Is minimalism with kids really possible? This ultimate guide to decluttering will show you the way.
Hi, it’s me… the mom that hates clutter. Okay, hate is a strong word. It’s more that I never knew how to handle clutter correctly.
With 4 kids and a smaller home, I slowly had to learn how to work minimalism into our family lifestyle.
This article will walk you through the 6 steps to a more minimal lifestyle with kids and show you how to de clutter the 6 major areas of your kid’s stuff.
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Minimalism Can Be A Tool To Help Organize and Calm The Chaos
I have four awesome children, and they seem to have been born with an enormous amount of belongings. Or maybe all of that came later. But, here we are, in a constant uphill stuff battle.
Can you relate?
It feels ridiculous to complain about things, for having enough is truly a blessing of abundance. But I’m still convinced overabundance is an issue for many moms.
We certainly don’t live in a land of scarcity. We live in the land of cheap belongings that are easy to come by. Trip to the dollar tree, anyone? And while I am more than grateful for our many blessings, I have found myself longing for simplicity and less to manage.
Make Minimalism Work For YOU
Here’s the deal. You’ve got to make minimalism work for you. In my humble opinion, minimalism shouldn’t be a feather in our caps. We aren’t in a contest with each other on who has the most, or least amount stuff… or who is more organized and on top of their game.
Minimalism with kids isn’t about esthetics or having the most impressively organized home. It’s simply functional. Minimalism can be a tool to get us to a place of peace in our homes and our family relationships. That is all.
Minimalism Needs To Be A Tool We Use In Our Homes, Not A Strict Rule We Live By
I have found that by reducing clutter, which, by the way, is infinitely harder than collecting clutter, we can have more freedom. Time for our kids. Peace of mind. Orderliness and organization.
But to be honest, minimalism with kids is hard. It takes time and intention.
Today I am going to walk you through my complete plan to minimalism with kids. We are going to explore the heart behind minimalism and how to approach it in a way that works best for you and your family.
Please keep in mind that my life may be very different than yours, and my “stuff threshold” is likely different as well. There is no right or wrong here…. we’re just all trying to find our way through the weeds (or broken toys, stained t-shirts and 900 broken crayons, if you will).
A Gentle Guide To Minimalism With And For Kids
This is a gentle guide to approaching minimalism with your kiddos. Slowly over time I’ve had to learn what works and what doesn’t. Rage purging is not my favorite, but I won’t say it hasn’t happened. Likewise, never getting rid of anything is hugely impractical for families.
Through time I’ve developed a more gentle approach. I find it helpful to break the areas of my kid’s stuff into categories and work to de clutter them from there.
But First… Can You Be A Minimalist With Children?
First of all, can you even be a minimalist with children? Is this possible while living in the land of plenty? Well… yes, it’s possible. Easy? No…. but possible. Minimalism with kids is possible but it takes thought, intention and time.
Minimalism With Kids in 6 Steps
We are going to dive into this overwhelming minimalism magic with a plan. Here are 6 steps to minimalism with kids. Hang on to your hat, I’ll walk you through each one!
- Identify Your Family Values In Regards To Stuff
- Identify How You Want To Spend Your Time + How Much Time You Have
- Pinpoint Your Specific Stuff Threshold
- Designate Consistent Decluttering Times
- Intentionally Plan To Prevent Clutter
1. Identify Your Family Values In Regards To Stuff
In order to make minimalism with kids work, you’ll have to take some time to think deeply about your family values. This step is important, don’t skip it! I promise we’ll get to the action soon.
How Does Minimalism Fit Into Your Family Values?
All of us have family values we are working under, whether we realize it or not. Slowing down and examining these values can lead us to healthy choices in how we want to manage our kid’s stuff.
Think of your children’s life experiences at home, such as how they get ready for the day, what it’s like to look for certain toys, and how hard or easy it is to clean up their rooms. Is life overwhelming for your kids because of the amount of stuff they have?
Notably, is life hard for you as the parent because of how much stuff they have?
Likewise, think about the value of the things you keep in your home. Some people absolutely love collections, or clothes, or books (guilty).
Maybe you don’t want to be minimalist in some areas of your life. Maybe your kid doesn’t want to be a full fledged Marie Kondo convert. That’s ok! Examine these core values and jot them down.
Make mental note or write down how you may personally benefit from minimalism.
Think about how changing your lifestyle to include minimalism with your kids will work for you and reward you. Embracing minimalism may mean:
- You have more free time to enjoy your kids
- You can find what you need when you need it
- Feelings of stress and overwhelm are reduced
- The house feels organized and peaceful
- You have time for hobbies you love, like exercise or reading
These are just a few examples of the many benefits you may experience.
Once you examine these values, you can take steps to work towards your own approach to minimalism.
Examining our values and the family culture we want to build is key to defining how minimalism will work FOR US. Remember, minimalism is a tool that serves us, not the other way around.
Taking the time to evaluate your values will provide huge benefit when you go to de clutter. You may be tempted to keep many, many things for sentimental reasons or just because… and knowing your core values will remind you of WHY it is helpful to get rid of excess!
A Mission Statement For Minimalism With Kids
It can be immensely helpful to write out a mission statement for your home. This will help guide you back into your reason for minimalism with your kids. My personal mission statement for the organization in my home:
This mission statement is the hook to hang my hat on when things get out of control. It gives a backbone to my organizational efforts.
You may want to write out your own mission statement for minimalism before you begin decluttering!
2. Identify How Much Time You Have (And How You Spend It)
I wish there was a way out of this but a firm universal truth exists: we all have 24 hours in one day. That’s it! And in this time we need to sleep, eat, work, restore, connect, and move.
We also have to clean up after ourselves and keep the house somewhat under control.
Knowing that we only have so much time each day to accomplish what needs to be done isn’t a dead end trap. In fact, it’s freeing.
In our finite limitations, we know that we cannot do everything. We cannot be everything and accomplish everything or produce a perfect life (that’s right instagram, I’m talking to you!).
This is freeing because it allows us to claim control over the time we do have. How do we want to spend it? How much time do we want to dedicate to organizing things? And how much time do we want to waste looking for things lost in clutter? Or managing endless amounts of stuff?
If you’re anything like most mamas, you do not have time to waste. You want to spend your precious hours reading, snuggling, and creating with your kids.
Reducing clutter and embracing minimalism will free your time. You can then give this time your kids, hobbies and health.
3. What Is Your Personal Stuff Threshold?
Step #3 of the emotional work of becoming a minimalist with kids is to pinpoint your unique stuff threshold.
This step is super important to your process of minimalism with kids, so don’t skip it!
I’ve mentioned a few times that you have to make minimalism work for you. Everyone truly is unique in the amount of inventory that works for their families. To identify your “stuff threshold”, take a few moments to journal about the following questions:
- When do you feel most stressed in your home?
- When do you feel most at peace?
- Which of you and your kids belongings bring you joy, and what could you do without?
- What does a comfortable home look and feel like to you? (This is different for everyone)
Over the years I have stumbled into my “stuff threshold” through trial and error.
Everyone will truly have a different stuff threshold. Some people find much comfort in having busier surroundings. And some people find comfort in having open spaces.
Don’t judge yourself here…. study what brings you peace and what stresses you out. Find what works for you and your family.
4. Designate Specific Times For De Cluttering
Now that we’ve recognized your core reasons for minimalism, it’s time to identify the key times you have to de clutter. Planning specific times to organize and reduce clutter will be pertinent to your success.
I have personally found the following schedule to work well and not be overwhelming:
- Larger decluttering projects, like an entire room are scheduled for weekends
- Small projects, like a toy bin or bookshelf can be worked in weekly
- Routine habits can be practiced throughout each day (emptying the car when getting home, throwing away broken toys when stumbling upon them)
Minimalism with kids is not a one time practice (unfortunately), but a lifestyle.
Set up a routine that works well for you. Keep in mind that when you initially start removing items from your home, it will feel overwhelming and even challenging. Set small, obtainable goals.
Begin de cluttering in the easiest areas of your kid’s stuff. Clothing and toys are the easiest for me. Books and papers are the hardest!
I will be sharing a de cluttering routine and templates soon and will link to those when complete! For now, break up the areas of your home into yearly, monthly, quarterly and weekly tasks.
Examples of Minimalist Routines For Kids De Cluttering:
- Quarterly: Go through kids clothes, discard used and worn out items, replace if needed
- Weekly: Sort and de clutter all school papers
- Monthly: Clean out bathroom cupboards, purge unnecessary kids items
When you first begin this process, you will probably have a lot to do. Start with your “easiest win”- the area in which you have the least amount of stuff to deal with.
5. Six Areas To Organize And Declutter With Kids
Now that we’ve established our family values and scheduled our time, its time to jump into the actual act of de cluttering. I know it’s overwhelming, our kids sure collect a lot of belongings, don’t they!
We are going through the 6 main kid’s areas with tips and tricks on how to achieve minimalism in each one. Start with whatever area is easiest for you.
These six areas will be the primary areas we work through. You can apply the methods to any other area of their lives!
- School and Art Supplies
- Clothing and Shoes
- Toys (inside and outside toys)
- Games and Puzzles
I am going to jump into each of these sections and give you hands on tips that you can apply today to get started minimizing your kid’s stuff.
Organizing and De Cluttering School And Art Supplies
If you home school, you know how quickly glue sticks, crayons and paper can get out of control. Paper is an especially overwhelming area for me to manage!
As a home school mama these are the strategies I use to embrace minimalism with our school and art supplies:
- De clutter and organize the crayons, colored pencils and markers and glue sticks every other week. Use gallon size bags to sort
- Get rid of any “extra” art supplies that never get used (I use a 3 month mark as my guide)
- Throw away broken crayons, used up pens, old glue sticks, etc
- Keep your inventory to a very manageable stash. I have one 3 tiered plastic container that holds extra paper and markers
- Avoid, if you can, buying art kits with lots of pieces
Minimalist Kids Clothes
Take a deep breath, we are about to create capsule wardrobes for your kids! This subject really deserves it’s own post, but I am going to give you the ability to get a solid grasp on a minimalist wardrobe for your kids here.
General guidelines for amount of clothing per child. This is dependent on how hard the child is on clothes and the season of the year.
- Pants/Shorts 3-5 pairs (depending on child and season)
- T Shirts 4-5
- Sweaters 2
- Church Clothes 2 sets
- Play outfits 2 (Clothes that can get paint and mud on them)
- Socks 4-5 pairs
- 2 pairs of pjs
- 1 Rainjacket
- 1 Coat
- 1-2 swim suits (dependent on use)
There are several factors when putting together a capsule wardrobe for your child. Consider the age of your kiddos, hygiene abilities, how much they play outside, etc.
My 3 year old is constantly getting wet and muddy, and covered in ketchup! 😉 Right now he needs more play clothes than my older two, who are not as messy.
Easy Step By Step Capsule Wardrobe For Kids:
- Sort through all of your child’s clothes. Donate any clothes that are still in good condition or too small. Do the same with clothes that are never worn!
- Throw away any clothing that is badly stained and worn out
- Take inventory of how much clothing is left. Is there anything you need to replace now?
- Quarterly go through kids clothing and sort, discard, and update as needed
Minimalist Kids Clothing Tips:
We are constantly being given hand me down clothes. Honestly, it’s great! But I am a ruthless sorter. I never keep something just because it is given to me. It has to work in the minimalism wardrobe plan.
I first look at the quality of the hand me down. Is it in good condition? A great brand? Then I look at that child’s current clothing inventory. I replace worn clothing with the better condition hand me down.
What we don’t use, I pass along to a thrift store.
In order to keep our kid’s wardrobes under control, I personally do not shop for kids clothing for fun.
Minimalism With Kids Toys
Sorting through kids toys can be overwhelming. Here are four quick questions that will really help you determine what to get rid of:
- Is this toy broken? (Feel free to toss immediately, replace if treasured and loved!)
- Is this toy played with? (If no, you can get rid of it!)
- Is this toy a keepsake? (Keep a bin for a very few select items you want to save).
- Is this toy a duplicate?
Personally I try to keep our kids toys to a minimum and encourage creativity with free play, cooking and art. There are many benefits to having a curated collection of toys. It is proven that kids are more creative and innovative with less, and it’s easier for the mum to manage!
Apply the same questioning method for outside toys!
How To Get Rid Of Toys
Let your kiddos help you to sort through and donate toys. My kids actually seem to enjoy the process, ha! If they want to get rid of something, don’t question it (unless it’s a family heirloom, of course).
We donate a lot of toys. And to be honest, my boys are so hard on their toys. After a few months cheaper plastic toys have run their course and may just need to be thrown out.
The Toys That My Kids Love and Use Regularly
There are only a few toys my kids have played with constantly for years and years. Magnablox are one that all of my children just love. They encourage free play, creativity and problem solving.
We keep a few bins with baby toys and recent gifts. I sort through these about once a month. My daughter enjoys sewing supplies and crafts so we keep a small stash of supplies.
My kids love their outdoor toys: scooters, soccer balls, footballs, basketballs and bubbles. And we keep three small bins of miscellaneous baby and kid toys downstairs.
Many toys that we think are essential may actually be going unused. Keep an eye out for what your children really enjoy, and get rid of the rest!
Decluttering toys takes does take work and diligence. If you routinely declutter toys, the workload will be easier.
Minimalism Toy Storage
One way to keep the toy load down is to designate a few areas for toys and not to exceed that storage. We have three small bins downstairs for toys and one larger one upstairs. Our games go in one game cupboard. My daughter, who is 8, has a small box for leggos in her room and an American Girl doll.
I don’t add more storage for more toys, which forces us to keep toy inventory in check.
How To Organize And Declutter Kid’s Books
The truth is, I am NOT a minimalist when it comes to kids books. We have hundreds of them!
Because this fits in with our core family values, I am okay with this. We homeschool and are avid readers. Books fill us with joy and reading out loud is a daily habit in our household.
But mama still has to manage these books. Because I am not a minimalist in this area, it takes more time and effort to mange. This is how I keep them under control.
Tips For Managing Kids Books:
- Twice a year I go through all our books and give ones away we truly do not use/love.
- I rotate books! I keep books on the top shelf of our closet and in a few secret hiding spots. They are rotated regularly. This helps to keep them from taking over our home.
- I have bookshelves and book nooks throughout the house for specific books. Board books go in one area, school books in another, etc.
- I get rid of low quality cartoon like books and try to keep only quality books around!
- I try to use the library as much as possible to keep down on the book build up, which is easy for us to do.
In our lives right now, lots of quality literature is a higher priority to me than minimalism with books. Remember minimalism is a tool and does not have to be applied strictly to every area of our lives!
Kids Minimalism With Games And Puzzles
Kids games and puzzles are an area that is important to streamline. With hundreds of pieces they can get overwhelming so quickly.
Keep in mind that some people have a family culture centered around games. As our kids get older, we are starting to play more of these games together as well. But, I have found the following minimalism tips to work well for us:
- Throw away any games or puzzles that have lost pieces
- Give away any games or puzzles that have not been used in the last 3-6 months
- Keep a designated area for games and puzzles and don’t let that area spread to other parts of the home
- If your family LOVES games and puzzles, dedicate a storage tub to them and rotate them out every few months. This becomes exciting and fun, and games never get old that way.
Whew, we made it to the last section of organizing and decluttering your kids stuff! Give yourself a high five from me if you’ve made it this far!
Kid’s memorabilia is a tough cookie to crack. When I just had two kids, I kept pretty much everything they ever touched. Any scrap of paper they scribbled on was sacred and treasured.
My daughter grew and became a prolific artist. And I had more children! I knew I had to become ruthless in what I saved and what I got rid of.
For now, I follow these guidelines for minimalism with my kids memories:
- Keep a child’s best work only
- Display and enjoy current artwork in a few specified areas
- Anything that is not their “best work” gets recycled
- Keep yearly binders for their personal schoolwork records
- Create a memory box for each of them to take when they leave the nest… just one box!
This area can be especially hard to get a grasp on if you are sentimental (believe me, I know). Be gentle but realistic with yourself. Refer back to your core values often!
6. Preventing The Buildup Of Clutter: Sustaining Minimalism
Whew, if you’ve made it through this post and followed the steps, you are amazing! And probably tired.
Here’s how to make sure all of that hard work doesn’t go to waste: actively pursue minimalism.
If you have children, they will collect all the things. It just happens! When you go back to your core mission statement on how you want your home to feel, look and function, you’ll be prepared to actively prevent the clutter from getting out of control. Your minimalism mission statement, along with your new routines, will help you prevent he buildup of clutter.
Here are 4 easy tips for preventing clutter overload and sustaining minimalism in your home:
- Schedule times to routinely declutter each area of your child’s belongings. Since you do this regularly, the work will be much less overwhelming
- Encourage consumable Christmas and birthday gifts like bubbles, art supplies, fun trips, and zoo passes (Read this post on how to have a minimalist Christmas)
- Be intentional with what you buy. Don’t shop for fun, but be strategic and thoughtful with what you purchase for your kids.
- Make peace with what you can’t minimize! For example, my daughter is highly creative, a seamstress and an avid reader. Her room will always be a little bit busy. I have made peace with it. 🙂
I hope this elaborate guide to minimalism with kids was a blessing to you. Life with kids can be so overwhelming, oh how I know it! Please leave me a note in the comments to tell me your ideas. Was this guide helpful? Reach out and let me know!