If you’ve ever looked into a child’s bedroom, you may think that kids are inherently messy. However, I would disagree. Sure, some kids are more naturally tidy than others, but overall, I’ve found that kids will pick up their own rooms under two conditions and two conditions only:
Their rooms are not overfilled with stuff.
It is obvious where things go.
(Guess what? These two conditions apply to those adults you live with, too!)
With these two ideas in mind, I want to share what happened when I worked with one of my friends to help her do a deep spring decluttering makeover in both her kids’ bedrooms.
Here are some before pics to give you an idea of where we started:
As always, we followed my 4-step LESS™ Method to simplify the space. If you’re not familiar with my LESS™ Method, here are the steps in brief:
L – Layout your vision and purpose
E – Empty
S – Sort it Twice
S – Systemize
STEP ONE: Lay Out The Vision & Purpose
We started by talking through her vision and purpose for each space. VISION is how you want a space to LOOK and FEEL and PURPOSE is how you want to USE the space. For these rooms, my friend said her vision was clear floors, a feeling of calm, and a place for everything with everything in it’s place. For purpose, she mentioned sleep, storing toys, and keeping clothes organized. Once we had that settled we moved on to step two…
STEP TWO: Empty
This is probably the step most of us want to skip. Isn’t it easier to just go through and pluck out the things we don’t want then to empty out everything? Nope. And here’s why… human brains evolved to notice novelty. (That’s why those notifications on your phone are so darn distracting! They seem new every time!) So if that large stuffed koala has been sitting in your kids’ bedroom corner for over two years you’re literally not noticing it anymore because your brain doesn’t recognize it as novel. In order to shake up your brain enough to evaluate everything as new, you need to get everything out and I mean EVERYTHING! Which bring us to step three…
STEP THREE: Sort it Twice
The first sort is to create like-with-like piles of EVERYTHING you emptied in step two. So we made piles of Legos, Barbies, dinosaurs, stuffed animals, etc. The biggest advantage of doing this is that it allows you to easily see how much of each type your kid has! Which makes the second sort–the decision sort–soooooo much easier!
The second sort is the decision sort, where you go through each like-with-like pile and determine what stays and what goes. Be ruthless here. If your kids’ rooms are in chaos, you’re only doing them a favor by simplifying the amount of stuff they own. Be generous with that donation bag, and yes, if the items are no longer usable, you’ll sadly need to put them in the trash. But to make you feel better, realize that all of this stuff was going to the trash someday… you’re just moving up the timeline to today. Yes, this hurts, but realize that this little bit of pain will make you SMARTER at the checkout as you move forward toward a simpler life with less stuff!
Also realize that this step is crucial to achieving the first condition: reducing the toys to a manageable level. If you want your kids to be able to pick up their rooms on their own, you MUST only present them with a number of toys with which they can reasonably do so. So be tough, parents!
STEP FOUR: Systemize
Once the toys were reduced to a reasonable level, we moved on to the final step… systemize. This helped us achieve the second condition: making it obvious where things go. I think this is the biggest mistake we make when we tell kids to clean their rooms. They have no idea where things go, so they just shove everything under the bed or in the closet or randomly into bins. Thus, instead of learning how to clean up, kids learn to just “hide the mess” which is a habit that often carries over into adulthood. (I think many of us, including me in my early adult years, can relate to that!)
Luckily, my friend already had some good toy storage infrastructure with these colorful pull-out bins. I love these bins because kids can just toss toys in without having to finagle tricky lids. (If your kids will put away toys by removing a lid first, you have more determined kids than I do!) I labeled the front of each bin with a chalk pen so her kids know which toys go where.
To maintain this system, I talked to my friend about some strategies I use to help my kids keep their rooms clean. (No, they don’t automatically clean them! I have children, not robots). Here are some catchphrases I often use to make room-cleaning easier on all of us:
- “Why don’t you put away the stuffies and I’ll put away the cars?” I strongly recommend picking up with your child, especially when you are just starting out or have recently organized the room. It lets them know your expectations and it teaches them exactly what to do. (We all know how fun it is to have a child spend 30 minutes “cleaning” her room, only to discover that it is nearly as messy as when she started.) Also, saying the names of the categories out loud–stuffies, cars, little guys–helps your child start thinking of their belongings in terms of categories, a strategy that will help them stay organized their whole lives.
- “Where do your Barbies go?” Again, you’re saying the name of the category, reinforcing the idea that like items belong together, but this question also forces them to think about a particular place the items belong. It teaches kids that all of their belongings have a home, another key strategy to having an organized adulthood.
- “Clear your floor.” Once your kids are comfortable with the concepts of categories and homes, this is the command I use instead of “clean your room.” “Clean your room” doesn’t tell kids what you want to see. In my house, I want to see a clear floor, so that’s what I tell them to do.
Here are before/afters of each room, so you can see how each project turned out.
I’m so excited that I could help my friend achieve these decluttered, simplified kids’ rooms just in time for spring!
If you want some more inspiration to declutter your kids rooms, and maybe your whole house, you’re in luck…
Enrollment for the next round of my 6-week LESS™ Method LIVE Decluttering Challenge starts March 27. Click here to get on the waiting list!
To less stuff and more you this spring!
PS Ready to simplify your home but not sure where to start? Grab my FREE Minimalism Starter Guide and let’s get going!