Is Clearing Clutter Necessary?
Springtime is a great time to go through rooms and living spaces to clear clutter. If you spring clean, then this will make that job easier. Many people already go through clothing at this time too to switch out winter clothes for spring and summer clothes—especially if living in an area that gets snow.
It doesn’t take that much more of an effort to expand this sorting process to your things as well. I’m not quite sure how, but with birthdays and holidays there always seems to be an accumulation that takes place during the winter months in my house, especially in my girls’ rooms. Without this periodical sorting, rooms would be taken over by stuff and not be the personal spaces we’ve intended them to be for our girls.
How do we go about sorting, though? And is it really necessary? We’ll get to the ‘how’ soon. First, I want to go over why it’s necessary because it is necessary. I have read in books about how children with more things will say they have nothing to play with, and I have seen it first hand with my girls before we started sorting.
Why is this? It’s simple really—children become overwhelmed. They also become accustomed to the thought that “more” is better. This is not a thought we want to pass on to our girls.
Personally, I also know it’s necessary because as a child, I saved everything. As an adult I then had to go back through all of these things and get rid of the majority of them. I do not want my girls to have to go through this same process and we also don’t have the room to store a ton of boxes that contain things that will eventually be tossed.
Now for the ‘how.’ When your children are little, you can do this for them. As they grow, slowly bring them into the process by having them just in the room with you to slowly taking over more and more of the sorting responsibility. Start with one area and work your way around the room.
You can do this in one day/weekend or slowly over a period of time. This is a skill we want to pass on to our children, so if you or they start to get overwhelmed, take a break and come back to it later. We sort everything into three piles—keep, get rid of, and save.
The keep pile gets organized into what my girls want to keep in their room and what they want to put into their lending library. The lending library is a bin that is kept in our basement (but can be kept in a closet or some other out-of-the-way-but-accessible place).
The bin (or box) contains things they aren’t ready to give away or get rid of yet but that they don’t want in their room. If it’s something that has been a favorite for a long time but isn’t being used at the moment, the lending library is a great place for it.
If they later decide they want something out of their lending library then they pick something from their room to swap it out with. That way their room doesn’t become overwhelmed again, and if something stays in the lending library for six months or more without them asking for it, I know it’s probably time to talk with them about donating it so that someone else can love it.
The get-rid-of pile is sorted into trash, recycling, and give away/donations. The save pile is put into their keepsake box. The keepsake box occasionally needs to be gone through as well. Things they feel are keepsake-worthy can change drastically from the age of five to the age of ten.
Repeat the Process Every Year
Sometimes we need to sort more often, but I have found that at least once a year seems to be a good time frame for us. I’ve just started this process again this past weekend with my girls. With my seven-year-old, I sat there as she went through things and told me which pile to put things in.
I then suggested ways to organize things that would be put back in her room if she wasn’t sure what to do with them. My eleven-year-old can do the sorting on her own, but she still likes me to be in the room with her to keep her company and to help her with tricky items.
During this process, my eleven-year-old told me she couldn’t give away something because it had been a gift. I had this belief for many years which is part of the reason why I held on to so many things.
After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo though, if it’s not something that is useful to me or something I like, then I think of it as something that brought happiness to the giver in the giving and to me in the receiving and can easily put it in the get-rid-of pile. In sharing this, I was able to give my daughter another way of looking at the gift.
With tricky items, like the gift, I’ve found it’s helpful to ask a few questions to help figure out what pile the item belongs in. See the free download to see these questions and to help you and your child with your own sorting adventures.
Spring Clear Your Space (with Kids) Cheat Sheet
A quick run down of the process and printable labels for your piles!
Carolyn is a writer, proofreader, and editor. She has a background in wildlife management but pivoted to writing and editing when she became a mother. In her "free time" she is a 4th Dan (degree) Kukkiwon certified black belt in Taekwondo, loves learning to craft from her enormously talented children, and then teaching what she's learned to her enormously talented grandmother. Read full bio >>