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Right now, my kids are just shy of 4 and 2 years old. So you can probably imagine my house is not the shining example of organized, neat and tidy. But that doesn't mean decluttering with preschoolers is impossible. In fact, it's totally possible, it's a learning process, and it can even be fun. She said whaaat? When things around the house get a bit out of whack, we have a few ways to get back on track and clutter-free! Plus I made these super cute printables to help you with this process - and they're free!
My favorite tips and tricks for decluttering with preschoolers and toddlers - in no particular order:
I think it's important to work on decluttering alongside my children, not just doing it for them. Work on just 5-15 minutes at a time, or whatever your preschooler can handle. It’s okay to take breaks or even stop. This should be a fun activity together, not a battle of wills. Stuff management is an important life skill to learn!
To make decluttering part of your routine, try a quick pickup before naptime or bedtime, or before lunch or dinner.
Even at this young age, children learn and absorb so much. Take the time to explain why we want to declutter.
Marie Kondo, author ofThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, writes how at just 3 years old, children can be responsible for their own space and learn to tidy up and put their items where they belong.
“Tidy by example, give everything a home, and make tidying playful.” - Marie Kondo
In her book, she also notes "... many people I've met that are not good at tidying, often their mothers cleaned their rooms for them or they never had a space that they felt was their very own." I believe teaching your child to declutter by doing this with them is very much in tune with the Montessori philosophy and it encourages your child's sense of order.
I like to make little games out of decluttering for my two little ones. Sometimes we practice counting "How many toys can you pick up and put away?" and sometimes we dance while we clean "Let’s pick up while dancing to Baby Shark!"
A sort by the color game is fun and helps learn colors! You can ask your child to pick up everything blue and put it away, then everything that is white, pink, etc.
In the same thinking as a color game, you could have your kid pick up everything that you wear on your body, or that you write with, play with, make music with, etc.
For holidays, limit the number of toys and other material items that are bought. Focus more on experiences instead, like going to the zoo, museum, or local parks. Annual passes or memberships make wonderful gifts. Be sure to check out your local small businesses as well. You might be surprised by what children’s activities are available in your town! My city has an indoor play space and learning center opening in a few weeks and we are so excited! Alicia is a dear friend of mine❤️
Does your city have anything like this?
Sorting all of the toys and play materials into logical categories makes 1) tidying up so much easier & 2) makes finding those items again a breeze!
You could stack coloring books neatly on top of each other stored on a shelf with all of the crayons in a box right next to the coloring books. Building blocks can have their own bin. All of the play food items can be stored next to the play kitchenette.
It's important to show your child how to put their toys and belongings away where it makes sense; they need to be stored in a logical position. This is so helpful because when toys need to be played with again your child knows exactly where it is. You can show your preschooler that the train toys go in the bin marked with the word train and a picture of a train! Their growing minds are like little sponges!
"The little child's need for order in one of the most powerful incentives to dominate his early life. A sensitiveness to the orderly arrangement of things, to their relative positions, is contemporaneous with simple perception, i.e. , with the first taking in or impressions from the environment." Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
We keep books to read on the top shelf here, and coloring/activity books on the bottom shelf. We are still working on keeping all of the crayons in their box next to the coloring books LOL! 😅
Here are some great storage options:
On drawers and bins, a really great idea is to use labels that have both words and pictures. This way, readers and non-readers will know exactly where their toys go!
Now that everything has a labeled home, make sure to put toys, games, clothes, etc. away when finished with them.
A place for everything, everything in its place. - Benjamin Franklin
One way to rotate through toys is to first separate them into 3 categories. Such as:
Another way to separate the toys could be by toy type:
Whichever way you decide to separate your child's toys, store the unused toys and rotate them every 2-4 weeks.
I love this idea so much! When you notice that your kids have some toys that haven't been played with for a while, you can bet that another family is in the same situation!
Swap those toys out for some unused toys with other mom friends! Most of my friends have children within the same range, around 1 to 5 years old. So swapping toys is a fun way to get "new" toys without spending money and bringing more clutter into your home!
If certain toys haven't been missed in some time, you should consider donating them. Unused toys and books that have been outgrown always make great donations to those in need.
Just be sure the toys you are donating are still in good condition.
A few places to consider donating the unused toys you've collected:
You don't know what to do with the growing pile of colorings and crafts made just for you by your little one, but you do know you don't want to throw them away! Those are precious memories and tokens of love!
We only have a small area of space on the side of our refrigerator for displaying these beautiful works of art. So clear bins, just big enough to lay the paper in, make great storage systems for all of the artwork brought home from daycare that does not fit on the fridge. Label each bin by year or age so that you can easily store and access your child's creations.
Ask your preschooler which artwork should be displayed and which artwork should be put away!
If you don’t have massive amounts of stuff coming in, you won’t have massive amounts of stuff to try and keep organized. It seems simple enough, right? But it can be so hard to NOT buy all the things your child wants!
Enter toy budget. Having, and sticking to, a budget is a good thing for tons of reasons. But did you ever think of how a simple toy budget could help you keep the clutter down and not overconsume?
Having a toy budget doesn’t there mean no new toys ever. Just living simply and being mindful about spending money and bringing new toys into the house.
Maybe you have a limit of one new toy for birthdays. Or maybe as two new toys enter the household two old toys leave.
Since we are talking about decluttering with toddlers and preschoolers, we need to keep realistic expectations. I mentioned earlier to only tidy up with your little one in 5-15 minute increments. If your child can only handle 3 minutes, that's okay. If your child only picks up 2 out of the 10 toys on the floor, that's okay too. What's important about this process is learning and creating good habits that last a lifetime.
Lead by example, mama. You are showing them how it's done. If your little ones see you picking up after yourself, they will learn to do it too. Imitation is a major learning milestone for toddlers and it is also a stepping stone into their independence! This can help build your child's intrinsic motivation for keeping their space neat and tidy.
Last, but certainly not least, remember this is about progress, not perfection. I think it’s safe to say we’d be a little crazy to expect a clutter-free, clean, and organized home 365/24/7 when there are tiny tornadoes, I mean beloved children, having fun and making memories in the home. 🙃
My house can be tidy and clutter-free one minute, and look like a bomb went off the next! Decluttering with your young preschooler is about building good habits together. And I know for me, I am trying to learn these good habits right alongside my children.
Printables make life so much easier and these FREE printables for decluttering with preschoolers will help kickstart and streamline your process.
The freebie printables you just snagged are the perfect addition to the Decluttering Binder! This Decluttering Binder will show you how tidying up just a little bit every day adds up to big results.
What you'll receive when you download your printable Decluttering Binder:
How about you? What’s your best decluttering with kids tip? Share it for everyone in the comments!
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