Dare to de-clutter!

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.

Start small

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.

Storage systems

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 where.

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.



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