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How to Keep the Clutter From Taking Over While Raising Kids

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When you became a mother, people likely gave you lots advice, solicited and mostly unsolicited I’m sure. They told you what diapers to buy, how to sleep train, whether to breast or bottle feed and the best pacifiers for babies. You read all the books on babies and children, and went into parenthood fairly confident you knew what you were doing (or could at least figure it out along the way). What no one prepared you for, what you didn’t see coming, was the stuff. The stuff everywhere. The clutter, the crap, the junk, the stuff that would ultimately fill the house and become so overwhelming, it would make you want to pull your hair out.

As a mother of two littles, 9 and 3, I am all too familiar with the clutter. As a professional cleaner and organizing consultant, I am even more familiar with the feelings of overwhelm associated with it. The great majority of my clients over the years have been moms and I now work almost exclusively with moms online, so I understand the struggles mothers face not only when it comes to getting the house clean and organized, but keeping it that way.

The truth is, keeping the clutter away can be a burdensome task with kids of any age in the house. It seems like once one area has been cleaned and organized, another area of the house is in disarray as a result. Just like a boomerang, the stuff just seems to find its way back in. The good news is that it CAN be easier. With a few easy to implement strategies, you can find a whole lot more peace in your home and a whole lot less disorganization.

Keep a “Do we need it” Basket Around

When going through your house to declutter, keep a “Do we need it” basket for the items you’re on the fence about. Set a timeline for how long you’ll allow yourself to keep the items in the basket before finally deciding to toss it, donate it or keep it. The strategy here is that we often keep things we think we’ll need, or use, or want later on. The basket is like a big neon sign at the end of the timeline you choose that says, “See, you didn’t even remember I was here.”

Get the Kids Involved

Not only does getting the kids involved help the task go quicker, it also teaches the importance of cleaning and organizing. Kids learn to appreciate both monetary and sentimental value of items when they are allowed to help. I suggest giving kids a bucket or tote and asking them to fill it with toys, books and clothes they no longer use, want or need. Perhaps even make it a lesson in donation and charity and allow them to choose where they would like their possessions to go.

Have a Toy Cleanup Schedule

In our home, toys are to be picked up before bed. No exceptions. I spent many years running after my daughter trying to clean up toys after she played with them. Finally, I decided this was the definition of insanity and instead implemented a cleanup schedule. Toys were to be put away at various scheduled times of the day. Perhaps before lunch? A nap? Going to the park? Before bed? Whatever works for your schedule. The important thing is for there to be a routine that sets good cleaning and organizing habits. When kids know they can freely play with their toys for a set amount of time and understand that they need to be put back at a specific time, it becomes much more enjoyable for everyone.

Cleaning Out Closets?

Ask yourself (or your kids) the three basic decluttering questions:

  1. Would I buy it today?
  2. Does it fit?
  3. Have I worn it in the last 6 months?

If the answer to 2/3 of these is no, toss it. A neatly organized and decluttered closet makes putting away laundry a whole lot easier, and even a bit more enjoyable. (If putting away laundry could ever be considered enjoyable. The jury is still out on that.)

Organizing is Like Showering,

it Needs to be Done Often for Maximum Results.

One of the biggest traps I see my clients fall into is assuming that if they do a thorough organizing of their home, that they can rest and relax and the spaces will stay in a static state of declutter. Our lives aren’t static, especially as mamas. We are constantly moving and doing, moving and doing. That is why keeping up an organizational routine is so important. You wouldn’t take a really massive, deep cleansing shower on a Sunday and then not shower again until the following month, would you? I know we are busy as moms, but it’s important to organize, and shower, on a regular basis.

Put it on the Calendar

To make the last tip of keeping up a routine easier, put it on the calendar. You are far more likely to complete tasks when you schedule them. Perhaps make every Monday a “toss expired items in the fridge” day, or every Tuesday a “spend 10 minutes clearing my inbox” day. You schedule time for everyone else, don’t forget to check in with yourself and schedule the things that will keep your life far less stressful.

Use the “One in, One out” Method

Buying a few new shirts? Awesome! You deserve. So make room for those cute new pieces of clothing by tossing the same number of old shirts. This is especially helpful around birthdays and holidays, when children receive loads of new toys. Let children know how wonderful it is to be grateful for their new items, but how important it is to make room for those things by giving away or tossing things they don’t play with anymore.

Set Up Zones in Your Home

I know, this sounds a little complicated and industrial. Really, this just means that certain activities will only happen in specified areas of your house. Maybe you’ll open your mail ONLY in the mudroom where you can toss junk mail and store bills and important correspondence in hanging baskets. Maybe there are only certain areas of the home where toys are allowed. That one can be difficult, but I promise you if you can enforce it, its life changing. (We did it, and after a few months, my living room felt so much more peaceful.) When you have zones that everyone is aware of, and a home for everything, you are far less likely to accumulate piles that spread and multiply.

Show Me the Money

Finally, and this one is the most fun, sell the items you don’t need or want and use the money for a special family day. Simple, effective and who doesn’t love a fun family day paid for by the clutter you don’t want around anyway.

Keeping your home from becoming a clutter breeding ground is an ongoing process and can feel overwhelming, especially with littles running around determined to undermine your efforts at every turn. These tips can really help if you implement them and find a way to make it a family effort. There is one tip I forgot to mention: give yourself grace. You don’t have to live in a Martha Stewart catalog or compare yourself to anyone else. Your home is a sacred space filled with love and joy, and those are the things that matter the most. Those are the things stuff can never replace.


By Kendra Hennessy

kendra-author-300x300Kendra Hennessy is a cleaning and organizing consultant for busy moms ready to learn strategies and tips to completely tackle their clutter and disorganization DIY style. She has owned and operated a cleaning and organizing business for 10 years and now works online to spread the message to even more mamas. Kendra has been married to her super supportive husband, Adam, for 9 years and together they have two beautiful children. She is a Girl Scout leader and enjoys spending all her free time with family and friends in Upstate NY.

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