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Kids and clutter

I invited Jo Hall from Less is More to share with us some of her decluttering tips, so she kindly wrote this guest blog post ‘kids and clutter’. I know after lockdown I have a lot of sorting and tidying to do, so hopefully you will find this blog post insightful.

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?

Jo’s Top Tips
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 marketing pressure to buy.

What could you borrow from friends? Are there items that are designed to fulfil more than one function? Research thoroughly, make a shortlist and then talk to everyone you know who has done this before. Ask them which were their 5 absolutely essential items and ask them which 5 purchases they really wish they hadn’t bothered to buy (those that seemed like a great idea at the time, but turned out to be not that useful). This’ll give you a much better idea of what to spend your money on and give up valuable space in your home too.

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 siblings 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 those 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 one is a boy? It’s also unlikely to be born at the same time of year, so probably won’t be needing the gorgeous padded snowsuit Age 3 Months, if it arrives in May!

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 lives. There comes a time when it might be better to take some of the pressure off the situation by letting baby things go from your day to day space. Perhaps you could lend out some of the larger items to friends and 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 if you know that they are going to a good 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 is the time to think more carefully about the space you’re prepared to allocate to toys that are likely to end up in landfill in the future. Think about investing in fewer, better quality 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 turn out to be a favourite. For the same reason 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? Kids love a bedtime story, but you can ring the changes by making a visit to the library part of your routine, instead of purchasing multiple titles for every stage of your child’s development.

If you feel as though your child is being given too many toys and books, talk to friends and family, ask them to make their 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. A great time to do this is just before a birthday or Christmas, encouraging to make room for the new things that they will inevitably receive and teaching them from an early age to pass things on to those less fortunate than themselves. 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. My advice in hind sight, would be to limit what you keep. One of the main reasons for this is that 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 younger generations. For more on this subject, read my blog Decluttering & Organising – 3 things I wish I’d known years ago! 

My clients often ask me for advice on keeping children’s artwork, models and other childhood memorabilia. I suggest displaying favourites in a frame, storing some in a keep sake box, but don’t feel the need to keep them all! Think about photographing the majority and then recycling. They will 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 only a selection of your favourites, or those that mean the most to you. 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 “Memorabillia Box” to each child and keep only the selection that fits comfortably inside.

Children's artwork in a frame - kids and clutter
Train them young

If you’re aim is to raise kids and manage to have 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, as 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 during 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 introduce!

Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser

Hopefully you have found this blog post ‘Kids and clutter’ helpful. Check out Jo’s website and social channels for more ideas and inspiration.

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