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Dealing with Kid Clutter

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My right foot’s second toe (my index toe?) is throbbing as I type this. I’ve just concluded a two-hour whirlwind decluttering session and it’s 80 degrees outside and not much cooler in. The toe? Oh, well, I was picking up T’s room and made the mistake of cradling several large model cars in my arms and, of course, one dropped. On my toe. I’ll be fine. The bleeding has stopped and the skin will grow back. Good thing it’s sandals weather.

Cleaning Kids Rooms
This happy mom is finding the joy in decluttering.

Here’s my problem. I am normally very sensorily disturbed by visual clutter (actually audible clutter bothers me, as well―I feel like I’m drowning when several people talk to me at once or when more than one type of music is playing in our house). But I also can’t stand cleaning. It ranks right up there with getting my annual “well woman’s check.” I realize no one *looks forward* to cleaning (except for maybe my mom), but I truly do detest it.

Some unflappable moms out there will wave these concerns away nonchalantly, and say: What’s more important? Playing with our kids at the park or cleaning the blinds? Our kids are only little once and we should spend quality time with them each and every day. So what if the house is a little messy? There will be time enough to clean when they’re older and want to play more independently.

And I do agree, really I do. But in the meantime, I just can’t get over the heaps of STUFF everywhere. It screws with my mood. I look around and get agitated. And overwhelmed. And offended. Am *I* the only one bothered by this chaos??

So, I am looking for some solutions for dealing with kid clutter. Not just “pick it all up as you go,” either. Because life just doesn’t work that way. At least not for me.

Author of Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne is ruthless when it comes to kid clutter. His overarching rule? Less is more. This means cutting the clutter in half. And then cutting what remains in half again. And again. Until what’s left is only the toys that will endure. But exactly how do you decide what to get rid of?

In his book, Payne gives many practical tips on which toys to discard:

Toys to toss

  1. Broken toys or toys with missing parts
  2. Annoying or very “high stimulation” toys (think blinking lights and loud sounds)
  3. Toy “multiples” (Does your kid love elephants? Great! But a whole herd of pretend pachyderms isn’t really adding to his play)
  4. Toys you were pressured to buy

And once you’ve got all the discards in a pile, Payne suggests sorting them into several trash bags―one for donations, one for disposal, and one for storage/rotation (a box is probably best for this one). The rest are the ones you can keep on display in your kid’s room.

Toys to keep

  1. Make-believe toys (simple dress-up clothes, hats, accessories)
  2. Outdoor toys (buckets, shovels, nets, kites, containers for pouring/collecting)
  3. Kid-sized utensils for pretend cooking
  4. Toys that foster social interaction (tea sets, cards, board games, checkers, chess)
  5. Art/music toys (rolls of paper, clay, beadwork, drums, bells, harmonicas)
  6. Active toys (hula hoops, balls, scooters, bikes, jump ropes)

I totally get his message and I love all these ideas. And I will put them to work immediately, just as soon as I get some time ALONE. (Heaven knows trying to discard anything will prove to be futile if T is in the room. I’ve tried it before. Suddenly everything turns into the long-lost toy of his dreams and absotively cannot be thrown away.)

How do you deal with kid clutter? Do you stuff it all into the closet and forget about it? Or do you have a tried-and-true method for keeping kid stuff under control?

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