#396: Clutter Free Kids – Secrets from a Preschool Director on How to Keep Kids Clutter Free and Organized

#396: Clutter Free Kids – Secrets from a Preschool Director on How to Keep Kids Clutter Free and Organized

Kathi is joined by early childhood educator (and bonus-daughter) Amanda Thivierge. How can you teach kids to be clutter-free? Well, Amanda shares her top three tips to fight clutter and get your kids in on it.

  • Clutter-free is a journey, and we don’t all come by it naturally.
  • Modeling for kids is key. (AND how to do that well.)
  • Get brutal and say goodbye to the stuff you will not use. (BYE-BYE DOILIES!)
  • and more…

Clutter-Free Home

Are you longing for a place of peace from which you can love others well? The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life is your room-by-room guide to decluttering, reclaiming, and celebrating every space of your home.

In The Clutter-Free Home, you’ll walk through each room of your house to create organizational zones that are not only functional and practical but create places of peace that reflect your personality.  Kathi will help you tackle the four-step process to reveal the home you’ve always dreamed of, and then transform it into a haven that reflects who you truly are meant to be.

Order your copy of The Clutter-Free Home on Amazon today.

Also, if you want to get entered to win a copy of Clutter Free Home, give us your best clutter-free tips for kids in the comments below and someone will win Kathi’s new (HOT OFF THE PRESSES) book.


Learn more about Clutter Free for Life.

We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.



Meet Our Guest

Amanda Thivierge

Amanda Thivierge

Preschool Director

Amanda is an early childhood educator and Preschool Director. Her expertise shines in this interview with her friend and step-mother, Kathi Lipp. 


Read along with the podcast!


Clutter Free Academy Podcast #396


Clutter Free Kids – Part 1



<<intro music>>


Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. Today is a very special episode. It’s like an after school special, but in a much better way. I think I have actually known this guest longer than anybody else that has been on my podcast, and that includes Roger. I think we’ve been friends for over twenty five years, but I think we’ve been related for fifteen. So, this is my step-daughter, Amanda Thivierge. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy!


Amanda – Thank you so much for having me.


Kathi – And I’m not just having you because we’re related. I know you are doing this under a little bit of duress. Actually, she’s been very kind and said she would do anything, but you don’t spend a lot of time going on podcasts, right?


Amanda – No, this is my first.


Kathi – Yay! I’m so glad. Okay, so that will be super fun. Why I wanted to have Amanda on, and I’ve actually referred to Amanda in books about clutter free and getting organized. Amanda, tell everyone what your day job is.


Amanda – My day job is a pre-school director, so I’ve got lots of little kiddos, and I’ve got about thirty staff underneath me.


Kathi – I was just going to say. It’s not just the kiddos you have to organize. It’s the staff as well. It’s interesting because, I know that things don’t directly transfer from home to work to school, but there are some principles that work with most kids and most other adults you’re managing. So, that’s why I wanted to come on and bring you on here. We’re going to do this as a two part series. First, we’re going to talk about “How do you keep clutter out of the classroom?” I think some of these really apply to what you do at home. The next thing is “How to be organized.” Because they’re two entirely different things. Clutter is all the nonsense that gets in the way, and there’s clutter that just like, “Hey, when you’re cutting out construction paper, you create clutter.” You encourage that kind of clutter, right?


Amanda – Absolutely.


Kathi – Yes, ‘cause you love to see a lot of creativity. You love to see a lot of activity. You want your teachers doing projects with your kids.


Amanda – I want them having fun.


Kathi – Right! So, fun often means mess.


Amanda – Most times, yes.


Kathi – But the clutter we’re talking about, is the clutter that gets in the way of the fun. Like, when you can’t find the glue.


Amanda – When you can’t function in your own classroom, ‘cause there’s too much stuff in the way? That’s when you have a problem.


Kathi – Have you seen that, as a director? Or did you see it, as a teacher, with other teachers?


Amanda – I lived it as a teacher.


Kathi – Okay, good. I love the honesty. So this has been a journey for you.


Amanda – Absolutely.


Kathi – Okay. And by the way, full disclosure, as soon as Roger and I got married, and I moved in, Amanda moved out. So, I can’t really talk to the state of her room. I can’t tell you how messy she was as a teenager. I have heard some stories.


Amanda – Oh, there are plenty. Too many.


Kathi – Yes. So, to say that this has been a journey? That gives me a lot of hope and it gives my listeners a lot of hope. You were not born organized. You were not born color coding. You didn’t have to color code anything, ‘cause everything you owned was purple for a while.


Amanda – It still is. Let’s just be real.


Kathi – Yeah, that’s true. Okay, so I want to talk about some principles here that I think are going to be very helpful to all of the parents out there. Or, even if you are in an organization, and you’re managing people? I think a lot of these will actually transfer. So, you and I had a discussion about multipurpose rooms. So, I found this fascinating, because I think that modern home, there’s so many purposes to a living room, or even a dining room, a study, even bedrooms. You’re sitting here, in our bedroom at The Red House. It’s not just a bedroom, it’s also an office. It’s also a cat storage facility. We do a lot of things. We have storage in here for our business and stuff like that. You are specifically talking about when you go into a facility, like a school or a church or something, and there’s a multipurpose room. So, talk about some of the situations you’ve been in, and talk about how you’ve handled keeping those spaces clutter free.


Amanda – That was probably the most eye opening, in terms of being clutter free. I walked into these facilities, and they are set-up and tear-down for every session that they do. So, in the morning, the kids come in. You’re setting up, you’re putting out the cards, you’re putting out the carpets.


Kathi – Wow. You’re building a room.


Amanda – You’re building a room every single time, and you have to tear it down every single time. Drama class prepared me for this.


Kathi – Yes. You did a lot of set design, set building and stuff like that.


Amanda – Yeah, but it just amazed me that there was no clutter, because, where are you going to put it?


Kathi – Because other teachers are coming in and using that. Other programs, that kind of thing. So, how did you handle the storage of all your stuff?


Amanda – Well, you have to find things that work for you. So, in this situations, it was finding carts that can roll and hold all your stuff. Having organization, so labeling all your bins, and making sure that nothing goes in those bins that doesn’t belong in those bins. Then, just having things that really work in the space that you have.


Kathi – I love this, because I think about when we had three at home, when Roger and I got married, and our kitchen table was where we ate dinner, it was the homework center, and by the way, I worked there, too. Let me just tell you, when we were first married, that clutter free mentality had not really set in, so, it meant that every time we wanted to do something, it was like we had to renovate the entire house. I remember one time, oh, bless, bless, bless, I was working on a project that accidentally got swept up into Jeremy’s homework, and I did not know it. Let’s just say that Jeremy and I did not have the best relationship at this time. I thought he threw it away. Glad to know he was not that devious. No, no, he’s a sweet kid. By the way, we’re great, now, but at the time? Now, I was not putting my stuff away. This is something you talk about when you’re talking about your kids, is the very first step is, “If you’re taking something out, put it away.” As moms, we more naturally do this. As teachers we do it. But you have a couple of extra steps you do with kids. So, explain these steps.


Amanda – Yeah, so when you’re in a daycare facility, or a childcare facility, or anything, really, everything you do is modelling, right? So, as a teacher, I’m going to walk in and I’m going to model the behavior that I want the children to see and to follow. So, I’m going to tell them what I’m doing.


Kathi – Can I tell you, this was not my elementary school experience? I think the teachers thought we were 28 slaves that could do all the things. Now, I didn’t understand at the time, how hard they were working. I think that’s so interesting. So, how do you model that behavior? Just saying, “When you take something out, you put it away.”?


Amanda – Well, yeah, I definitely say that to the children, but I also show it to them. So, when I’m taking out a project, I say, “Okay, I’m going to take out the scissors. I’m going to take out the pencils, the glue.” Then, as the project is wrapping up, I say, “Okay, where does this stuff go? Oh, it goes back in the cabinet.” And I demonstrate it, and vocalize is to the children, so they’re hearing the positivity for cleaning up. Then, I recognize it, in terms of the space. I say, “Oh look! The table is now clean! Fantastic! We are now ready to eat a snack!”


Kathi – Well, I just did some work on this with a presentation I was doing for a group. We were talking about overwhelm. It was at a school in El Paso. UCLA did a giant research study about clutter in homes, and the correlation to moms being stressed, and kids being distracted. So, you know, I would think that in a classroom, you would see, the higher the mess level, the more distracted the kids are.


Amanda – Yes, and that goes for everything in the room. We often refer to the classroom as the third teacher in the classroom.


Kathi – Oh, I’ve never heard that before. That’s really cool. So, explain that.


Amanda – The third teacher is just another way of saying that the classroom is another environment where the children learn. So, what’s on the wall? They’re going to be learning from that. What’s on the floor? They’re going to be learning from that. What’s on the shelves? They’re going to be learning from that. So, you really have to make sure that everything is purposeful. You’re not just throwing up projects on the wall, just to have them there, because that’s when it gets cluttered. You’re not just putting toys on the shelves, just to have them there, because, again, that’s when it gets cluttered. Having that third teacher in the classroom can support the children’s growth and development.


Kathi – So, everything in the room is there intentionally.


Amanda – Well, it should be.


Kathi – It should be, yes. In the ideal classroom, everything is there intentionally, and nothing is there that will distract from their learning experience, or them being able to pay attention.  I’ll never forget. I don’t know if you’ll remember this. I know you knew my kids. You actually babysat my kids when they were really little. I don’t know if you remember how into trains Justin was?


Amanda – No, I don’t remember.


Kathi – That’s okay. He was in a preschool classroom where they had to take the train out of the classroom, because he was so obsessed with it.


Amanda – That’s where I’m like, “Okay if he’s obsessed with the train, let’s incorporate it in a different way.”


Kathi – Oh! Interesting.


Amanda – Yeah, so taking it out of the classroom doesn’t lessen the obsession, it actually creates more of a hype.


Kathi – Oh! Interesting.


Amanda – So, you have to incorporate it in different ways. So, if he’s obsessed with trains, then I would actually put train books in multiple areas. I would pull him into these other areas by putting trains in them.


Kathi – See? Why weren’t you his teacher? He got kicked out of that school. Can I just tell you that? He was out of there. Okay, so ONE – If you take something out, put it away, and model and vocalize when you’re doing that. Number two: talking about getting purposeful in the room. You said, if something no longer has a use, get it out. So, explain what you mean by that. Many of the teachers I know, they just want as many resources as they can possibly have.


Amanda – Well, yes. ‘Cause nobody has any funding, right? So, you just tend to take everything into the classroom, and you’re like, “I’ll use it at some point, and you’re never going to give me money again, so, I’m just going to keep it forever.”


Kathi – So, it’s kind of a hording mentality.


Amanda – It really is.


Kathi – Okay, we talked about this. The teachers and crafters and homeschoolers are the worst.


Amanda – I’m two out of three.


Kathi – I know you are. But you’ve got it under control, for the most part, that I can see.


Amanda – Yeah, either I hide it really well, or I’ve got some systems to keep me in check.


Kathi – I think you’ve got some systems, ‘cause I’ve been in your room as an adult. I’ve seen the things. So, how do you use criteria to say, “Okay, this is no longer being used.”? What do you feel like you should save? Is there anything you should save, or does it all have to go, and you go for the minimalist look?


Amanda – If it has multiple uses, I tend to save it. Even if it’s not being used at this particular moment. For instance, the Lincoln Logs. Half the time, those are never used in the classroom, right? Hardly ever. But, at the same time, if we can reintroduce them later in a special way, and the kids get the interest built up again, then that’s one thing. However, if you’ve got doilies in the classroom that the kids just never use, you don’t have a way of reinventing or repurposing it, (except for Valentine’s Day) get rid of it.


Kathi – Okay, so I heard you say something interesting with those Lincoln Logs. Somebody just asked me, “What toys do I get rid of?” Even though they’re about the have grandkids. I’m like, “Well, keep the classic toys. The toys that have been popular for over 50 years. Keep those. There’s a reason.” I think something is interesting that you said. To pull back using them and then reintroduce them. So, explain a little more about that.


Amanda – So, when you have a toy…we’ll just go with the Lincoln Logs, right? They are sitting on the shelf. The kids never interact with them, ever. You pull them out. They don’t even notice that they’re gone. All of a sudden, you put them back on the shelf, and you actually pull them out, and, as a teacher, you engage with the Lincoln Logs. You get the kids to come around and you make it a fun game, or some sort of adventure. That’s when the interest gets sparked again.


Kathi – Isn’t it interesting. There are so many YouTube videos. I’m sure there’s a whole channel about Lincoln Logs out there.


Amanda – I’m sure there is.


Kathi – Of ways we’ve never even thought of using them. I think that’s so interesting. Because, yeah, they become background noise. That’s what happens with our clutter. That may be your favorite doll, but you haven’t used it in six months, you haven’t played with it, because it’s just become part of the background. But to take it away, and put it back. Take it away at night, when no kids are there.


Amanda – Or you could take it away while they’re there and see if they even notice.


Kathi – That’s true. I think your third points may be my favorite. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about this. Okay, you’re laughing now. Don’t buy possible future projects. Explain.


Amanda – When I purchase items for the classroom, everything has a purpose. I’m not purchasing a…let’s use a doily, a packet of doilies that I can find at an artsy craftsy store.


Kathi – But what if it’s ten cents? What if it’s on clearance?


Amanda – I don’t care.


Kathi – That’s my girl! We’re not related by blood, but that’s my girl.


Amanda – I just don’t care, because what project am I going to use it for? If I had a specific idea in mind, that is so different. If I know I’m going to be using these doilies, we’re actually going to make a table runner out of them. The kids are going to paint them. It’s going to be so great. They’re going to have so much fun. That’s fine. If I don’t have a project in mind, and I say, “Oh! They’re on sale for ten cents!” I’m not actually saving myself money, I’m wasting ten cents, and I’m wasting that storage space that they’re going to sit in the back of my closet for the next two years.


Kathi – And you’ve actually wasted that ten cents, because you’re never going to use them. You’ll end up recycling them, or giving them away. There’s a package of doilies that, I promise you, have been passed through seven pairs of hands.


Amanda – I have no doubt about that. Every time I see doilies, I think, “Throw them away.”


Kathi – Here’s what I love. Sometimes I have stuff and I think, “Well, maybe Amanda could use this for her room.” Recently, I had spray paint, something else, I can’t remember, and ribbon. You were like, “I’ll take the spray paint and the other thing, but I don’t need the ribbon.”


Amanda – Cookies!


Kathi – Oh! Cookies! Everybody can always use cookies. I know. I was giving away cookies. Miracles abound. But, to have those three and say, “I already have an idea for this. I have an idea for this. I don’t need this.” I love it. So, I think it’s so important, when you’re talking to teachers, to not guilt them into taking stuff. Do people do that? I know, I’ve seen it with other parents, but…


Amanda – So, in a daycare setting, parents gifting items to us happens quite frequently, which is fantastic. Sometimes it’s great stuff. Other times it’s broken toys that they no longer want. I’m like, “This is not a dumping ground.”


Kathi – You’ve just given me a chore to go to the dump. And by the way, it costs money in California. So, let me just ask: As a teacher, what do you want? If they want to give you something. I already know one thing you want. You want Michael’s gift cards.


Amanda – Well, yes.


Kathi – Always.


Amanda – I would say, things that get used often. Markers never go to waste. I mean, they go to waste, but we can always use more markers. Paper. You can always use more paper. Stuff like that.


Kathi – Tissue boxes?


Amanda – Yeah. Honestly, the best thing to do with teachers, is to ask them for a list. You never know what they’re going to want in a classroom. Maybe they already have seven packs of markers that some director bought for them.


Kathi – Well, it was so interesting. We had two teachers teaching here at The Red House. They said that they had, pretty much, unlimited paper. They could use as much paper as they wanted. What they didn’t have was pencils. So, your dad was in San Jose. I’m like, “Go buy all the pencils! I can’t believe these schools are not giving these teachers pencils.” So, he brought home, like, 350 pencils. That probably is only going to last them for a month.


Amanda – I was going to say, “That sounds like it would be great…for a month.”


Kathi – Exactly. But, you know, for one month, two classrooms got the pencils they needed.


Amanda – They got all the pencils.


Kathi – So, this has been great. This is about keeping clutter out. So, we’re going to go over these one more time. If you take something out, put it away. Model that, and vocalize. Explain what you’re doing. Two: If it no longer has a use, get it out. This is toys, random things you bring in to the room, decorations. Don’t keep it just because you’ll need it someday.


Amanda – Oh, the decorations.


Kathi – The decorations. And you’re a big decorator, when it comes to rooms.


Amanda – I am. I am a huge decorator. However, I have learned to contain my decorations in to specific boxes. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t keep it.


Kathi – I think that works for home holidays, too. I want to get my Christmas decorations for the inside the house, down to two boxes.


Amanda – Oh, good luck.


Kathi – I think I can do it. I’m not responsible for your dad and the outside decorations. Your dad is the problem in this whole plan. Let’s be super clear.


Amanda – I have far too many boxes for outside decorations as well.


Kathi – Okay, she comes by it honestly. Number Three: Don’t buy possible future projects. Don’t keep stuff because you just might use it someday. This has been so good, Amanda. I so appreciate this. Okay, here’s what I’m going to do, guys. With my new book, The Clutter Free Home, a lot of these principles cross over, so I want you to give me your best clutter free tips for kids. We’re going to post them here on the podcast page. Two of you are going to win that book. So, we’re going to have Amanda come back next week. Today she talked about how to be clutter free in the classroom. We’re going to talk, next week, about how to be organized in the classroom. I’m super excited.


Amanda – And all my teachers will listen to that one.


Kathi – Oh, awesome. Okay. They get early childhood education credit for listening to that.


Amanda – Hooray!


Kathi – Hooray! I make no promises. That’s not legally binding. Amanda, thanks so much for being with me today.


Amanda – Absolutely! Thanks!


Kathi – I just have to say: You’re really good! This is awesome.


Amanda – Oh, great!


Kathi – You know, it’s always a gamble, bringing your kid on here, but you’ve done a great job. This is amazing.


Amanda – Glad I could help.


Kathi – Friends, thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.




*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

#395: How to (Finally) Create Your Clutter Free Home Step #4 Do your Thing to Create the Room of Your Dreams

#395: How to (Finally) Create Your Clutter Free Home Step #4 Do your Thing to Create the Room of Your Dreams

Kathi concludes her four-part conversation about creating your Clutter-free home with style-expert KariAnne Wood. A few weeks ago, we learned about dedicating your space for its purpose. Then we focused on how to decide the way you want the room to feel. Last week we learned about the easy-to-do actionable steps it takes to cut the clutter.

In this episode, you’ll learn more about creating style in a room.

  • How to put zazz into any room.
  • Can your style change?
  • The role your home plays in interior design style.

Clutter-Free Home

Are you longing for a place of peace from which you can love others well? The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life is your room-by-room guide to decluttering, reclaiming, and celebrating every space of your home.

In The Clutter-Free Home, you’ll walk through each room of your house to create organizational zones that are not only functional and practical but create places of peace that reflect your personality.  Kathi will help you tackle the four-step process to reveal the home you’ve always dreamed of, and then transform it into a haven that reflects who you truly are meant to be.

Order your copy of The Clutter-Free Home on Amazon today.


Learn more about Clutter Free for Life.

Take your Style Guide Quiz


We would love to stay connected.

To share your thoughts:

Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our newsletter now.


Meet Our Guest

KariAnne Wood

KariAnne Wood

DIY Style Expert

KariAnne Wood writes the blog, Thistlewood Farms, featuring hundreds of home decor projects and decorating tips. The blog was awarded the Country Living Decorating Blog of the Year, was named one of the Top 10 Decorating Blogs by Better Homes and Gardens, and was voted one of the best DIY blogs online. In addition to writing for Romantic Homes, KariAnne has authored five books, including her most recent release, But Where Do I Put the Couch. Find her website at https://thistlewoodfarms.com 

How to Tackle That Summer Decluttering Job

How to Tackle That Summer Decluttering Job

Pool Toys and Sunglasses

Every year when that big yellow bus pulls away for the last time, school children everywhere fly home with that exhilarated feeling of freedom. It’s time to toss away the backpacks and drag out the pool floaties and other hot-weather essentials.

Summer stuff, as I call it. Outdoor grilling, beach trips, and epic water gun wars make for a huge pile in the garage (on top of last year’s cornhole game, sports equipment, and the treadmill you plan to sell).

Or the looming family reunion that sends you up into the attic, digging through boxes to find photos for the slide show you’re in charge of.

And what about all the bins of clothing you stored last year, in hopes that your growing kids (or their younger siblings) could get some wear out of shorts sets and swimsuits.

Any of these projects can make you forget just how far you’ve come, even if your living room is 90% clutter free and you’re tackling that kitchen counter daily as part of your evening routine. But before you get discouraged, we’ve got five tips to help you keep your momentum going on your decluttering journey.

Be okay where you are.

There are a lot of shame-inducing circumstances we find ourselves in surrounding our clutter. Even if we’ve been decluttering for a long time, we can discover an area that’s overrun by stuff we no longer need, or stuff that goes someplace else, like all those boxes in the attic we stuffed there “for now” (years ago).

Or, perhaps during a busy season, we let our routines go and now we’re faced with having to re-conquer areas we had worked so hard to declutter. That one dresser that you let pile up, or the bin of toys in the playroom.

Whatever the reason for your dismay, the worst thing you can do is to allow shame to pile up like clutter. Be gentle with yourself as you assess your situation and accept it. Wasting time and energy beating yourself up takes away from your ability to remedy the situation.

Remember, all you have to do is set a timer for 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done in that short time. Set a timer on your phone, and then rinse and repeat the next day, and the next.

Before you know it, that area will be decluttered and feeling like new again.

Set small goals.

Instead of dreading that big job in the garage, tackle one shelf or one corner.  If we wait for a whole day to magically open up on our calendar for garage cleaning, we might see a couple different presidential administrations before it happens.

You want to choose an area that’s small enough to complete in 15 minutes. In some cases, that may be only one box, one drawer, or half of a shelf. If you have more than 15 minutes to work on it, great! Keep setting the timer until you’ve either finished that area or run out of time.

Accomplishing small goals adds up to big goals achieved. Task by task, decluttering a bit at a time will eventually lead to an entire closet or garage completely decluttered.

Remember your “why.”

Why did you want to declutter in the first place? Often there’s an event that makes a cluttery person finally decide to get rid of all their unnecessary stuff. It could be the death of a parent (and the clean-out process of that parent’s house), or it might be an embarrassing visit when someone appraised the dresser with raised eyebrows. (Ahem…Not that any of us here at Clutter Free Academy have experienced any of those things personally, mind you.)

We may have had a unique catalyst for our clutter-free journey, but one big reason for us all to keep at it is this: God created each of us for a unique purpose and getting rid of the clutter frees you up to do what He made you to do.

Celebrate your wins.

Who doesn’t love a good celebration? Looking forward to a fun moment (or three) when you accomplish a decluttering project will help you across the finish line.

If you’ve finished clearing off the game shelf and gotten rid of those Hi-Ho Cherrio and Chutes and Ladders (and your kids are in middle school), play a game your family still enjoys, maybe one you rediscover after reclaiming that space.

Or reward the kids with a trip to the pool for helping you bag up winter clothes that are too small. It doesn’t have to be a big deal—just something to mark the accomplishment.

Keep your 15-minute decluttering routines.

In the summertime, it’s easy to lose our school year routines. But the future you—the one packing next year’s school lunches and buying backpacks filled with #2 pencils will thank you for the 15 minutes you spend each day decluttering.

It may not seem like much, but your efforts add up to a big payoff.

Like Jen Babakhan says in her new book, Detoured, “All the little things you do over and over every day are seen by God. If you could watch your life like a movie on fast-forward, you would see that the dishes, laundry, books, snuggles, tantrums (by you or the children), and even the socks you pull out of the corners of the couch on a much-too-regular basis add up to a life of authenticity and love.”

Giveaway Time!

Thanks to our fabulous friends over at Harvest House, we are able to give a few of you a free copy of Detoured! 5 people will win a copy of Detoured!

And one Grand Prize winner will receive:

      • Detoured
      • Lunch Tote Bag
      • Reusable Ice Packs
      • Outdoor Blanket

Leave a comment below to be entered to win. What is the summer decluttering job on your list?

* Giveaway for US residents only.

How to Have All the Summer Fun Without Losing Your Sanity

How to Have All the Summer Fun Without Losing Your Sanity

It’s that time of year again! Summertime—the carefree days of pool splashing, popsicle eating and sleeping in.

At least for the kids.

Not so much for the parents, right?

Usually moms are the ones washing swimming suits, buying popsicles, and constantly wiping up puddles of water and dried grass from the floors. And what about the piles of sidewalk chalk and sandbox toys that have taken the place of backpacks and school books? It’s enough to make even the most patient mom long for that big yellow bus.

Let’s be honest. Getting the kids outside is a good thing, especially if their natural inclination is to sit around playing video games all day while eating junk food. But encouraging outdoor activity is also a lot more work than handing over the game controls.

With a little planning and prep, you can encourage your kids to go outside and create a system that will ultimately save time and energy for mom.

“Mom, I’m Hungry!”

Fueling up those hard-playing days often takes a lot of snacks. To ward off the question, “What can we eat?” you may want to consider labeled snack bins for both the pantry and the refrigerator. That way, mom-approved snacks will be ready for them to grab (and maybe even eat outside) without a lot of hassle.

When unloading groceries from the car, divvy up the snacks into appropriate bins. You may even want to label these according to house rules. (For example, when I was a kid, we were allowed one can of soda per day.) That way, when they’re hungry, they know what they can grab to eat without the same old “I told you — no more potato chips” argument.

Don’t forget to include some healthy treats for the freezer. I love these frozen ice pops, because you can feed an old favorite to your kids without guilt.

“I’m Bored!”

Fun Stations are bins filled with outdoor activities for kids based on their interests. They can easily be stored in the garage or the back patio. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and other outdoor favorites can get messy and take up the entire house, if we let it. But a big bin you can grab and set outside enables them to choose which outdoor activities to indulge in without a lot of in and out.

Other Fun Stations that you may want to separate into their own bins (to contain water or sand messes):

Water toys

Sand toys


Sports activities

And the best part? All of that outdoor fun goes back into the bin for the night, ready for another sunshiny day.

Pro parent tip: periodically replace or add fun items to keep kids interested in their Fun Station bins throughout the summer.

“I can’t find my…”

During the summertime, when kids live at the swimming pool (or play nonstop with water toys in their friends’ backyards), moms can save their sanity by keeping a day’s supply of water gear in a dedicated swimming bag. You could include toiletries, a swimming suit, cover up, sunscreen, water bottle, swim passes, sunglasses, sun hat and beach towel.

If you take your kids hiking often, you can save a lot of time by having a hiking backpack ready to go whenever you are. Include a water bottle, small first aid kit, binoculars, compass, bug spray, and sunscreen. You may even want to include a book for identifying plants or birds. Summer is a break from school, but you never stop learning, right?

“I spilled glitter! And other things you never want to hear your kids say.”

Have you banned glitter from your home? Does the thought of cleaning up one more glue mess make your heart palpitate? (I can’t be the only one!)

Summer is a great time for crafts outdoors. Create a bin with all the messy stuff that makes you sprout gray hairs whenever you see it out on your dining table. If you have a craft area designated outside, your kids can glue, glitter and paint to their heart’s content and all you need to do is supply a smock to protect their clothes. Or they can make gorgeous jewelry out of all of those maddeningly tiny beads and you won’t have to vacuum them out of the carpet.

It’s a win-win! Kids get to create staggering works of art in the great outdoors and mom has minimal mess.

Messy Marvin Strikes Again

Most of us have encountered the trail of soggy towels, goggles, and swimsuits through the house after a day at the pool. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent searching for missing items to (hopefully) load into the washing machine before they stunk of mold.

You can prevent the trail of tears (er…soggy swimming attire) by creating a hanging place for wet towels and suits. Whether it’s a bona fide clothes line in your back yard or some hooks near the entryway of your house, your kids will have a place to hang all the wet things, and you’ll save yourself time by not having to search through the house to find them.

A bin by the door for flip flops and other wet, messy shoes can prevent a lot of floor cleaning too. As a bonus, everyone will be able to get into the car at the appointed time without having to search for something to put on their feet.

Nature Calls

Spending time outside improves kids’ health and their imaginations. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for them to explore, dream and try new adventures. It gives them a chance to focus on what they were created for and seek their Creator.

In her new book, This Outside Life: Finding God in the Heart of Nature, Laurie Otsby Kehler encourages us all to seek connections with our Creator and other people. She says, “Why are we so afraid? Why do we settle for reading about, talking about, but not stepping into our own adventures of faith?” Laurie’s new book is perfect for summer reading. And with a little planning and prep for your kids, you’ll have more time to spend turning pages while sitting by the pool. And who knows? You might even have time for a water war or an outdoor finger-painting session with your little adventurers.

Comment below for the opportunity to win! We will be giving away one Grand Prize Package- A copy of This Outside Life, a Sling Backpack, compact binoculars, and a reusable water bottle. Five Runner Ups will win a copy of This Outside Life.



Kids, their Stuff, and How to Handle all of that Clutter

Kids, their Stuff, and How to Handle all of that Clutter

One of the most frequent questions we get at Clutter Free Academy is “What about my kids’ clutter?”

Conflict over clutter can damage any relationship over time, but it’s especially crucial to navigate this issue carefully with your kids, because what you teach them right now will impact their lifestyles as adults.

As parents, we want to empower our children to have the life skills they need to succeed. Here are four ways we can help our children learn how to live a clutter-free life.

Schedule short decluttering times.

Time-boxing makes decluttering bearable for anyone, young or old. As adults, we’re more likely to focus better if we only have to do it for 15 minutes. Depending on your kids’ age, set a timer and make a game of it. For example, challenge your 5-year-old to clean out one drawer in 5 minutes.

Here at Clutter Free Academy, we don’t expect anyone to spend hours at a time decluttering, much less a child. Decluttering works best in small, manageable sessions.

By the way, we need to differentiate between cleaning and decluttering. Cleaning means putting things away, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting. Decluttering means getting rid of stuff you don’t use, love, or would buy again. Both are important, but in this post, we’re focusing on decluttering.

Teach by example.

It’s been said that in raising kids, more is caught than taught. They tend to learn more from what we do than what we say.

They aren’t born knowing how to declutter. The best way to teach them is to work side-by-side with them to show them the same decluttering systems we’ve learned as adults. Make sure they have the tools they need—3 boxes, 2 bags—so that they have a system in place to declutter. Go through the steps one by one: what to give away, what to throw away, and what to put away. Any trash or recycle goes into the bags.

Have a fun celebration when you empty the contents of the boxes and bags into their rightful places. (It doesn’t have to be a big deal—a sticker, a high five, or a “Yay! You did it!” works great.

Focus on one tiny space at a time.

Trying to declutter a large space is even more overwhelming for kids than it is for adults. Choose the smallest area possible and set the timer. Even better, let them choose which area is the most problematic for them. If they already see the value of decluttering, then you’ve won half the battle.

Divide up the closet into small sections, sort one drawer at a time, go through one toy box at a time. Decluttering is a gradual process. Their space didn’t get cluttery in a day, but a consistent habit of setting a timer to declutter a small space will result in big changes.

Help them maintain their space.

To help keep things organized and tidy, teach your child routines; set times during the day when they put away toys, backpacks, clothes, and anything else out of place. Even five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening will work wonders.

To help with motivation, make a timed game out of it, for fun. They’ll be motivated even more by getting consistent rewards each week for working through their routines. Before they know it, picking up their things becomes a habit.

Lifelong Connections

When it comes to clutter, our relationship with our kids is so important. When we come alongside them and give them the tools and skills they need to create a clutter-free home, we free them up to be who God made them to be.

Parent-child dynamics are already challenging enough, especially between mothers and daughters. Reducing clutter conflict can go a long way to improve the relationship.

In their book, Mended, Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh talk about how to rebuild, restore, and reconcile the connections between mothers and daughters. One of their chapters deals with generational patterns and how hard they are to break. It takes intentionality and determination to change long-term habits and break learned clutter cycles.



The generous people over at Harvest House want to give some of our readers Daniel’s and McIntosh’s Mended. 5 people will win a copy and 1 grand prize winner will receive:

-1 Copy of Mended

-Assorted Note Cards

-Distressed Wood Frame

-Fruit Infuser Water Bottle

Enter to win by commenting below. What sorts of rewards motivate your kids the most? Which of these tips do you plan on implementing first?