Declutter Your Kids!
Babies are small, but if you're not careful, they come with a mountain of stuff!
Children can bring plenty of clutter into your home. But is it all really necessary?
How much is too much? What do you need to do to make sure that it stays tidy and doesn't just build and build over the years?
Buying for baby – when you find out you’re pregnant with your first child, it’s so exciting. So tempting to rush out and buy every latest gadget and a wardrobe full of mini clothes. But try to separate the really useful, from the constant marketing pressure to buy. Look out for items that are designed to fulfil more than one function and consider buying second hand, or even renting from companies such as Bundlee which rents out bundles of baby clothes for each growth stage.
What you could borrow from friends? Research thoroughly, make a shortlist and then talk to everyone you know who has done this before. Ask them to list their 5 absolutely essential items and ask them which 5 purchases they really wish they hadn’t bothered with (those that seemed like a great idea at the time, but turned out to be not that useful). You'll have a much better idea of what to spend your money on and give up valuable space in your home to.
Remember, the less you have, the less you need to keep clean and tidy!
One of the best uses of your time and energy before the baby arrives will be to declutter and organise your home. The more organised your living space is in advance, the less stressed you’ll be and the easier it’ll be to keep tidy when your baby arrives.
Storing for number two – it’s so tempting to hang on to everything for as long as it takes for a sibling to arrive (I know, I’ve been there), but there are some things worth thinking about before you commit everything to indefinite storage and fill up your loft/spare bedroom, or even both!
You’ve done this before, you’re an expert now, you know what you really need and what you could do without. Think about keeping only the essential items and sell or donate the rest.
Keep in mind that the next baby, if and when it arrives, may not be the same sex. So what will you do, if everything you’ve kept is pink and girlie themed, but your next child is a boy? Chances are it won't even be born at the same time of year, so won't be needing the gorgeous padded snowsuit Age 3 months, if it arrives in May!
The waiting game - what if number two doesn’t follow as planned and how long should you wait before having a clear out? This is such a difficult topic, but it’s often made worse by hanging on to all the baby paraphernalia and seeing it as a constant reminder of the baby sized gap in your life. There comes a time when it might be better to take some of the pressure off, by letting baby things go from your day to day space. Perhaps you could lend out some larger items to friends or family, with the understanding that they check back with you, before finally getting rid of anything?
Out of sight, out of mind, might just do you some good.
Sometimes it’s easier to let things go knowing that they're going to a cause and will benefit others. Think about donating to organisations such as the Baby Bank. Do this in the knowledge that if, at some stage in the future you do become pregnant, items can always be purchased again or borrowed.
How many toys? - In the past, toys weren’t as easy to come by, they were more expensive and as a result families didn’t have them in the quantities we see today. It’s no wonder people run out of storage space. Just because there's such a range available, doesn’t mean that you should bow to the pressure to buy and have them overflowing into every room in your house.
Surely with the movement to reduce plastic, now's the time to think more carefully about the space you're prepared to give to toys that are likely to end up in landfill in the future. Think about investing in fewer, better quality, sustainably sourced toys. Classics that will both stand the test of time and have the versatility to provide hours of fun.
Find out if you have a toy library nearby. This can be a great way of providing variety without having to invest in and allocate space to toys which may not prove to be a favourite. The same applies to books. It’s a great way to “try before you buy”. If there isn’t a toy library, maybe you could start one locally, or group together with friends and family to organise a regular toy swap between you?
If you feel as though your child is receiving too many toys and books, talk to friends and family, ask them to make their gifts experience based. There's no substitute for your child spending quality time with family members.
Once your kids have grown out of books and toys, avoid the build up of clutter, by having a regular purge of those that they no longer play with. Doing this before a birthday or Christmas, encourages them to make room for new things and teaches them from an early age to pass things on to those less fortunate. There's a wonderful charity called Bearly Loved which re homes bears and other soft animals.
Keeping it for the grandchildren – it’s tempting I know and I benefited from this, as my parents kept plenty of my toys and books in their loft and I loved being able to pass these on to my daughter. In hindsight my advice would be to limit what you keep. Every generation is different and just because something was special to you, doesn’t automatically mean that it will be met with the same enthusiasm by those coming next. For more on this, read my blog Decluttering & Organising – 3 things I wish I’d known years ago!
Keeping memorabilia - my clients often ask me for advice on keeping children’s artwork, models etc. I suggest displaying favourites in a frame and storing some in a keep sake box, but don’t feel the need to keep it all! Photograph the majority and then recycle the rest. It'll be much better preserved digitally, than becoming old, worn and collecting dust over time. The same goes for “new baby” and “1st Birthday” cards, keep the ones that mean the most. Your child is more likely to enjoy looking through cards with you in years to come, if there aren’t hundreds of them! Allocate a reasonable sized “Memorabilia Box” to each child and keep only the selection that fits comfortably inside.
Train them young – if your aim is to raise kids in a clutter free, organised house, you need to start early! It’s never too soon to get kids into the habit of tidying up their toys and young kids love to be given simple, repetitive tasks. Make a game of it, for the youngest children. Store toys and books by colour, in easily accessible baskets or boxes, with books on low shelves well within their reach. They love to get involved into sorting like with like, pairing socks and even simple folding. As they get older set a timer on your phone and challenge them to see how much they can put away as a "ten minute tidy". Make this part of your daily routine and it will become a habit, but the longer you leave it, the harder it will become to start!
Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser
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