Create more time through decluttering and teaching family responsibility!
Over the years I have been so frustrated with the constant re-organizing of every closet and cabinet in the house. It happens over and over again and robs me of so much time that would be much better spent playing with my kids!
Nearly two years ago I ordered a garbage bin and went to town decluttering! There was so much stuff that I intended to mend some day, repurpose, repair, keep for someday, etc., and it was taking over so much space and mental energy.
We went about the usual process of sorting into piles for donating, selling, and passing on to family and friends. What was different about that process was that it was larger scale than usual and when it was over there was a weight lifted that I never knew was there, and the house just somehow felt lighter and airier.
You’ll find printables to help you with your process at the bottom of this post! Keep reading!
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What was also lighter was my to-do list and those who know me know that is a big deal to me. The most important things to me are time and connection with my kids so shortening my to-do list and putting things on auto-pilot are always something I am striving to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have to reorganize closets and cabinets a lot – I seem to be the only person that cares if casserole dishes are stacked rather than just shoved in a cabinet (shocking I know!)– but the reorganizing takes a minute, not hours.
I learned a lot from that process, and that learning has been emphasized in recent months as we have hunkered down at home more than usual.
Benefits of Decluttering
Clutter really is anxiety inducing. This is in part due to the dysregulation of how Cortisol (stress hormone) functions in our bodies. Studies show that women, in particular, experience disruption in Cortisol and increased Cortisol throughout the day when living in a cluttered environment. While I was aware of this, I didn’t fully recognize it until I experienced the relief from decluttering first hand.
Less stress and overwhelm
A cluttered home can feel like a giant to-do list. It can be overwhelming when surfaces have become cluttered to the point of feeling like there is “stuff everywhere.” Having a clutter free home is like throwing a big part of your to-do list right out the window!
Did you know that clutter can dysregulate the cortisol levels in our bodies? Which in turn leads to unhealthy habits. A study released by Cornell University in 2016 showed that clutter and chaos, which increases anxiety and stress, actually results in increased consumption of unhealthy foods!?
Cleaning Made Easy
Do you have those days when you have to clean up before you can clean? It takes so long that often times the cleaning itself doesn’t get done. When you declutter, this issue goes away (for the most part.) It makes cleaning a breeze and helps you to spend more time with your family.
Easier to organize
I wouldn’t pretend that organizing doesn’t still need to happen, but it takes minutes instead of hours and is much easier to maintain when there is less stuff.
In our home, as things become messy there are bound to be more arguments. My daughter and I tend to become more anxious as clutter collects, which impacts how we communicate. My son also loses all of his stuff if he isn’t putting things back where they belong, which leads to one meltdown after another. At the end of the day people are arguing because there are more to-do lists being handed out, things are lost, and things are easily broken because they aren’t where they are supposed to be.
More time freedom
When you aren’t constantly picking up, organizing, sorting out arguments, your energy isn’t being drained by all of these things, and your hormones aren’t dysregulated, there is new time freedom that comes from actually having more time, and also from being more productive.
Like so many other things decluttering, and particularly maintaining it, teaches a sense of commitment, responsibility, and teamwork. It also teaches our kids healthy life choices to help them reduce their own stress later in life.
We instill a lot in our children through family rituals. Rituals help to support change in a positive way and also help to reinforce positive values for future generations. We work together each Friday evening after school and work to do what we refer to as a “family clean” so that we head into the weekend free of chores that keep us from spending time with one another. Decluttering has naturally become a part of this now and my children now understand that we finish our responsibilities so we can freely move into the excitement of fun activities. I’m really hoping they hold on to this value through their teen years!
More space to live
There have been times, particularly when my kids were really little, that there seemed to just be “stuff” everywhere. Finding an open space to do yoga, or for a family workout, to play a game or to use a toy that required a larger amount of space became difficult. This ultimately stopped us from doing things we would have otherwise enjoyed doing together. Having more empty space in the house allows us to move and play more freely.
After you declutter, you are much more hesitant to bring things into your home. In turn you tend to buy less “stuff” and you get rid of things more quickly (which can also result in more money when you are selling them!).
Part of decluttering is also learning to use up what you have, before bringing new things into your home. My friend Mary, from Beauty In Ordinary Things, is working her way through a No Spend Month in January. You should check out her post for more tips on how to save money by not spending and bringing less into your home!
Decluttering Success Tips
- Be reasonable with what you can manage – you DO NOT need to follow someone else’s schedule or expectation. If you set an expectation you can’t meet (like I do with my exercise habits haha) then you are setting yourself up to fail.
- Find strategies that work for your family. Again, do what works for you and your family. If giving everyone garbage bags to fill works, do that. If decluttering room by room works, do that. Some of this will be trial and error.
- Include the whole family. I cannot stress this enough. Chances are, the things that need to be decluttered weren’t caused solely by you, use this opportunity to engage the whole family. They will also be more invested in maintaining the change moving forward if they helped do the work.
- Be prepared to let things go. This is so hard for me! I like to keep things. I hate waste and I always want to repurpose things or save things for “someday” when we need them. If you have a little Frozen fan, now is a great time for them to start singing “Let it Go!”
- Shift your headspace. Also a big one from me. It is hard to shift values/priorities. For me, not being wasteful is a value, which is why it is so hard to throw things away. However, I also value my time with my kids and our emotional well-being, so it was time to take stock and reassess my values and priorities. As they say, nothing will change if you don’t.
- Be ready to organize what is left. This is the fun part to me! I love to organize. I love buying bins and hooks and building shelves. However, like it or not, when the decluttering is over, what is left needs a place to go or it will still end up everywhere. We often wait to see what is left before deciding how to organize, as that works well for us.
- Start with the easiest things so that you can experience success right at the start!
- Tidy up by category – not location. There is nothing worse than feeling like we have sorted all of the books, just to hit a new bookcase in a new room. We do all of the books at once. It also helps us see what is left to condense and organize after.
- Put everything in one place. IE when we declutter toys they all go on the couches to be re-sorted into bins. When we declutter closets, everything goes on the bed and we resort from there.
- If you are hesitant about keeping something, unless there is a VERY good reason to keep it, let it go.
- However you set up your decluttering, whether you are doing a bit each day, a room each day, or a weekend/week-long marathon, make it an event. Put your mind to the task and get it done.
- Be rid of piles as they come. Don’t leave piles of things that are meant to go around, or slowly you will find things are taken out of the piles. At the end of the “event” put the trash out, and remove the bags for donations from the house.
- If you are able, tackle the spaces in the home that are your sanctuary first. Again, this is about experiencing success and knowing what it feels like to live in a space that has the weight of clutter removed. It is great motivation to keep going!
- Put the kids to work! Seriously. Put them in charge of their own spaces (with guidance and support of course.) We have a kid-friendly printable, in addition to the customizable calendar, if you have big kids that are able to work independently.
- If you are doing light maintenance, give each person a garbage bag and have them fill it with things that can go. ADDED TIP: Make sure your kids know this means their OWN stuff. The first time I did this with my kids they both came back with a bag full of the other’s toys. Lesson learned.
- Celebrate success! Make sure to take time to celebrate successes as you have them. This is hard work, and you all deserve a reward!
Remember, when you are decluttering you are also going to need to organize what is staying. This is especially key for kiddos who will very easily slide back into chaos if things don’t find a home right of the get go.
Don’t forget to make sure that you have what you are going to need to organize and put things away afterwards. I often wait until I can take stock of what is left before finalizing my plan, but it almost always includes the following:
Storage Totes to move things that need to be kept into storage.
Storage Bins to organize and sort toys, crafts materials and cabinets.
Baskets for closets, drawers and cabinets.
Laminator for labeling things (I seriously couldn’t get by without this!)
Markers because we always need them for labelling and can never have enough!
It is really difficult to get around having too much stuff when you have little kids. However, for me, decluttering has reinforced the value of quality over quantity and the importance of versatility in toys.
I have always opted for quality toys. I prefer to spend money on toys that are going to be used in many different ways and outlast childhood. The number of broken toys that were pulled out of bins and closets was disgraceful – at best, and that completely reinforced my view on buying quality toys! It also supports my value of not being wasteful!
I’ve utilized many of the declutter calendars that are floating around, but they never quite work for our family. No two families’ lives/schedules/times/routines look exactly the same, so it is really hard to cookie-cutter a decluttering schedule.
As I see it, to have something that works for your family and your schedule you need a check list that doesn’t tie you to a particular order or a customizable calendar!
The checklist is great if you are just looking to work your way through the tasks, or help others in the house know what else needs to be done, without holding yourself accountable to a specific time frame. If you are someone that is going to throw the schedule out the window if you miss a scheduled calendar day, the checklist is for you!
The customizable calendar (my kids favourite) is for those who want to hold themselves accountable to a timeframe, but also need some flexibility in what gets done when. You’ll see that the customizable calendar comes with tasks that can be written onto the calendar, or cut out and glued – the purpose of this is family engagement and conversation.
You’ll also find a kid-friendly (aka more colourful) printable to use if your kids are headed into independent territory!