It might seem a little early in the year for spring cleaning, but there’s nothing like a proper de-clutter in the aftermath of the festivities. Catharina Björkman, Scandi lifestyle expert at Contura, shares her advice on how to get your kids involved in a clear-out.
Did you know that research suggests doing household chores can improve a child's life satisfaction, social skills and academic abilities? ‘Some might see decluttering as a painful task only complicated by adding children to the mix but clearing your home as a family can be fun, productive, and rewarding.’ says Catharina.
‘In Sweden, we educate children from an early age on the importance of embracing a lagom lifestyle living moderately and sustainably, finding balance and being content with what we have. We believe that this approach, from minimalist home interiors to simple outdoor pleasures, is key to achieving happiness,’ she adds.
...research suggests doing household chores can improve a child's life satisfaction, social skills and academic abilities
‘A great place to introduce your little ones to this mindset is
through the process of decluttering. Removing belongings that are no
longer of use or value can help to promote a well-organised, peaceful
and productive home environment.’
Here are Catharina’s tips:
Lead by example
Approaching decluttering with a positive attitude yourself will
encourage kids to do so too. Make it a task you look forward to: play
some favourite songs or turn it into a fun workout.
Even if children are too young to help, the simple act of observing
you carry out household tasks introduces them to the idea and fosters an
awareness of the hard work and precious time involved.
Tidy house, tidy mind
If children understand why de-cluttering is beneficial, they are more
likely to approach it with a sense of enthusiasm. A fun way to teach
young children about the benefits of keeping a tidy space is with a
personalised game of 'spot the difference' using images of a room in
your home before and after a clear-out. As they spot the changes, you
can discuss why the decluttered space looks so much nicer.
At its most basic level, decluttering helps to create a visually
calmer interior. Excessive clutter has been linked to heightening
anxiety levels and poor sleep quality. More practically, a decluttered
home is also easier to clean, reducing the build-up of dirt and dust and
making it a more hygienic and safe space too.
The gift of giving
Remind your children that, just because something is not of use to
you, does not mean it is totally useless! Let your unwanted items bring
joy to others by donating them to charity shops, passing them onto
friends or family or, if they are really worn out, recycling them.
Doing good deeds for others has been found to increase the body's
production of endorphins also known as the happy hormones, leading to
improvements in mood. And recycling items is an
environmentally-friendly approach to a clear-out.
...if clearing out a home office space, ask them to sort their way through a pot of your pens, highlighters and pencils. ...then arranging them in colour categories.
When they are old enough to get actively involved, ease children into
the process by choosing a room which they are less familiar with. This
will help to introduce your child to the fundamentals of decluttering
and the satisfaction that it can bring. At the same time, it reduces the
risk of making it a negative experience as they are less likely to have
an emotional attachment to the things in the room.
Start by designating a small, manageable task to tackle alongside
you. For example, if clearing out a home office space, ask them to sort
their way through a pot of your pens, highlighters and pencils. Break
the task down into smaller chunks by asking them to check if each item
of stationery works and then arranging them in colour categories.
Make the experience as positive as possible and don't worry too much
if they get side-tracked by their colourful doodles just gently
encourage them to carry on working their way through the pile.
Slow and steady
Next step is to move them onto helping you weed through more familiar
spaces. Given that your child will likely hold stronger emotional
attachments to objects in these spaces, approach this with care and
caution. Begin by opting for a 'one in, one out' policy. For example, if
they were given a new sweater at Christmas time, suggest they might
like to donate an outgrown item of knitwear to charity.
Eventually, you can ask them to tackle more personal areas such as
sorting through their bedroom wardrobe or playroom toy stash. Ask them
lots of questions to help them to feel in control. When coming up
against an obvious ‘get-rid’ item, guide them towards the logical
outcome by asking questions such as ‘do these shoes still fit’ or ‘when
did you last play with this toy?’. This helps them understand the
reasoning behind giving it away.
On the fence
If your child adamantly disagrees that something should go or if
there is an object that they are uncertain about, don’t force them into a
quick decision. Instead, set aside a dedicated box to place disputed
belongings, to re-visit after a week or on your next clear-out. Ask your
child (and yourself) if this object has been of use (played with, used,
worn, etc) since it was first placed in the box: if yes, perhaps it is
best to hold onto it for a little longer but, if the answer is no, it's
likely time to give it up.
Watch the clock
Make sure that you block out specific times to declutter. Think
'little-and-often' and opt for short bursts tackling one room at a time
rather than making it a never-ending and overwhelming task. This reduces
the risk of procrastination, boosts productivity and will help your
child to stay focused and motivated.
Keep in mind your children's schedule and energy levels. They are
likely to be tired after school, or too distracted or excited before a
play date, so choose time slots where they are likely to be calmer,
rested and able to focus.
Teach your children to incorporate decluttering habits into their
daily routines. This will make future decluttering sessions quicker and
they can be less frequent. Be sure to have plenty of storage to help
them with this.
Invest in shelves, drawers or cabinets low enough that your child can
access them independently in their bedroom or playroom. Label each one
according to what is to be stored there and encourage your child’s early
investment in the process by asking them to help choose what should go
Adding small storage units within larger ones can be handy. For
example, use open-top boxes to divide underwear and socks in wardrobes
and add trays with separate compartments for pens, pencils and paper to
arts and crafts drawers. Don’t forget about floor and wall spaces -
underbed boxes are great for storing bulkier items such as soft toys,
and shelves are fantastic for showcasing items such as framed
certificates or photos.