Living Small: How to Help Your Kids Weed Out the Clutter

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Some of you may remember my post about how to talk to kids about moving, and how to ease their transition into a new home. As a child who was moved every two to three years, this post was taken directly from my own experiences, and I was so happy to hear all of your personal stories and tips as well. Moving a lot and being able to pack up your life on short notice goes hand-in-hand with living minimally, or living "small." 

Having a bunch of clutter was not a luxury I had as a kid, and I have been able to apply a lot of those tools to apartment life today. I wanted to share a few of those and hear yours as well! 

1. Don't buy too much junk to begin with! Have you ever noticed that when your young child gets an expensive gift, he/she usually just wants to play with the box? I know, I know. It's hard when you have kids — because people want to give them gifts! And they get so happy when they open them! However, communicating with friends and family about your lack of space may help them to realize that stuff isn't what you need. College funds, or school supplies, or book-sharing parties are great ideas if someone asks you what your kid would like. However, if they do end up giving you something else you don't need, thank them graciously.

2. Make four piles: keepsakes, donates, for-nows and throwaways. When you're weeding through toys and belongings with your kids, make it into a game. Four piles for each kid, and make sure that they (and YOU) make quick decisions. Haggling will make you end up with tons and tons of stuff. First, the keepsakes — treasures that you will keep forever. There shouldn't be that many of these. Folders of drawings, that special snuggly toy/blankie, and absolute favorite toys belong here. The donates — books and toys that are useful to other kids! Make sure these are in good condition and safe/not recalled. The for-nows (the trickiest pile) — these are toys/belongings that your kids actively use on a weekly basis. No "I'll get around to its." If they don't use things weekly, they belong in the donate pile. Last but not least (my favorite category) are the throwaways. These are things that are broken, not useful, unsafe, too old to play with or just plain dumb. Throw those things out! It will make you feel great.

3. Explain the art of giving with love. After one of these giant pile-making sessions with my mom, I discovered that one of my Lemon Meringue plastic figurines had gone out with the "donates." I must have cried for an hour or two, despite the fact that I had probably not played with it in years. My mom explained to me that that little doll was going to make some other little kid happy, and didn't it feel good to selflessly give as we grow out of things? I'm sure I wasn't having it then — but this is a great life lesson for any age.

4. Respect your child's true feelings. As evidenced from the story above, sometimes kids just get attached to things because they feel out of control. However, sometimes they are attached to things because they really love them. Listen to your kids, and weigh why they don't want to give something up. Is it because they are emotionally attached, or just not having a good time getting rid of their stuff? Be sensitive — these things are their entire world.

5. Take breaks. If you have young kids and they are melting down under the pressure, take a break. You can always come back to it later after a calm discussion about all of the room for new things they will have now, and how good it feels to give things to others.

6. Give your kid a treat when you're all done. No, not a new toy! But an ice cream cone, a trip to their favorite park, a game of catch. Congratulate them on doing such a good job. 

Got any tips of your own? We'd love to hear them! 

(Image: Jonya & Brad's Modern A-Frame)