Children’s clutter seems to breed and take over space at an alarming rate if it is not checked and controlled. As a parent, one of your responsibilities is to set guidelines about this, but here’s something you may not realize…
Teaching your children how 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 take a more positive approach:
We’re going to clear a lot of space in your room.
So that you’ve got more room to play and do the sorts of projects you want to do.
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.
Has children’s clutter taken over your home? How does this make you feel? Has this article inspired you to tackle it? Please share your comments below.
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2014, updated 2018