Decluttering for Kids — 5 Steps to Help Them Whittle Down What They Have and Manage the Rest

We are a nation of collectors, and our children have become collectors, too. They have more than they need. Many are facing a challenge we did not as kids: overwhelming clutter in their environment and their minds. There is so much available to them, and parents sometimes have a hard time saying no. Rather than focusing on how to say no (that’s a course all on its own), let’s figure out how help them declutter, to decrease what they have and manage the rest.

For very young children, you can make rarely used things disappear with few repercussions. As they get older, that no longer works. Kids get used to having what they have (whether they use it or not) and they have way more words to make their case or just plain fight you on it. They can be relentless and wear you down.

It’s best to approach this in quiet moments, not when the mess is so big you want to throw everything in the trash. Having clutter is overwhelming, whether on a conscious or unconscious level. It’s there as a constant reminder of mess, cleanup not done, parental dissatisfaction, and a cluttered mind. Here’s how to get started:

Step 1 — Identify a category of things to go through, such as board games, books, hair accessories, video games, t-shirts, stuffed animals, and other trinkets. (Some parents will remember collections such as Beanie Babies and Pokemon cards.)

Step 2 — Start with 3–4 sorting bins. Call them what you want: keepers, giveaways, maybes, throwaways. Then let them sit for a while. For some kids (and adults), it takes a great deal of emotional energy just to allow something to go in the maybe and giveaways piles.

Step 3 — Create a timetable. What is a reasonable time to check back on the maybes? See if you can get agreement from your child to donate items that are not regularly used in that time. You want to be able to gently refer back to this conversation when the resistance appears. Mental preparation is always a good thing.

Step 4 — Discuss where the current and possible future giveaways will go. Let it be somewhere meaningful to your child. Without lecturing, nurture gratitude for what they have, and how much these things will be appreciated and cherished by the recipients.

Step 5 — If your child has more than he or she needs, consider adopting the practice of discarding one item for every new one that comes in the door. In fact, do it before you shop. If you are doing intentional shopping, decide what to get rid of before you click ‘pay now’ or go to the store.

And finally, if you are challenged by your possessions, use these five steps yourself!


For more parenting support, please accept my free guide, “5 Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk”. Visit

Hoping my life and parenting journey helps you on yours. Parent Coach, Family Recovery Coach, aspiring writer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store