Declutter Kids' Rooms

While the same basic guidelines for decluttering apply when you declutter kids’ rooms, some additional considerations exist as well. 

It’s important to involve your children in the process of decluttering their rooms.  It will take more time than it would to do it yourself, but the benefits outweigh the inconvenience. 

Teach Principles of Organization

Make decluttering a learning experience.  Teach basic principles of organization

Help children begin to understand how to care for things so that they remain in good condition. 

Establish guidelines and systems for keeping kids’ rooms clean so that your efforts don’t go to waste. 

Before you begin, briefly explain the process to your children.  Children tend to be much more cooperative when they understand what is expected of them. 

Recommended Reading

Check out these pages for a refresher course in organization basics. 

The Process

The basic process to declutter kids’ rooms is as follows:

Start with a trash bag, a box for items you’ll be getting rid of, and a box for items that belong elsewhere in the house. 

  • Any toys that are broken or missing key parts automatically go in the trash, along with any actual trash you come across. 

Trash vs. Treasure

Your kids will undoubtedly try to argue that some toys are not trash simply because they are broken.  For instance, my sons never wanted to get rid of the Star Wars figurines with missing heads or limbs.  Their argument: they played an important role as victims in intergalactic battles. 

My advice is to be reasonable yet firm.  If a toy still gets a lot of valid play time despite its apparently diminished state (and it’s not in any way dangerous in its current condition), it’s a keeper.  By letting them win the occasional trash vs. treasure debate, you provide yourself with leverage.  Pick your battles.

  • Decide beforehand what guidelines you wish to establish with regards to getting rid of toys. Instead of just telling your kids they need to get rid of some of their toys, discuss with them the reasons for doing so.  These might include: freeing up space in kids’ rooms so they have more room to play, decreasing clutter, or donating to charity.  Children have a tremendous capacity for compassion.  If you’re asking your kids to donate some of their toys to charity, make sure they understand where the toys will go and who will benefit from them (at least in a general sense).  They will be much more willing to part with things. 

  • Decide together what will stay and what will go.   Most children, especially children under the age of eight, have a difficult time making such decisions.  Their natural tendency toward possessiveness, lack of perspective, and immature reasoning skills all combine to make the task overwhelming to them.  Help them look for toys they really don’t play with and won’t miss. 

Sort Items by Type (including trash and give-aways)

  • Establish piles – one for dolls, one for action figures, one for art supplies, and so forth.

  • If a toy comes with multiple parts, group the toy and its attendant parts together.

Be Prepared for Distractions

Asking children to sort through toys is an uphill battle.  The temptation to play is just too much for most kids to overcome.  They will get distracted from the task at hand. 

Be aware of this before you start and establish ground rules at the beginning.  The younger children are, the less should be expected of them.    They should help you identify things to get rid of.  Their participation beyond that will be somewhat dependent upon their attention span. 

As long as you have their attention, take advantage of it.  Once their attention starts to wane, it will be up to you to decide if you keep harping on them to get back to work or just do the sorting on your own. 

Older children can be bargained with.  For instance, if they work steadily to assist you for half an hour, then they are free to play with whatever they like.

A friend of mine once gave me some parenting advice that has stuck with me ever since.  She said, the purpose of the task is to strengthen the relationship.  If what you’re doing is driving a rift between you and your child, it’s not worth it.  Step back and reevaluate. 

Clean as You Go

  • Toys can be germ magnets.  It’s a good idea to use this opportunity to do a little sanitizing. 

  • This is a good task for kids to do.  Provide them with a container of disinfectant wipes and demonstrate how to use them to clean toys.

Place Like Items Together

  • If you don’t have enough containers for everything, stash the overflow in an out-of-the-way corner for a day or two until you can get what you need.  Keep in mind that the sooner you can get everything put away, the better.  The kids will automatically be drawn to those piles on the floor, and it won’t take long before you are forced to begin anew the effort to declutter your kid’s rooms. 
  • Find a permanent home for everything.  Click this link for detailed guidelines regarding toy storage.

Recommended Reading

For more information on organizing kids' rooms, check out these pages.

Decluttering kids’ rooms can be a challenge.  If you need to, do a little every day until you get the job done.  Once the job is done, it will require regular maintenance. Click here for more information on maintaining kids' rooms.

The parental default is to tell kids to pick up their rooms.  This statement rarely results in success.  Be specific and break the task into manageable chunks.  Instead of saying ‘pick up your room’, say ‘pick up all the Legos®’. 

The biggest benefit that comes from the effort to declutter kids’ rooms is the renewed interest kids gain in their toys.  Do you feel like your kids are spending too much time watching TV or playing video games?  Get them involved in decluttering their rooms and they’ll rediscover all the options at their disposal.  One good decluttering session can lead to countless hours of positive play time!

My best wishes to you and your kiddos in your organization efforts. 

If you found this page helpful, please consider sharing it on social media. Please leave me a quick comment below as well in the section below. I'd love to hear from you!

For inspiration to fuel your organization efforts, follow my Kids' Room Organization Board on Pinterest.

Follow Step-by-Step Design's board Kids' Room Organization on Pinterest.

If you would like help tackling your kids' room organization project, click on the link below to contact me. 

Click here to return to Step-by-Step Declutter.

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