Okay, clearing clutter is one thing, but getting kids to clear clutter is a completely different thing! I’ve been trying a few different methods to get my son on board with reducing the amount of stuff in our house but many of the methods didn’t work so well.
Our initial effort was to set up piles in the hallway. One for donating, one for recycling and one for trash. He was overwhelmed at first, but then started to get the hang of it. Things came out of his room, but he needed help deciding which pile they should go in so it ended up not being so efficient.
I tried a timer and tried to have him sort out his toys for 15 minutes. That sort of worked, but usually he’d get distracted somewhere along the way because he’d discovered a toy that he had forgotten about and would start playing with it.
Then I tried sorting one bin at a time. Asking him to decide by looking at each item what he was ready to “get rid of”. That was tough. Unless the toy or book was obviously way too young for him, he couldn’t see the need to move it along. I get that. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what stays and what goes. After you do it a while it becomes easier, but I totally understand how it can be especially tough for kids.
My next thought was to have him think of his favorite things. Since he has them in different places in the house I suggested that he gather all of his favorite things together and once he did, we’ll find a home for them so he always knows were to find them and where to put them back (with the alternate goal to get rid of some that didn’t make the favorite list). That worked, but we still have a ways to go on the balance and frankly I was trying to figure out a way to help him decide how to handle the non-favorites.
Then yesterday I got my daily email from the FlyLady called the FlyLady News Digest. In there was a brief article on teaching kids to clear clutter (FLY Kids). The FLY Kid Challenge of the day was to have kids go on the hunt for eleven things that they don’t use anymore, are missing pieces or are broken. Then have parents sort what gets donated, recycled or tossed. When they’re done have them do it again. We were going to implement this one yesterday but my son wasn’t feeling too hot so we started today. It worked! I sent him to his room with a paper bag and the mission of finding the eleven things. In minutes he came back with his bag and a huge smile on his face. He proudly showed me what he’s grabbed counting as he went along until he got to eleven. Awesome! I sent him for another eleven. Again, he came back within minutes. We agreed that he would do it two more times because we missed out yesterday. So now, less than 20 minutes later I sit with his pile of 44+ (because he grabbed a few extras along the way) items for trash, recycling and donations! I figure we’ll keep doing it every day. Every day 22 more, eleven at a time. (By the way, I have no idea why she picked eleven, but it works!)
It worked so well for him that I thought I would do the same thing. I sought out eleven things I don’t use anymore, are missing pieces or are broken. (Actually, I only selected things I don’t use anymore but was amazed at how fast I could pick them out!) It happened so fast that I’m thinking I must have had the list sitting in my subconscious for a while just waiting to get out. So it works for adults too. It’s perfect if you only have a few minutes on your hands or if you’re just getting started on reducing the stuff in your life. What’s nice is that it is far less overwhelming to grab eleven things than trying to tackle a whole room, a cupboard, a closet or even a drawer.
So what are you waiting for? Eleven things out the door, starting… now!
See ya in a few.