Decluttering with Kids :: Slow and Painful — Yet Satisfying


Spring has arrived with all of it’s gifts. Flowers are blooming. Trees are budding. And, on most days, the sun is shining. Spring is a welcome and refreshing reprieve from the cold winter days.

What else does spring bring?

For me – an uncontrollable urge to throw open the windows, let the fresh air flood the house and the desire to begin the slow, yet satisfying, process of decluttering. 

Maybe you can relate? 

With six people under our roof, it isn’t long before the clutter takes over. No matter how hard I try to stay on top of it – the toy bins and desk drawers inevitably reach the point of overflow (some are so stuffed they will barely open.) And when I think about the number of items that show up in our house on a weekly basis, I can see how we end up in this overflowing state. From Birthday goody bags to class parties – we are regularly inundated with trinkets and treasures. 

Trinkets and treasures that hold sweet memories for the kids. Trinkets and treasurers they don’t want to part with. Understandably. I was the same way as a kid. I get it. 

Honestly, on some level I am still that way. 

Which means that while the process of decluttering is satisfying, it can also be slightly painful. While some of my children are able to get rid of their toys easily, others have attached sentimental value to nearly every item that crosses their path. 

Sound familiar? 

“Oh I remember this! This was from my fourth Birthday!” 

“I remember this Valentine! Oh, look at that one! All of them! I love ALL of these cards!” 

“We can’t get rid of that bookmark!  It was from the third grade prize box!” 

And here lies the problem. I look at the 30 plus Valentines and the torn and tattered bookmark and I immediately think, “Where’s the trash can?” What my child sees is totally different. She sees a beautiful treasure. She sees the face of a friend. She sees a precious memory. 

Solution? Compromise.

I have learned the best way to avoid meltdown central because I have thrown away a prized possession I labeled as trash is to involve them in the process. 

I go through each of my children’s rooms with them. We sort through all of the toys and the books and the other odds and ends together. We talk about what is really important and what we can let go of. Those 30 plus Valentines? Let’s pick our Top 5. She wants to keep 10. We land in the middle. Keep 7 or 8. Each of the kids has a small box in their room where these special treasures reside. When we are decluttering, we go through these boxes and see if there is anything we couldn’t bare to part with before that we can part ways with now – and there is always something. Usually multiple somethings. 

I used to do this without involving them and it constantly backfired. They would see the donation pile of the things they hadn’t touched in months. They would look up at me with big round eyes filled with shock and horror. How dare I get rid of stuffed doggy that had been living in the bottom of a toy bin for months? Just who did I think I was? Didn’t I know how much they LOVE stuffed doggy?

No I didn’t know. But now I do.

I also know they just want a say in the process. After all, these are their things.

And like I said, I get that. If someone just started rifling through my room and making piles of stuff that had to go, I would be really upset. I mean REALLY upset. Those are my things.

How dare you. Just who do you think you are? 

We just finished going through all of their rooms and I am proud of their efforts. There are some things I wish they could have parted with and others I was surprised they were ready to let go of.  

Some items were donated to organizations. Others went to family and friends. Some to consignment sale. 

Do you find yourself in a similar situation to the one I have described? Are your kids not wanting to part ways with some of their treasures? 

Try having a sale. Give them a cut of the profit and teach them about money management. Want to motivate them to get rid of stuff? Hand them some money from sold items. Works every time. 

Another idea? Give them a say in where the items will be donated. Explain different organizations to them and follow the lead of their precious little hearts. Kindness and compassion for other children and families in need goes a long way. 

Now that I am finished with their rooms, it’s time to move on to the rest of the house. The goal? Go through each room, closet, drawer and bin. It may take a while, but it will get done because I am motivated to see the stuff go. We don’t need 10 spatulas. Do we? But somebody else may need one. If I expect the kids to get rid of their stuff then I need to be able to get rid of mine too. Lead by example. Right? 

You know the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” –

and I am sure this house is filled with treasures just waiting to be found. 







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Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Thompson is a stay-at-home mom of four spunky, sweet (and sometimes a bit wild) children. Like most parents, her life is spent managing the chaos to the best of her ability – some days are more successful than others. Recently relocated from Indianapolis to Nashville, she and her family are on the hunt for the best hot chicken and Bar-B-Que joints in town. Life is full of ups and downs and she hopes the words she writes will be a source of encouragement to others, wherever they may find themselves in their parenting journey. Jennifer enjoys writing about her parenting experience and life observations as a freelance writer and keeps a personal blog at, where she has fun writing when time permits. You can find her on Twitter and follow her on Facebook at Truly Yours Jen, Jennifer Thompson - writer.


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