What to Do with Kid Clutter

"I’m getting better at decluttering my own possessions, but I still have a lot of trouble dealing with the kids’ things – not only toys, but clothes, artwork, and even cards and mail they receive", says Cathleen.

Kid clutter can be difficult because it can seem sentimental. The funny thing is, many times it is parents thinking they "should" want to keep everything their kids ever made or ever got. They don’t want the stuff. The kids don’t want the stuff. "But will it make me a bad parent if I don’t want that clump of plaster called ice monster in snow?" Hanging onto things you don’t want will just teach the kids that they need to hang on to stuff.

Let’s start with toys


Most kids have way too many toys. Imagine going into a room piled high with something with things strewn all around. It’s overwhelming. They don’t know what to play with so they go to something easy like a gameboy or the TV.

We need to stop buying them so many toys and have a chat with Grandma. The kids don’t beg that long for the latest toy. They get mesmerized by the next greatest toy. You can outlast them. They will respect their belongings more if they have less as well.

If they are bored by their toys you can either declutter them, pass them on to a friend, or box them for a month or two and see if the kids like them when they come back out.

How do you tell which toys to declutter?  If they don’t play with it there is no reason to keep it. No matter how much you originally paid for it. No matter if you think it’s cute. No matter if it you think it might be worth something some day. Once you save more than a few toys for sentimental purposes, you are just collecting junk.

Once you have decluttered, stand by the 1 in 1 out rule. If they get a new stuffed animal, ask them to bring down one they don’t like anymore. If their bookshelf is full, when they get a new book they have to bring you an old book. Before they can put the new one on the shelf. If they keep that habit up in adulthood, think how much more serene their houses will be.

Letting go of clothes


If you aren’t planning on having any more kids, you can let go of all the old clothes except for a few handmade or precious items. Personally I don’t have any of their old clothes, just some handmade blankets. The cute outfits went on to make other kids happy. If I want to see my favorite outfits I can look at the photo albums of the kids wearing them.

If you need to keep different sizes of clothes, make sure they are sorted. If they aren’t sorted, they are clutter because you won’t be able to find the size you need when you need them.

We have a bag that my kids put clothes that no longer fit so we can take them to goodwill. (Yet another reason not to spends loads of money on clothes they will just outgrow.)

Artwork galore


This is the trickiest one for most of us. I have a closet door in my office covered with my daughter’s artwork. She is very prolific. She is taking art even at the high school so I am sure we will get even more.

I find she likes to take down the old artwork that she thinks is too childish and replace it with newer artwork. The old artwork can either go to grandparents or we pitch it. I keep a few that I connect with in one long box for her artwork. Her ceramics are around the house. Encouraging creativity is more important to me than having a magazine perfect home with only bought knicknacks.

But, don’t feel you need to keep everything. Decide on the amount you can keep – one box, door, wall, album and then when it gets full toss or give away some of the artwork. You can scan artwork into the computer to keep digital version which take up much less space.


You don’t want to confuse what is meaningful to you and what is meaningful to your kids. You don’t want to burden them with boxes of memorabilia you saved for them to take when they move out. (More likely they will keep the boxes with you. Forever.) Each of my kids have one box that we decorated together for their memorabilia. Cards they want to save, letters, notes, various found items can go in that box that is under their bed. If they decide they don’t want to keep something that I think is important or sentimental I will keep it. But, I only have file folders for that so I can’t keep too much.

You can create a scrapbook with their certificates and important papers. (Just put one per page. You don’t need to make it difficult.) Things they are proud of like medals or trophies can go on a shelf in the family room or in their bedroom. If you don’t have the room, let go of the participation medals and trophies. You probably have pictures of them doing the activity.

Enjoy your kids at whatever age they are right now.

You want your kids to be able to live their lives free from clutter, so instill those skills in them now.

Photo credits: John Morgan, Joe Schlabotnik, Children’s book review,