5 Ways to Tame Your Kid Clutter, While Teaching Them Valuable Lessons

Update: this post was updated November 2018.

I don’t know about you, but one of the hardest areas of clutter to tame in my house has to do with the tiny dictator that runs our house. Our four year old somehow has more stuff than my husband and I combined! She just had a birthday, which brought even more stuff. I decided to do a major overhaul of her things recently, and here are some tips that not only helped me, but I’m hoping are teaching her some valuable life lessons as well.

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1.) Get rid of a toy before bringing a new one in: We have a rule where if we buy our daughter a bigger toy (not talking about Happy Meal toys here), that she has to get rid of something before the new toy comes in the house. She is finally getting to the age where she grasps this, and I can usually get her to get rid of a toy by saying it’s a “baby toy” because, hello, she is a BIG KID and doesn’t want baby toys. Ha. Luckily since she is changing so quickly right now, she “outgrows” a lot of her toys so it’s easy to choose something that needs to go.

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Back when things were much more simple…and she was in a crib. ha.

2.) Don’t buy toys every time you go in the store: I know a lot of parents use toys as a reward for good behavior while shopping, or to keep a kid quiet in the cart for a few minutes. However, in my opinion, this is a bad habit that leads to an expectation every time you go into a store. Sure, there are times Emma Kate gets a special toy or treat, but certainly not every time. We avoid the toy aisle, and I make sure she has things that she already owns to keep her occupied while I shop. Not only does this teach a good lesson, but it keeps random toys you weren’t expecting on having from popping up all over your house from impulse buys. Try to give incentives for good behavior that don’t revolve around toys…Like ice cream or a movie date or extra time at the playground.

3.) Find a cause and donate: There are some great organizations out there that will take gently used toys, furniture, books, etc. There may be a family in need in your community that would love to have your child’s toys. Check with a local church or daycare, they may be able to point you in the right direction. Again, this is a great way to teach your kids about families less fortunate than yours, and also get rid of some of the toys they no longer play with. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! I have definitely learned we don’t need “new” toys to have fun!

4.) Have a home for everything: This applies for everything in my house and I discuss it in my book, but I have found when I don’t have a specific “home” for something, I end up just throwing it wherever and that leads to clutter. We use lots of bins and baskets as well as shelves for Emma Kate’s toys. If something doesn’t fit or have a home, we either get rid of things to make room or create another bin/basket so the toy doesn’t just get lumped in with random things.

Related: 7 Amazon Finds to Organize Your Kid’s Room. 

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5.) Teach you kids to enjoy experiences and not things: Emma Kate is still a little young to understand this concept, but we would much rather do something fun with her than buy her things. She loves simple things like the splash pad, zoo, and the playground at Chick-fil-A. These things are entertaining for hours and don’t clutter up your house. Our kids really just want our time and attention anyway, so save yourself some money as well as space in your home, and expose your kids to new experiences. Those memories will last forever!


QOTD: What is your best tip for taming kid clutter?

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  1. Bridie Rist says

    I started very early having my son help with clean up. He knew that we needed to clean up what we were finished with before we pulled out something else. This made such a difference when he was a little older and I could just ask him to do it himself. Hr is great about putting things away now.

  2. I’m a huge fan of bins and tubs! These days will be here before I know it…right now his toys and play mats are at a minimum.

  3. This is an argument I have with my mom/mother-in-law all the time. I have asked them very kindly to stop buying Milo toys and such for birthday’s and Christmas and instead buy him and experience. A trip to the zoo with just Nana and Pops. A trip to the aquarium with Grandma. Riding the carousel or the little train down town…all cheap or free things that will create memories, not clutter!

  4. When I started getting my allowance, my parents would use toys or plush animals as a way to teach me how to save. If I wanted something, I would have to save up for it, or my parents would meet me halfway. I got good at saving up for trips to Disneyland.

  5. Great tips! We don’t put away our son’s toys. Since he was very young we taught him to do it. Now if it’s us picking them up, they are more than likely being taken away or even thrown away! We also very rarely purchase him new toys. We put away half of what he gets at birthday’s and Christmas then slowly take them out as we put old ones away. Saves us on clutter and money 🙂

  6. On having a home for everything, my best friend and I had a conversation recently. With his family, whenever they go through things in the house/garage/whatever, his family has a rule that anyone can keep anything they want–as long as there’s a place to put it. If they can find a reasonable place for it, they can keep it. If they can’t, then it gets donated or sold. Period. It works really well for them and saves a lot of frustration and arguments.

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