Kids Clutter Drives me Nuts

tackle kids clutter editedThe older I get, the more averse I am to clutter. Clutter can be extremely distracting and stress-inducing for lots of people, but I believe HSPs are less able to just ignore it.  We are constantly scanning our environment to determine what is relevant or not.  When I see a counter top with tons of papers, pens, knicknacks, and mail, I have fantasies of sweeping it ALL into a hefty bag with my arm.  That would be so satisfying.

I tackled my clutter problem two years ago after reading The Joy of Less.   (I know everyone is obsessed with the Konmari method, but The Joy of Less literally changed my  life.)  I basically went room by room, one room per day.  I purged about 50% of my posessions, and continue to have a charity pick up a few boxes every month.  It feels wonderful to have empty surfaces, tidy rooms, and to know exactly what I own and where it is.  It’s truly helped my home feel more like a sanctuary from the crazy world, instead of crazy town.  Since decluttering, I’m also more likely to invite people over for meals or to just hang out since I know I won’t have to do a crazy cleaning spree beforehand.

Many assume kids’ clutter- toys, baby supplies and gear-  is inevitable.  But if you walked into my home, besides the booster seat at the table, some baby pictures on the wall, and two small baskets of toys in the corner of the living room, you might not even guess we have two kids.  I was inspired by the book Bringing Up Bebe which said French homes are not overwhelmed with kids’ clutter.  Rather, the children keep it all in their rooms.  That’s their little world.  Then when they get tucked into bed at the end of the day, the evening and the home belongs to the parents.  It’s time to sip wine, talk and romance.  Don’t you just love that picture?

Parenting can be so messy, unpredictable, and chaotic, but my house doesn’t need to be.  That’s not an option for me and my well-being.  Clutter is just too burdensome for me and my HSC (Highly Sensitive Child). We need blank space and room to breathe and to think.affiliate badge

Here’s how I keep kids’ clutter under control.

(I highly recommend reading The Joy of Less if you need a swift kick in the booty to get all your clutter under control. You will be changed forever… )

  • Purge 1/2 of their toys.  Then purge some more.  Your kids should probably not be a part of this process. They aren’t good judges of what they really need and use.  You are.  Toss anything broken, neglected, super annoying to clean up.  I know, this seems tough.  But I guarantee your kids will play longer and more creatively with less. It’s ironic.
  • Choose a few baskets or toy boxes to keep toys contained.  The picture above shows Sisi’s toy boxes and bookshelves. We also have a cute little art cart (Ikea’s raskog cart) for art supplies.  When toys start to spill over, we know to purge some more.
  • Same with books.  Purge down to the nitty gritty favorites.  Below you’ll see a picture of our wall bookshelves (which are actually spice racks painted white.)  They fit just a handful of books each, which forces us to keep our collection succinct. We assume we need a huge library for our kids, but we don’t.  Don’t your kids like to read the same books over and over anyway?  We hit up the public library every few weeks if we’re craving novelty. Or we tell stories verbally, the good old fashioned way. (I’m a sucky storyteller but Sisi eats it up!)
  • Baby Stuff:  Only save what is in great condition and actually useful for future children. Ditch anything soiled, worn, not really useful. If by chance you give away something that you end up needing later, it’s really not that hard to find it again for cheap/free. Matteo is 8 months now, and I’ve already given away, sold or donated much of his baby stuff.  I am pretty vigilant about only keeping what is useful right now.  We don’t plan to have any more kids, so I’m happy to say goodbye to this stuff.
  • You probably don’t need that much “baby gear” either. We follow R.I.E. parenting principes, so we try not to rely on swings, jumpers, and fancy electronic toys to keep our kids entertained.  Instead, we put our babies on the floor or the crib to explore with a few simple toys.  We do have one simple and attractive bouncer, the baby bjorn babysitter, which is more like a baby lounge chair for moments when I need to keep baby contained.  Basically, keep the gear you actually use regularly, but know that most of it isn’t essential (even if the catalogs tell you they are!)
  • Kids’ Creations:  We keep 1 or 2 pieces of artwork on the fridge to admire at a time before we recycle them, but we don’t usually keep it forever.  Maybe I will regret this someday, but in my mind, it’s more about the process of creating (I often snap pics of her as she’s working) than the tangible product.  If you’re more sentimental than I, you can always photograph of the creations and condense them into a photo album to treasure always.  Keeping stacks and stacks of artwork is just not conducive to a tidy home.

Does kid clutter drive you nuts, too?  Please share your kid clutter solutions!

tidy kids book shelves


  1. Lacey says

    Oh I am SO hearing you on this. We have tackled things in a similar way, although I will say that it gets more challenging as you have several older kids, who share toys like Duplo or wooden blocks. Each of the girls has an Ikea Expedit cube set of 4 with matching baskets in their rooms to hold toys and learning materials. We sometimes rotate these around. I also have a set of 8 Expedit baskets in our communal living space, which holds learning materials like musical instruments, puzzles, art supplies, play dough and board games. This works for us, because these things are all shared and they are not things that I want the kids pulling out and playing with whenever they want (paint in their rooms? no thanks).

    I set aside time at the change of each season to get rid of the clothes that no longer fit or aren’t good enough to keep to pass down. For 3 kids, this takes an entire morning – I just toss stuff into a spare clothes hamper in Aela’s cupboard as it gets washed and I go, “Yeah that doesn’t fit anymore”. Then I reassess it all and only pack away the truly precious, cute and useful. It was much easier with just one child!

    This year, we are heading into birthday season, and I’ve created a Pinterest board that I sent to family and friends with just a few small gift suggestions (all under $20), and very few of them are toys. I hope that will help, as I do find that the majority of our toy clutter problems come from gifts. I also have decided to part with some of the larger toy systems that have too many little bits and pieces — the play kitchen being one. I find the plastic tea set and wooden food items EVERYWHERE and it’s no good for my sanity. I’ve had it packed in the garage for 6 months now (meaning to sell it) and the kids have continued to play, but just grabbed plastic gear from the kitchen and made their own food outside with sticks and stones. So much better!

    Okay, this is a novel.

  2. says

    Great blog! We are in the process of decluttering. One thing I wanted to share was when our nephews were spending lots of time with us, we had a TON of their toys that they had grown too old for just sitting around.
    I had them come in and tell me what they wanted to give away to other kids (ie Goodwill!), and so we sorted through and ended up giving away about 75% of the toys, plus they felt good because they were giving the toys away to another kid to play with.
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  3. janice says

    I find that I dislike clutter more as I get older too. Toys are easier to get rid of. I get rid of the artwork/crafts after a few days. But books are so much harder. I like to have lots of books for them since I don’t hit the library often. And I like the new, clean books vs. very used library books. But I do feel the clutter!

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