How to teach your children to live clutter-free

Children’s clutter seems to breed and take over space at an alarming rate if it is not checked and controlled. Here’s something you may not have realized about this problem.

Child

As a parent, one of your responsibilities is to set guidelines about your children’s clutter. But what you may not have realized is that teaching your children to live clutter-free really only works if you have cleared your own clutter first. They will intuitively know if you are walking your talk or just telling them what to do, and will see straight through you if you still have clutter of your own.

Take a tip from Ghandi

The story of Ghandi and the little boy who ate too many sweets illustrates this principle very well. One day a mother brought her young son to Ghandi and asked him to tell the child to stop eating sugar. He thought for a while and then asked her to bring the boy back in two weeks’ time.

When she returned he spoke to the boy and told him, ‘Stop eating sweets. They are not good for you.’ Somewhat baffled, the woman asked Ghandi why he didn’t tell the boy this two weeks ago. To which he replied, ‘Two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself!’

So clear out your own clutter first, and then help your kids.

Children learn clutter clearing from their parents

Children are very impressionable, and sometimes you won’t even need to teach them directly. They may simply pick up clutter clearing from being around you while you’re doing yours.

I heard a lovely example of this recently, from someone who has been playing my Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui audiobook while sorting through her things. One day, while she was doing this, her 4-year old daughter came running into the room and said, ‘Mummy, mummy, isn’t this where she says that we need to let go of our things from time to time so that somebody else can use them?’ This astonished the mother so much that she was lost for words. She had only ever had one short conversation with her daughter about clutter clearing, and had no idea she had even been listening to the audiobook as she had played it again and again.

I’ve often said that I wish clutter clearing could be taught in schools so that children could learn about it from an early age, but the effect of pre-schoolers hearing my audiobook is something I’ve never considered before. Could it really be that simple?

Help your children to live clutter-free

To help your children live clutter-free, it’s essential to first help them to get organized. Show them how to give each of their toys and other belongings a designated home, and teach them how to put each item back where it belongs when they have finished using it.

Allocate a reasonable and finite amount of storage space for this, and if the area becomes too messy or full, spend some time helping them to reorganize everything and decide what stays and what goes.

A man who took one of my Fast-Track Clutter Clearing online courses shared a very effective way he has found of doing this that he has kindly given me permission to share. He says that rather than say ‘we’re getting rid of things’, he takes a more positive approach:

We’re going to clear a lot of space in your room.

Why?

So that you’ve got more room to play and do the sorts of projects you want to do.

OK!

Let’s start by getting everything out of your room so we’ve got space to move. Now, what are the most important things for you to have ready to use?

[Bring in the things they most want and give them homes. As you do so, each item takes up a little bit more of their space and they see that happening.]

OK, now everything has a home. Is there anything else that needs to be in here?

[A few more things are brought in…]

This is wonderful. Well done. So we’ll put all the other things into boxes and store them so they won’t get in the way. We can get at them easily if you need any of them.

[By the second time you do this, they’ll be ready for the final part…]

OK, so now that we’ve got everything sorted, there are all these things you don’t use much. Which ones can we give away so other kids can enjoy them?

Note that for some children who are more worldly-wise, helping them to sell the toys they no longer use so that they can get money to buy new ones may be more of an incentive for a clear-out, but it is good to encourage some generous acts of giving along the way too.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2014, updated 2018


Related article
Why parents need to lead from the front, not herd from behind

Resource
Online clutter clearing courses

Recommended book
Simplicity Parenting by Kim john Payne

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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2 Responses to How to teach your children to live clutter-free

  1. I love this article. My sons decided on their own to donate all their Legos to a younger boy. I was extremely proud of them, as I had watched some of my friends warehouse their children’s toys for “the grandchildren”. I felt much better that they could be generous with something they no longer needed, and get it in circulation while it was still current. Yes, the whole family has been affected by this wonderful teaching.

  2. I love this article! My daughter had her room clutter cleared of over 100 teddies 2 years ago… when she was away! When she came home she was so relieved of not having to decide which teddies to put in the “hibernation cave”. I left her with 10 teddies, 2 got eaten by the dog and she has never bought a teddy since because she likes fitting in her bed!

    During this process I was extensively clutter clearing the house and selling stuff. They also got in the swing of it and gave me all their books and DVD’s they no longer wanted, then my husband joined in. We made enough money for 1* restaurant meal and all the trimmings (£100’s +).

    2 years on, January of this year, I began another deep clutter clear of the house (not taking so long second time around!). The kids have been putting things on the “sell” pile without prompt. This time, they want the cash, though! Happy with that, their rooms are looking & feeling great and they totally understand how to let go of the old, to bring room for the new. What a gift to pass onto children. You were a huge part of this Karen & Richard, huge thanks x

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