Cleaning vs. Decluttering a Child’s Room

by Katy on January 13, 2014 · 6 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve cleaned my younger son’s room I’d have a pile of cash that reached the moon. But somehow, however many times he/I/we get his room cleaned up, it’s just a matter of nano-seconds before the cleanliness is completed reversed. (Seriously, I’m going to get NASA working on this.)

Part of the challenge is that he has very little storage space, but mostly because he has too much stuff. The end result is that his room is dangerous for ambulation at the moment and that’s simply not acceptable.

It would be very easy for me to clean his room up while he’s at school, but I want him to make the decisions himself about what to keep and what to get rid of. So we’ve been spending a hour here and an hour there agonizing over these difficult decisions. Two laundry baskets of books went to Powell’s, (of which they bought a half basket’s worth) and about half his stuffed animals are off to the consignment store and then Goodwill.

He and I spent AN HOUR working on decluttering his room yesterday. At age 11 he still has all his little boy belongings, so we’re going through all his toys one item at a time, which is overwhelming. (That’s why we’re doing it just one hour at a time.) When we finished our hour yesterday, I had him work on reassembling his “Transformers” into recognizable forms. When he gets these all put together, then we can probably sell them, which we certainly couldn’t do if they were maybe/maybe not missing their pieces. This is a chore I don’t have the skill to do. Seriously.

Also, he’s about to get a daybed/trundle bed (awesome for sleepovers!) which will replace the captain’s bed which has provided underbed storage. The problem was that with the exception of the “action figure drawer,” nothing stored there was anything he ever played with.

We are far from finishing this gargantuan task, but I know we’ll get there one hour at a time. And don’t get me started on his closet.

Are you a fan of cleaning and decluttering your kids’ rooms while they’re away or working side-by-side with them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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P.S. I super-de-duper wish we lived in Manhattan so that Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project could come over and help us declutter. Apparently, she was so gung-ho about helping to delutter during her happiness year, that she was overwhelming her friends. Why do I not have friends like that?!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy January 13, 2014 at 5:45 am

Were the Transformers all purchased withing the last 11 years? Depending on condition some might be worth some money, others not so much. There are some good websites for fans out there that would help you figure out if you have all the parts/weapons etc.
Good luck!


Megyn January 13, 2014 at 5:50 am

I do it both ways. As a pro organizer, I usually advise parents to get their kids’ input from a young age because it allows the child to feel like they do have some control in their life along with teaching them the skill of decluttering (along with the why factor). However, with my own children (3+5), I have a strategy where I let them declutter first, then I’ll go back in and pick out a few more things. My 5 year old has OCD and is extremely sentimental/mini hoarder, so I have to do a bit more picking through or he’d rarely get rid of something. Rarely has he noticed an item is gone, and I often keep it in a bag for some time before donating it, just to make sure. I’m sure as they get older, I’ll do less of the secret decluttering, but now that’s what works for us.

And it’s funny that mention danger of ambulation–that’s how we get them to clean their room every night: we explain how hard it would be for anyone to walk in their room in an emergency if things are on the floor. This tactic is surprisingly effective (helps that Daddy is a firefighter lol).


Betsey January 13, 2014 at 6:14 am

This is sort of alien to the concept of decluttering, but I never made an issue of room cleaning. I simply shut their doors. My two were required to keep all public rooms clutter free of their stuff. Twice a year we would go through closets and give away anything that didn’t fit or they wouldn’t wear. Believe me, this was hard for me to do as I am a neat freak, but I did not want to die on that hill of keep-your-room-clean.
Because the two had daily/weekly/monthly chores and learned housekeeping from that, I noticed that the older they got, the less clutter they possessed.
Now that they are all grown up, they are semi-minimalists and have clean homes, I think I did something right.


Maureen January 13, 2014 at 9:51 am

I really never worried about my daughter’s stuff. If I was having a tag sale, she would bring stuff out too. She kept track of her own stuff, which was kinda nice, until ….

After she moved out 5+ years ago, we were still dealing with some of her stuff. When they bought a house 2 years ago, we rented a truck and put an awful lot of stuff in that truck and moved it out there. Then it was up to her to do with what she pleased. She ended up donating all her beanie babies to the local fire rescue that she is part of.

Her room was attached to the attic. When she did live at home, she started using the attic as storage and I had to put a lock on the door. Well this weekend hubby and I finally cleaned out the attic and we had 3 piles — donate, discard and save. We made a huge dent in the attic. We also piled all the discarded stuff right into the car and dropped it off at the dumpster at hubby’s work. I will be dropping off the donate stuff this week as well when I drive that way.

Hubby and I will be tackling the basement and garage next.


JaneUlness January 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm

When my oldest was about 8. I told hom to go clean up his room.
Mom honestly, you need a pogo stick to get through it. You could break your leg, Son : I’ll be careful!


Karen January 13, 2014 at 8:21 pm

When my daughter was young and still in school, I used to clean her room with a rake, no joke. She had a few too many toys, you might say!

She is now all grown up and got married in the fall, but we still have a good laugh about the rake!


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