How to declutter your kid's space so they care.

My darling daughter has recently let her room "go to the pits" due to many things - school activities, auditions, playdates, running late. Her ability to navigate her mess has astounded me. The mess has also driven me a little crazy because she can't find anything which then causes more problems and angst. That is when the mess has gone too far.

This is her room (note the "path" from bed to door)

When I heard about Tania, I really wanted to know how to resolve this situation without turning it into a battle of wills because that always ends up in tears. I wanted to lift my daughter's care factor up about her room.

Here is her advice on decluttering so they care.

Once upon a time, you were a young woman out and about in the world. Life was noisy. Maybe it was all night clubs, concerts & dance parties, pumping music from your car with the windows wound down, or singing at 2am sitting round a fire pit. Life was often noisy, and it was great fun.

Today though #Mumlife is pretty different, isn’t it? It’s a different kind of fun. Of course you still love to have a sing-a-long in the car and hopefully manage to catch a concert every now and again. And life is always noisy with kids. But so often you’re tired, over-whelmed and looking for an opportunity to just sit and be quiet to re-charge your batteries; so you can be the best Mummy you can be.

So, is your lounge room a peaceful and calm space, or is there kid’s stuff everywhere? Do you have bright plastic tubs stacked up and bookshelves brimming with toys and books? Can you see a playroom or bedroom from where you are with toys left out, piled up in corners, shoved behind doors or stuffed under beds? Is the view from your family space more closely related to a day care centre than a day spa?

Kid’s clutter is the adversary of calm.

Kid’s clutter is the adversary of calm. It is the opposite of quiet. Trying to rest in a cluttered room is like trying to nap at a dance party; it is all visual noise working against your attempts to de-tune. Instead of resting, your eyes will be dancing over all the things that need to be done, put away or managed. Mummy guilt soon kicks in, and before you know it you’re up again, doing the ‘put-away’ dance, even though you know the kids could be doing it for themselves.

The key to avoiding the ‘kid’s clutter dance party’ at your place is to set your family up for success with some fresh thinking, forward planning, family action and agreed upon guidelines.

Many parents when they reach their clutter limit grab a big garbage bag, get on a roll and start shoving things in. “You haven’t used this in ages. I never see you play with this. I had forgotten you even had this.” they will decree. Kids will stand on the sidelines, arguing and crying as they see their things disappear into the big black bag. Or even worse, they come home to find that cyclone Mummy has swept through their space and changed everything; they don’t even know what has gone! Trust will be broken between parent and child, and they will have missed a tremendous opportunity to learn and practice the skills associated with de-cluttering.

Instead of this approach, the far more peaceful and positive way to decrease kid’s clutter and create calm at home is to teach children 5 and over how to de-clutter for themselves. It gives them an opportunity to learn about and practice decision making, assessing, prioritising, managing & respecting their things and their space. It empowers them to take ownership and responsibility for their things. It increases their awareness of their space, and their buy-in in keeping it orderly; and it reduces your workload, stress level and Mummy guilt.

Take action together… Leave your expectations at the door, and allow your child to make the decisions for themselves.

It all starts with

  • Stemming the tide of new things entering the home; looking out for the different ways it all comes in - such as supermarket promos toys, fast food meals, goodie bags or gifts – and putting a stop to it.

  • Next, lead by example by de-cluttering an area of the home you’re responsible for such as the pantry, walk in wardrobe, kitchen bench or linen cupboard, and talking with your child about the benefits. Build your children up to the idea that they will be de-cluttering their own things, and focus on all the positives such as being easier to keep clean, find what they want and have what they love.

  • Then schedule a day, and take action together.

  • Ask them to sort their toys, into 4 piles; Keep, Discard, Rubbish and Action (e.g. clean/repair/return).

  • Leave your expectations at the door, and allow your child to make the decisions for themselves.

  • Talk with them and support them through the process. Cover every category and every item, and encourage them to keep only their very favourites.

  • Then consider if your storage methods and management systems are suitable.

  • Look to ensure all toys are kept away in cupboard and bedrooms instead of out on display in the family room, and make your child responsible for putting them away.

When you’re done, stop and look around together at the space you have created. Take a moment to appreciate it. You may even feel inspired put on some tunes and enjoy your own little family dance party together to enjoy your hard work!


If you’d like to learn how to talk to your child about de-cluttering, what you can expect for their age and stage, different de-cluttering techniques suitable for children across all ages and much more, you can order a copy of Tania’s eBook “De-cluttering with Children” available now at:

Tania is a professional home de-clutter, organisation and interior stylist with her own business Interior Philosophy, a graduate of The International School of Colour and Design and a Mum of 2.

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