While we’re in the middle of a 100 Day Challenge, that can be overwhelming and isn’t practical for everyone. Plus, the way to declutter for 100 days is to start with a few days.
Just as you don’t enjoy being overwhelmed with daunting decluttering tasks, neither do your children. While you can implement this challenge however you want, here’s my advice to add structure if you don’t already have a plan.
1. Teach the benefits of decluttering. Teach your kids that it’s a valuable life skill that will benefit them and those they love for the rest of their lives. Share the joy and freedom it enhances. (I say that it enhances joy and freedom because I had plenty of joy and freedom even when I had clutter, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t have lots of clutter but that doesn’t mean they automatically experience overwhelming joy and freedom. So much of that comes from choosing joy and freedom no matter what.)
2. Explain the tasks. Let them know how much time you want them to put into it. This depends on what age/stage your child is at. But I’d say anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes is a good starting spot. Tell them why they’re doing this. (It can give them room for more stuff later…birthdays or Christmas. It’ll make cleaning their rooms faster. It makes it easier to find things. There’s more room to play or be creative.)
3. Set small goals and work your way up. Day one might just be a day of discussing the benefits, tasks, and goals and then getting them set up to start the next day. You could tell them that if they happen to find something to put in the donation pile, they can go ahead but that you don’t require them to start until the next day. Day two could involve a challenge to fill the box or get rid of X number of items (10?). Day three could be for them to go through one category of clothing (all of their shirts or all of their pants or all of their shoes, etc) or get rid of 11 items or work for 15 minutes instead of 10 (or 6 instead of 5 if they are much younger).
4. Help get them started. Supply them with a box or bag to put items in for donation. Make sure they have a trash can so they can also get rid of things that aren’t worth donating. Tell them it’s best to start with larger items because it makes a noticeable difference faster. Trashing a piece of paper won’t put as much of a dent in the clutter as getting rid of a big stuffed animal.
5. Be prepared for them to want to get rid of things you don’t want them to get rid of. Maybe you paid a lot for it or it’s great quality or has sentimental value for you. At that point, they’ve done the work and should reap the benefits. Maybe find a family member who would also find it sentimental. Or put it in your own room or in the attic until another child can use it. If you aren’t willing to keep it among your items, maybe it isn’t as valuable as you thought. Try not to force them to keep too much in their room even though they’ve said it doesn’t spark joy. That will discourage them to keep going because they’ll think you might overrule them about more stuff, so they’re just wasting their time trying to get rid of clutter.
Other Tips for Making the Process Easier
My sister’s daughters were really involved in choosing which clothes to get rid of, but her sons didn’t care much. So for them, we went through all of their clothes and took out the ones we thought didn’t fit or had too many holes/stains. Then we had them look through that pile we were going to give away to make sure they didn’t want to keep any of it. They did decide to keep some, but we were still able to get rid of a lot.
Even for me, I recently chose one bookshelf to go through and choose the books I definitely knew I wanted to keep. Then it was much easier to tell myself that I must not really want to keep the others because they aren’t in my “definite keepers” pile. So I boxed up two-thirds of the books on the shelf to sell at the bookstore! And I seriously love books. Like, if anyone else had told me a few years ago that they were doing that, I’d have said they weren’t really a book lover. But I have an English degree. Believe me, I love books! So this might be a good task for your kids to quickly get rid of items on a shelf.
If you don’t have kids, you could still try three of these items for yourself or a roommate. Choose three days this week to work on this challenge. They don’t have to be three days in a row.
Let me know how you do with this challenge as opposed to the 100 day challenge. I always love hearing how many people are able to accomplish their goals!