Tackle the Closet Together
The closet is the easiest place to start your purge. Begin by thinking of your staple clothing items and put them aside. Next, do your best to think of every item in your closet. For the ones you’ve forgotten, toss into the donate pile – especially items that haven’t gotten much use in the last year or two. Turn this into a game for children by getting them to sort their favourite outfits. Donate the ones they don’t mention or have outgrown. “It gets them to learn about taking inventory of their stuff,” says Pollack.
Last but not least, don’t forget to wash all clothing items before putting them in the donate bin.
Turn Birthdays Into Good Deed Days
The best way to take a stance on clutter is to stop it from entering your house. Organizational expert Jill Pollack suggests having giftless birthday parties for children under five. Go to a local animal sanctuary or zoo and have the child pick their favorite animal. On the birthday invite, ask for donations to the animal in lieu of gifts. “It’s a good message and a good gift,” says Pollack. “The alternative is 20 plastic tchotchkes.”
Hunt for Vintage Electronics at Grandma’s
A prime place to find vintage electronics is at grandparents’ homes. Turn the search into a family-wide hunt, and be sure to sort through any forgotten treasures they might have stored aside. Walkmans, CD players and VCRs are practically novelty items these days. Chances are they don’t get much use around the house and are simply adding to the clutter. And while you might have a hard time finding use for them, these items may find new life in someone else’s hands.
Take Stock of Under-Used Kitchenware
When is the last time you used that melon baller? How about the heart-shaped waffle iron? And those dulled knifes that will never get sharpened? Many of these items are simply taking up space in your kitchen, and while the intention to use them one day might cross your mind, it’s important to think realistically. Once you’ve donated them, chances are you’ll never think of them again. Get your children involved in decluttering the kitchen by getting them to count all the mismatched dishes and cutlery sets filling your cupboards and drawers.
Let Kids Pick Which Toys to Toss
Having children part ways with a toy is no easy task. That’s why when it comes time to clear the playpen, it’s prime time to teach the younger set the importance of giving. Explain to children how their generosity can help make another child happy, which will make them feel happy, too. Allow them to choose the toys they’re ready to pass along and get them involved in the drop off process. Just remember to toss any plush toys in the wash before donating them.
Make Clearing Out the Linen Closet a Counting Game
Clear out a cramped linen closet by taking inventory and assessing how much bedding and towels are really needed. Sort through the pile and use Pollack’s three-second rule to decide what to keep and what to donate. Have your child count to three while you hold up each item. “If in three seconds you can’t decide that you want it, you don’t want it enough,” says Pollack. Wash all linens and towels before donating them.
Play the Top 10 Game to Tidy the Toolbox
Before you open your toolbox, think about the ten most important tools you’ve used recently. If you have a hard time remembering items, give them up. “As you go through it you realize ‘I didn’t name that, I didn’t remember I had that,’” says Pollack. “If you don’t remember you had that, why are you keeping it?” This especially applies to any duplicated tools. How many Allen Keys does one household need?
Donate Books That Have Been Thoroughly Enjoyed
Play the same top ten game with children and their books. Next, do the same exercise with your book collection. Rid yourself and your kids of any under-read or never-read tomes. They’ll go to much better use at a charity like Value Village.
Plan for Cleaning Time Together
Decluttering takes time and focus – two things busy families never seem to have enough of. That’s why it’s important to schedule a day or weekend to clear out excess stuff from your home. “Book something on the calendar,” says Pollack, “plan for it and you know it’s coming.” If the entire house seems too daunting to tackle in a weekend, start by scheduling a few rooms over the course a month. Once your house is done, consider getting the family together to clear out grandparents’ spaces. See it as family bonding time rather than a chore, as well as a way to take stock of what’s useful and sentimental and what’s ready to be passed along.