Tackle your kids’ most clut­tered spots this week­end, and then set up sys­tems that put young ones in charge of man­ag­ing their own toys, clothes, and gear.


Tidy up kid zones, and fol­low our tips for get­ting your kid­dos to help.

This edi­tion of our three- day Clut­ter Cleanse is all about kid­dos and their stuff. Be­cause every corner in a home with kids can feel clut­tered, this cleanse di­rects laser fo­cus on three spe­cific spa­ces— kid bed­rooms, kid cloth­ing clos­ets, and en­tries. You can ap­ply the tech­niques to clut­ter any­where and ev­ery­where in your home, but mak­ing changes in th­ese three ar­eas will reap big re­wards and ben­e­fits for your en­tire fam­ily.

Here are some great tips for cleans­ing the clut­ter from your home’s kid zones.

LEAD THE CHARGE. If you’re read­ing this and want­ing to de­clut­ter the kid stuff around your home, you’re prob­a­bly the best per­son to ini­ti­ate a cleanse. Re­cruit help from your part­ner and chil­dren, but re­al­ize that suc­cess­ful de­clut­ter­ing re­quires an adult— along with es­tab­lish­ing sys­tems to keep fu­ture chaos in check.

BE THE CHANGE. Be hon­est with your­self: What or­ga­niz­ing ex­am­ple are you set­ting? As a par­ent, you need to model the style and level of or­ga­niz­ing you’re seek­ing. Plan to ap­ply the same de­clut­ter­ing tech­niques and main­te­nance strate­gies to your toys (tech, col­lec­tions, hob­bies), your cloth­ing, and your gear.


Al­though you’re in charge, you can ask for as­sis­tance. Just ground your ex­pec­ta­tions in re­al­ity and specifics. Iden­tify the tasks you need help on and make re­quests with con­crete dead­lines. (“By bed­time Satur­day, I need you to sort the toys in your room into two piles: those you play with and those you don’t.”)

RE­IN­FORCE DEAD­LINES. Cleanse as­sign­ments carry weight when you back them up with both a car­rot (“You can have the money we make from re­selling the old games”) and a stick (“Af­ter Satur­day, I’m mov­ing all un­sorted games to a box in the base­ment”).

SCHED­ULE CLEANSE TIME. Cleanses don’t spon­ta­neously hap­pen. Block out 90 to 120 min­utes on your sched­ule for three con­sec­u­tive days, fo­cus­ing on one space each day. Tell your fam­ily ahead of time when you’ll be busy (so they don’t in­ter­rupt you).

GATHER SUP­PLIES. Have the fol­low­ing items ready for each cleanse ses­sion.

Mark­ers, in­dex cards, sticky notes, and clear pack­ing tape to make quick la­bels Card­board boxes and plas­tic bags to sort, store, and donate items Trash bags for items to dis­pose Scis­sors or a util­ity knife TOUCH ONCE; DE­CIDE ONCE. The core de­clut­ter­ing de­ci­sion is to keep or to let go. Sim­ply pick­ing up or touch­ing an item and ask­ing, “Should I keep this?” will of­ten yield your an­swer. If you in­stantly know some­thing needs to go or stay (and you have stor­age space so it can), fol­low your gut. KNOW FOUR FI­NAL OP­TIONS. Don’t fret about what to do with stuff you’re not keep­ing. You can either sell it, give it away, donate it, or re­cy­cle/dis­pose of it. ( Visit­ter­cleanse for more on th­ese four op­tions.)

KEEP MOV­ING. When you don’t quickly know whether to keep or get rid of an item, place it in a pile and keep work­ing through the room. Save the last 5 to 10 min­utes of the ses­sion to deal with your ques­tion­able items.

FO­CUS ON FUNC­TION. Set high stan­dards when eval­u­at­ing items. Op­er­ate toys and elec­tron­ics to see whether they work. Ver­ify that you have all the pieces of games, kits, and sets. Dam­aged cloth­ing, bro­ken parts, and in­com­plete sets are rarely worth keep­ing. If you’ll fix the item in the next month, keep it; every­thing else should go.

WORK THE CLOCK. Set a timer (or play a spe­cific num­ber of songs) to keep cleanse ses­sions fo­cused. Com­plete as much as you can in the al­lot­ted time and fin­ish the cleanse ques­tion you’re work­ing on. Take a 5- minute break. If you have more to go and feel up to it, do an­other timed ses­sion. If you’re tired, wrap it up. You can al­ways re­turn to a cleanse later.

RE­MEM­BER RE­WARDS. Do some­thing pos­i­tive at the end of each ses­sion. En­joy­ing some­thing as sim­ple as a piece of candy, a fresh glass of ice wa­ter, or an ac­tual pat on your back (or some­one else’s) re­in­forces your ef­forts.

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