Simplify and Declutter: Days 7 and 8 of 10

January 16, 2013

For ten days this January, we’re decluttering our house from top to bottom. We’re using Tsh Oxenreider’s ten-day plan from her book Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living.  Please see the links at the bottom to read about our entire household declutter.

Oxenreider devotes two days to decluttering the children’s rooms, which is a good thing. To be candid, I was dreading these two days. While Charlie and I are aspiring minimalists, our children are not. While I wanted to declutter their rooms and to make them easier for my children to clean, my relationship with my children is more important than clutter-free rooms. I was dreading the process. It turned out to be easier than anticipated. We did Charlie’s room on the first day and Elizabeth’s room on the second. I cleared the deck on both days so that we wouldn’t feel rushed. I’ll share our process. It worked this time with my particular children and their particular ages. As those of you with children know, what works today may not work tomorrow. So, I’m thankful that it went smoothly this time, but I’m not sagely handing you a manual on how to navigate the decluttering of your children’s rooms. Charlie and Elizabeth are 9 and 8, for what it’s worth.

I started the day with both children by telling them that items that are either beautiful or useful are welcome in our home. As they handled each item, they should think through those ideas. I then told them that we would work together, but that they would be in charge of what went and what stayed. The last thing I want is a control battle over decluttering. But, I did sell a vision. I asked both of them to imagine a room that had plenty of space for them to play. Playmobil. Room for Charlie’s lizard. Blocks. Lego creation. Art. Games. I also asked them to imagine a room that was easy to clean. They both loved the idea. But, I knew that the devil would be in the details of what would actually stay and what would go.

Step one for each child was to unload their rooms onto the dining room table. This step is a pain. Everything goes out. Closet contents. Book shelves. Lego containers. Craft cabinets. We worked together to get their rooms unloaded one section at a time. As the staging area would fill up, we would start going through their things. I reminded them that items that went back should be useful or beautiful. If I didn’t agree with things that went back, I kept it to myself. This kept the atmosphere positive.

Here’s the mess we started with:

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Here we are in process. This was our dining room staging area:

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Books have been a last holdout for me in terms of getting rid of things. Two friends have brought up the idea of the public library being their bookshelf recently. I love this idea. As we were going through the kids’ books, I told them that it might be helpful to think of the public library as their bookshelf. I think this helped them let go of their books more easily. I’ll admit that I still struggle with this a bit. But, it’s really true. While I know enough about life to know never to say too much about what you will or won’t do in the future, I truly don’t see us living so far from a library that we won’t have easy, weekly access. As long as we live in a large city that will transfer books to our local branch, we can almost get any book we want. Both kids were left with a shelf in their book case filled with books that we own on their reading level. They also both have an entire shelf dedicated to library books. My hope is that this will make keeping track of library books easier. I’m grateful to my husband for bringing the library shelf idea into our household.

We emptied both of their closets and went through their clothes. We already do this twice a year, so it wasn’t a huge job. But, they both identified quite a few pieces of clothing that they were ready to part with- either because they don’t wear them or because they’re torn or stained. Elizabeth had grown out of some of her clothing just since we went through her closet in September. Neither of the kids have a dresser. When we moved two years ago, both kids opted for more floor space over a dresser. So, both children have hanging shelves in their closets.

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So, how did they handle the toy clean-out? I think due to their ages, they were willing to get rid of toys that they no longer play with. Legos. Origami sets that they don’t use. Circuit boards that they’ve already put together. Excess art supplies. For all the tiny toys, it was great to go through them together. I asked them to remember the useful or beautiful guideline, and they chose what stayed and what went. A lot more went than I thought would. That being said, we still have more than our share of plastic toys, rocks and special string. Number of stuffed animals Elizabeth was ready to let go of: zero.

Here’s where we landed at the end of clean-out:

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While these two days were a lot of work, Charlie and Elizabeth’s newly decluttered rooms made our daily lives better. The kids have more room to play, and their rooms are also much easier to clean.

Next up: the master bedroom.

Click on the links below to learn more about our household declutter:

Day 1: Trash and surface clutter

Day 2: Living Area Day 1

Day 3: Living Area Day 2

Days 4 and 5: Kitchen

Day 6: Bathrooms

Day 9:  Master Bedroom

Day 10:  Entrances

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4 Responses to “Simplify and Declutter: Days 7 and 8 of 10”

  1. Debbie Hall Says:

    Wow- really a spectacular result! Congrats to all of you.

  2. Michelle Leavitt Says:

    Thank you for detailing your process of decluttering. How did you find the time? How long were your children able to help? My children are 4 and 2 so their attention spans are shorter, but I like your first task of having the kids help throw out anything that is obviously ready for recycling or giving away. One other quick question – do you have a plan in place to revisit these areas and maintain them?

    • Robin Johnson Simpson Says:

      Hi Michelle,

      – Finding the time- Our situations might be different. I’m home full-time. I have a home-based business and I home school. I could see that this might be more challenging if you work full time outside the home. In terms of finding the time, I made it my #1 priority for January. The priority had to be held in tension with schooling and work, but there were days when I cleared my schedule so that we could focus on this.
      – How long were my kids able to help? Because my kids are older, they could hang for a couple of hours. The caveat was that I made sure that they had had a good nights rest and that they had just eaten a good meal. Our kids are really different ages. At 4 and 2, my children weren’t able to be a part of the process. At your stage, I think the trash/recycling portion may be the only one they’re ready for. For the 2 year old, maybe even just the trash part.
      – In terms of maintaining, decluttering has been a four year long process. I try my best to stop the inflow if stuff. Both grandparents know we’re “throwers”. This hasn’t been easy. I wouldn’t say they completely understand, but I think that it brings restraint with gifts coming into the house. We stopped giving nieces and nephews Christmas gifts several years ago, opting instead for gifts to International Justice Mission or World Vision on their behalf. My siblings are on board with this, which means that we don’t have a lot of gifts coming in from aunts and uncles. It’s all been a process. We don’t have a TV, so the kids aren’t bombarded with marketing. On their computer time, they’re not allowed on sites where they’re marketed to (like lego.com). We talk a lot about marketing. So, at some level, at 8 and 9 years old, they know that marketing is manipulating them- trying to make them feel discontent and like a certain toy will make them happy. They know that novelty wears off quickly. Do they still want stuff? Yes. Do they still dream about the next lego set? Yes. So, I guess this is a long winded way of saying that we’re doing our best. No system is perfect. We’re doing our best and figuring it out as we go. We haven’t arrived. That being said, my 8 year old and I will be spending half an hour on her room today throwing out trash and putting everything back in place.


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