If you are in the stage of life where you have babies or toddlers in your home, then you know firsthand just how difficult it can be to keep clutter at bay with all of the additional stuff that early parenthood has brought into your home.
I’m writing this post because I got tired of reading other blog posts and books about simplifying with kids, and realizing that none of it applied to me because we have a 19-month-old and plan to have at least one more baby. I am in what I would call the hoarding stage of parenting, where you’re constantly bringing new stuff into your home for your growing child, yet keeping everything they have already grown out of so that your next baby can use it too.
So Mamas, you are not alone if you feel like all of those other decluttering tips and tricks out there just plain old don’t apply to you in this current season of your life.
Between the baby gear, clothing in various sizes, bottles, and toys galore just to mention a few…..it is overwhelming trying to figure out what the heck to do with all of these newly acquired possessions.
I’m not about to tell you to forgo purchasing a baby swing entirely, or that your toddler only needs 5 toys to stay entertained. Oh no friends, because then I would be a serious hypocrite.
I tried to go the minimalist route with baby gear when I was pregnant with Little Miss two years ago. I told myself that a baby swing wasn’t necessary and asked, do we really need a bouncer too? What about that expensive stroller with the attachments for the infant car seat?
And you know what….I would now say that for me personally, it was all necessary. Yes, you read that right.
Me, the blogger who talks about simplifying and downsizing and striving to be as minimalist as possible is telling you that the ridiculous amount of baby gear we had was a god send. Life with babies and toddlers can be tough, really tough. And if having a swing and a bouncer and a sweet stroller that you love to use to get some fresh air with your little cherub makes life easier for you, then by all means allow yourself to purchase it guilt free!
While my little back story has nothing to do with how to keep your home clutter-free with young kids, I just wanted you to know the place I come from when I share these tips. I am not a perfect minimalist parent that forgoes modern conveniences just so I can say I simplified. Oh heck no! If I know that a certain product is going to get used a lot and make my life easier as a parent, I’m all about it.
That being said, there are plenty of other ways to still keep your home clutter-free with young kids running around. And you don’t have to go to crazy lengths to make it happen! I find that beyond items that make my life a whole lot easier, I really do enjoy keeping our possessions as simplified as possible for the sole reason that having too much stuff completely overwhelms me.
And if I can personally implement these rules into my own home, then it’s truly possible for you to do it too!
How to keep your home clutter-free with kids:
1. Don’t be afraid to return or exchange gifts
Yes, I said it 😉 . While gifts from well-meaning friends and family are always greatly appreciated, I refuse to keep items in my home that are either A. things that closely resemble toys or items we already own or B. things that I know Little Miss isn’t going to play with or get use out of.
For instance, we’ve received a few gifts for her that are things she won’t be able to use until she’s probably 5 or 6. We likely won’t even be in our current home at that point, and I refuse to store, pack, move, and unpack an item that she’s not even going to be able to use for another 4+ years. Not to mention, there’s a good possibility I would just forget about it entirely until 10 years from now and then we wouldn’t get any use out of it. What a waste that would be!
We so appreciate the thought that went into these gifts and the gesture of love behind them, but that doesn’t mean that I need to keep items in my house that I know won’t get used. Some people might say the best etiquette is to keep gifts like this and then just pull them out when the gift giver comes to visit, but I honestly don’t have the time or patience for that. It’s doing such a disservice to those items, and clutters up our house in the process too. Instead, I try to return or exchange certain gifts for store credit that we can later us to purchase clothing or other items as she needs them.
2. Show your children that experiences in life are more valuable than things
Even at 19-months-old, I know that Little Miss values fun experiences more than toys or any other gifts she receives. While certain toys capture her attention for a few minutes, she especially loves to get out of the house and be out and about doing new things!
One of our favorite gifts ever has been a family membership to our local children’s museum that my brother gifted us for Christmas last year. We have been able to create so many great memories together by going there, and know that even if it hadn’t been gifted to us, investing in family memberships and other activities to do together is so important to us.
Already from a young age, we are trying to instill in our daughter that experiences are always more valuable than things. We may never spoil her rotten with new toys and designer clothes every week, but by not doing that, we are creating an opportunity to be able to more easily afford taking family vacations and doing other fun activities together.
My parents had this same approach to raising my brother and I, and is something that I will always appreciate. While we were fortunate to have a beautiful home and nice things growing up, my parents taught us that happiness was not to be found in those possessions. The real joy in life is creating memories together and experiencing new places and having fun! 🙂
Related: 11 Reasons to Own Less Stuff
3. Limit toy buying to only the holidays
Although this may sound cruel or not very fun to some, this is another lesson that I learned from my parents, and is something we are implementing with our own kids too.
Growing up, I very rarely received toys from my parents unless it was Christmas. While there were definitely occasions that they did purchase items for us for no particular reason, it certainly wasn’t something that we expected. And by not expecting these things, I feel like I appreciated it so much more when I did receive them.
Something that my parents often did to make us feel special instead of just buying toys for us was to take us on special “dates” where it would be just me and my Mom or me and my Dad, and we’d have an afternoon of doing whatever I wanted to do. I can’t tell you more than 5 or so toys I had growing up, but that quality time with my parents is something I’ll never forget!
Just remember that although kids may have fun with a toy given to them today, that’s likely not going to be something they cherish and remember long after their childhood is over. But quality time with you is something that will create an everlasting impression.
4. Regularly donate or store clothes and toys
As soon as your youngest outgrows certain toys or they stop challenging them, don’t be afraid to store them for the next baby or donate them to someone else. The same goes for clothes that no longer fit.
Even if these outgrown toys and clothes still remain in your house waiting for the next baby that’s going to use them, it can really help to get them out of your main living areas and into a basement or storage room instead. I’ve found these large clear storage bins to be awesome when it comes to storing clothes and toys that Little Miss has outgrown. They stack nicely and are sealed pretty tightly so I don’t have to worry about spiders or other bugs crawling inside, but are also pretty lightweight so I can easily carry them even when full without the help of my hubby.
Another little tip for when your babe outgrows clothes – keep one of these small fabric bins in the top of their closet so you can just throw each item of clothing in as they outgrow it, and then either donate or add it all to storage once the bin gets full. This way you don’t have crazy amounts of outgrown clothes still hanging around their room and forgetting what fits and what doesn’t.
5. Don’t allow closets to become a dumping ground
Let’s face it, our bedroom closets typically aren’t seen by anyone but us, so it can be really easy to let the crap pile up in them until it reaches an unmanageable level.
The problem with that is that clutter usually attracts more clutter. So if we already have a closet filled to the brink with stuff, we are more likely to just keep piling it in. I’d found that trying to keep Little Miss’s closet “show ready” as if guests are going to see it, actually really helps me keep clutter to a minimum. She doesn’t have the largest closet in the world, but we are still able to store most of her toys in fabric bins in this shelving unit that lives in her closet, as well as all of her clothes and other items that aren’t stored in her small dresser.
Minimizing the amount of space that we have for her clothes has already really helped me to only buy what she actually needs for each season, instead of overspending and buying clothes that she’ll never even get to wear. By respecting her closet space and wanting to keep it as clean as possible, it’s been an easy way for me to limit the amount of toys and clothes that come into our home. Simply because if they don’t fit, they don’t stay!
6. Keep toys on rotation
This is my new favorite strategy that I’ve been doing for a few months now. I put toys on rotation in our house so that every 2-3 days, Little Miss gets a whole “new” batch of toys to play with.
I simply sorted various types of her toys into each of the fabric bins that we store in her closet organizer, and pull out one bin every few days that then stays out so she can play with just those toys. Not only is she more engaged with the toys that are out because she’s not as overwhelmed by too many choices, but it’s like Christmas morning for her whenever we switch the bins out and she gets to play with toys that she hasn’t seen in a week or so.
It keeps her playing independently longer, and also really helps to keep the toy chaos in our house under control. Even if all of the toys in the bin are strewn around the house, it really only takes me a few minutes to pick them up at the end of the day. Much more manageable than before when there were dozens of toys everywhere and I’d have to spend way too long figuring out which pieces went with each toy. Now it’s so much easier!
7. Set physical parameters for what toys they actually get to keep
Another one of my new favorite strategies for keeping the toy clutter at bay in our house! For some reason, I’ve found that stuffed animals in particular seem to be a go-to choice that others have gifted Little Miss. While they are cute and she loves cuddling with them, we really don’t need 40-50 stuffed critters taking up residence in our home. Maybe I just have a personal vendetta against stuffed animals, but it drives me crazy to see them everywhere!
My solution for allowing her to keep some of her stuffed animal friends while still maintaining my sanity has been to have one designated fabric bin (I’m seriously obsessed with these) that her stuffed animals can live in. If she gets a new stuffed animal and it won’t fit into the bin, then an older stuffed animal needs to get donated.
Having this set physical limitation of how many stuffed animals we are allowed to have has worked so well for us, and is something that I’ll likely continue to use with other toys too as she grows and is old enough to decide for herself what stays and what goes. I like to think that allocating a set amount of storage space for toys will help both her and I compromise on what’s a fair limit to keep in the future.
Keeping the clutter in your home at bay with young kids is certainly no easy feat, but I hope that some of these tips help you to simplify the process a bit and allow you to figure out a strategy that works for you and your family 🙂
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