Decluttering when you live with children

I don't know if it is the byproduct of spring cleaning, knowing that summer break is around the corner or that I have been binging "The Home Edit" on Netflix, but I am ready to declutter my house – particularly my kids' items. As all families with young children know, kids often go through toys as quickly as they go through developmental stages, prompting parents to feel as though we need to constantly reorganize or replace items.

And don't get me started on the things in our homes that are not even toys, but rather "treasures" that work their way into our playrooms and basements and laundry heaps: Special rocks. Party favors. Plastic spider rings. The nozzle part of a spray bottle. An old cellphone. A glow stick that has lost its glow. An old flash drive. A lucky coin gifted by a loving family member but pretty much useless to your child since it's a Euro. Life seems to pile up, one toy or treasure at a time. May I offer some quick tips on how to declutter kids' items and restore the peace in your home this spring?

The 100-item pickup

Feeling overwhelmed by clutter, but not ready for the complete overhaul that is decluttering your entire house? Try the 100-item pickup. Grab a box or a bag and pick just 100 items that you can recycle, place in a donation bin or throw away right now. A lot of families will be surprised how quickly they get to 100 items – think old magazines, outdated kids' artwork or a lonesome sock with no match. A bonus of this strategy is that your young children get to practice counting to 100, a kindergarten favorite.

Sell it

Consider offering lightly used items for consignment or resale. You may find that your older kids have some buy-in in picking items to sell, particularly if you offer them a percentage of your overall sale, or tell them that you'll use the proceeds toward a family trip or outing. Local spots to sell or consign kids' items include Once Upon A Child, Just Kids and Underdog Sports, Memorabilia & Games in Springfield, Remarkable Resale in Rochester and Sweet Pea Consignment in Chatham.

Donate it

Donate used items to a good cause. Springfield's Hope Thrift Center, Salvation Army, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity are just a few local organizations that accept gently used donations of kids' items. Don't forget to contact libraries, schools, community-based or faith-based organizations in your network to inquire about whether they would benefit from a specific donation. Be prepared to explain exactly what it is that you are offering so that program leadership knows whether they can use it.

What about that puzzle missing a piece, a board game without all the parts, leftover craft and art supplies or other random things you run across? While your first inclination may be to toss it in the trash, a relatively new nonprofit called Creative Reuse Marketplace diverts material away from landfills to be reused by artists, teachers, students and community groups. Check out their website ( for a room-to-room guide of items accepted and to make an appointment for drop-off.

And remember: Once something goes into a donation box, make an immediate plan about where it is going, lest it sit in the corner of your toddler's room for a month (looking at myself here). Some organizations such as Hope and Salvation Army will even come to your home to pick up donations if you make arrangements ahead of time. Habitat for Humanity will pick up large items, such as furniture and home décor that are donated to the ReStore.

Get your kids involved...

One rainy day, take the time to sort through toys and games alongside your kids in order to weed out broken or missing pieces. Kids are very good at categorizing items – Legos with Legos, Tinkertoys with Tinkertoys, etc. Nine times out of 10, once I've started a decluttering or organizing project alongside my boys, they find some gem that they haven't played with in a little while, allowing us all the benefit of some new and novel independent play.

...Or not

If you aren't getting anywhere with your children by your side, sort through kids' things when they are out of the house. I know, I know. This has the potential to go badly if your child's room is full of beloved treasures, but I've found that taking a stab at the clutter on my own can oftentimes be the key to productive organization. Nervous about accidentally removing something precious? Break the above rule about moving donations out of the house immediately, and put a box or bin of less used but "not ready to get rid of" items somewhere out of sight. Let your child know that their items are still in the house and to simply ask if they are missing something. Chances are good that you'll be able to donate most of the things you moved after some time has passed.

Pamela Savage is a freelance writer in Springfield. Although she loves letting her kids be little, she is looking forward to the day when the plastic cast of Paw Patrol can move out of her home forever.

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