and often even initiates the clean-up on her own.
  • Make it their idea.  Funny thing, but most kids really hate being told what to do.   Sometimes it’s necessary but, where possible, try to get them to come up with the idea on their own.  In the past, my daughter has been motivated by such things as having guests over, hearing that her best friend was cleaning her room and trying to find something that she ‘lost’.
  • Ask that children give away one existing item for each new item purchased/received.  An example of this is that my daughter loves ‘stuffies’ (i.e. stuffed animals) and still plays with them consistently, so I don’t mind her having an assortment of them.  However, there is a limited amount of ‘stuffie storage space’ in her room, so that needs to be taken into consideration.  Rather than tell her that she can’t get any more (often, she is wanting to buy them with her own money), I have asked that she give one away before she purchases a new one.  So far, this has worked out well (typically, there are some that she is not as fond of as others or that she doesn’t have an emotional attachment to, so those are the first to go).
  • Don’t try to tackle too much at once…look for manageable chunks of work that can be completed within a reasonable timeframe (taking your child’s personality into consideration).
  • Try to make tidying up as ‘fun’ as possible, by putting on some music or by making it into a game (“name 3 things that Sally no longer plays with”).
  • The idea of going through their stuff and tidying up, can seem overwhelming to a child (we’ve all been there!), but they may be more receptive if you “keep them company” and pleasantly guide them through the organizational process (e.g. “Can this be thrown out?” or “Where does this belong?”).  Let there be no mistake though, do not do it for them, or nothing will be learned.  Make sure that they make the decisions about what to keep or throw out, then have them organize what remains.
  • I love containers.  I don’t spend a lot of money for them (typically, I get them for a dollar or two at the Dollar Store) but I think it’s a great way to get kids to organize their stuff (e.g. this basket has all your hair elastics and this one holds your socks, etc.).  Work with your child to determine what items belong together and then make a trip to the Dollar Store and have them pick out the best containers for the job (it’s always good if they feel that they have a say in it).
  • Try not to be too critical.  Don’t insist on perfection or your child will feel like they can never live up to your expectations and should not even bother to try.   Your child may not keep their room as tidy as you would like it to be, but decide together what is “good enough” and know that there is value in simply teaching them the ongoing process of organizing their belongings (your child’s future roommates and spouse will thank you).


I’m not going to lie…there are times that I could certainly benefit from following my own advice (of course, it’s always easier to give advice than to follow it oneself), but it’s important that I practice what I preach, or I lose credibility in my daughter’s eyes.  My desk sometimes looks like a tornado touched down and I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ that people have deposited throughout the house.  When that happens, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and tackle one thing at a time.

It’s an ongoing process and, like anything, the more you and your child work at it, the better you’ll become. Well, gotta go…it’s time to tidy up!