Reader Question: How to Get Kids to Declutter, Simplify

Simplifying / Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

A reader named Shannon asked this question in the comments of the last post on decluttering:

Any tips for motivating kids to declutter if there is not cash involved?

Obviously, this is going to depend a lot on the age of the kids.

When my kids were small I did their decluttering for them. It’s amazing what you can clear out of a kid’s room while he or she is at school without them noticing. I also think it’s helpful and important to talk about giving something they aren’t using to someone who will get some use or enjoyment out of it.

As they became teens, I left their decisions about their stuff and their rooms mainly up to them, in a “pick your battles” kind of way. But we have a designated spot in our house for donations, and I find that they do use it.

But if decluttering is important to you, and the kids are motivated by money, I would look for ways to continue to make it about money. Here are some ideas:

  • Teach them/help them sell on Craigslist or eBay. (I helped my son — who is very motivated by money — get rid of some old gaming systems via eBay.)
  • Help them hold a garage sale of their stuff.
  • Pay them a percentage of the amount you save on your taxes through donations.

I know the readers will have some great ideas on this too. So Shannon and I are curious:

How do you motivate your kids to declutter and simplify?



10 Replies to “Reader Question: How to Get Kids to Declutter, Simplify”

  1. My kids see me declutter on a regular basis. Usually they come with me to Goodwill to drop off the donations, too.

    As we clean up toys, I always emphasize to the kids that if something is broken and can’t be fixed, we throw it away. If it can be fixed, we ask Dad to do it. I also ask if they think it’s time to donate the toy and make room for new ones. Since I have a range of ages (3 to 8), I try to be mindful of keeping toys for my youngest child. I’ll put toys away for him if he’s not ready for them.

    1. Barb, your modeling behaviors for them and including them in the process is surely the most effective way to do this. Especially with young kids like yours. Thanks for weighing in!

  2. Thank you Julie for responding to my original question. In answer to one of your questions, my children are 12 and 15. Your suggestions are very helpful. I, too, have picked my battles but I think it is getting out of control. My kids tend to be very attached to everything! I know someday I will miss their clutter.

    1. I hear you. Those ages can be tricky…and very messy. If it helps at all, my daughter became very neat after she went to college. :-)

  3. I thought the kids were younger so this may not apply, but when I want my 4 & 8 year old to declutter I just let them know that their clothes, toys, books, etc… will be going to other kids that don’t have all the great stuff they do. We have a sponsor child & my kids KNOW they have it good… they don’t need so much STUFF, when others have so little. At 12 & 15, selling on Craigslist & eBay to make a few $$ should motivate them if giving to charity won’t do it every time! :)

  4. For kids maybe 9 and up, I second the idea of helping them resell their stuff. Garage sales are great. But selling on eBay of Craigslist I consider to be a life skill that I want my kids to learn. Also, when kids realize that a nicer item, possibly in it’s original packaging, fetches more cash, they start taking better care of their things.

  5. Or your kids will be like me, and never get rid of it, and some time in their 30s you will announce that you are finally getting rid of the rest of their things from your house… and your kids will marvel that the stuff is still there. :)

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