Being a parent is synonymous with being surrounded by mess. Babies, toddlers, and even big kids aren’t the tidiest creatures on the face of the Earth, as evidenced by my constant battles against melted crayon on upholstery, grass stains on clothing, and bits of dried food everywhere always. Yet, those kinds of messes aren’t particularly insidious; with a scrub brush and a can-do attitude, I can tackle them in an afternoon. What worries me more is another type of mess: Clutter.
As soon as you announce a pregnancy, gifts come flying at you from every which-way. Soon enough, your home is filled to bursting with toys, books, clothes, and more. Unfortunately, decades later, all that stuff sticks around ― and it has multiplied exponentially. Around every average American home, cupboards, closets, garages, and backyards are bursting with junk. Fortunately, you have the power to do something about yours.
While you have to live with your kids for the time being, you definitely don’t have to live with their superfluous stuff. Here are a few simple steps to finally get clear of the clutter.
Step One: Admit You Have a Problem
It’s easy to ignore clutter, especially when you’ve been living with it for years. However, it’s there, and it will continue to be there until you realize that it’s a problem. If your front yard is a tangle of deteriorating toys, if you have to watch where you step in your living room to avoid crippling a doll (or worse, your foot), if you can’t park your car in your garage, it is time to take serious steps to cutting your clutter.
Step Two: Schedule Your Sprints
Once you recognize what a nuisance clutter is in your home, you probably want it all gone as soon as possible. Plenty of parents try to clear it out in a whirlwind weekend of cleaning, but trying to rush through the process will only prevent you from being as thorough as you should be. By attempting to complete it all at once, you’ll make mistakes, and the clutter won’t truly go away.
Instead of planning a marathon, you should schedule a number of clutter-killing sprints. Having a schedule is important for keeping you (and your family) accountable for cleaning the mess, but you’ll be more effective if you know you only have to focus on one room (or even one cabinet) at a time. You should draft a suitable timeline ― eight weeks is usually enough ― and complete a little clean-up every day to achieve your goal.
Step Three: Conscript the Culprits
If your little ones are old enough, there is no reason not to include them in your de-cluttering crusade. Ideally, the experience will teach them obligation to their spaces, responsibility for their belongings, and the value of a good day’s work ― as well as some useful qualities like teamwork and leadership ― but at the very least, it will give you extra sets of hands to work with. You should assign them tasks that directly impact them, like cleaning their rooms, closets, and toy chests, because they will care less about other areas and whine more about the effort.
Step Four: Parse With Purpose
While you are sifting through your stuff, it is important to remember that you can’t keep everything. The items you choose to hold onto should have purpose in your home. As much as you can, you should reduce redundancy and impracticality. That is not to say that you must live like a monk, bereft of material possessions; rather, you shouldn’t assign value without a reason.
For example, you might have held onto the utterly ugly lamp your mother-in-law gifted you for your birthday eight years ago out of guilt or duty, but those are terrible reasons to keep clutter in your home. Instead, things that stay should have an obvious use, which you can find by asking questions as you work.
Step Five: Know Where It’s Going
Not everything you don’t need is destined for the garbage bin. While you are sorting into your “keep” and “toss” piles, you should be thinking of friends, family members, and charitable causes that can make good use of your old junk. For the most part, anything that is in good condition will be whole-heartedly accepted by charitable organizations; when it comes to larger donations, like appliances or even older cars or boats you haven’t used in years, charities will often accept them in less-than-good condition because they still contain value. If you can organize your “toss” pile into smaller piles destined for different places, you can save time and effort later when it is time to finally rid your house of clutter.
Step Six: Don’t Let It Happen Again
This is easily the hardest step of all because it lasts forever. During and after your big de-cluttering, you must enact regulations to prevent your family members from amassing same mess they did before. Your house rules will depend on your family’s habits; you might limit the number of toys your kids can have or restrict the number of items stashed on horizontal surfaces. You must be strict, or else your home will soon succumb to chaos of clutter once again.