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.
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?
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
When it comes to moms and clutter, I feel like there are two kinds of women:
Those who used to have beautiful, presentable, comfortable homes before kids.
Those who have always struggled with clutter, but abandoned all hope of being clutter free once kids came along.
I see a couple parallels between learning to be clutter free and raising kids.
1. Both becoming clutter free and raising kids look simple for other people, and feel impossible for us.
Before working the Clutter Free system, I couldn’t figure out how everyone else kept their house so perfect. I now know that a lot of those people, because they are a part of Clutter Free Academy, had closet clutter. While their houses looked perfect, you wouldn’t dare open a closet door. I had bought all the books and tried to enact a plan, but none of those resources seemed to cover my issues.
It was the same with raising small kids; it seemed like everyone else had the secret manual on how to grow little ones. They had a plan, and apparently I was out of school the day that plan was handed out. Even though I’d read all the books and taken all the classes, it felt like every situation that came up with my kids hadn’t been covered in the books.
2. Both becoming clutter free and raising kids can feel isolating and lonely.
One of the main reasons we created the Clutter Free Academy online community is because clutter can be incredibly isolating. The fear, guilt and shame that go with clutter can keep us secretive and alone.
It is the same with being a parent. When we feel that everyone “gets it” except us, it can lead to feelings of loneliness and “otherness.” I’m so grateful there were groups like MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers International) when my kids were little. I needed to sit with other moms who were honest about their struggles — not every day with their kids looked like tidy finger painting and super-fun playdates where lattes and laughter were served.
I think one of the best things we can do in every tough journey—including decluttering and mothering— is normalizing those feelings of just not measuring up. When we read the books, gather with others, and are open and honest about our own experiences, it’s amazing how we can lessen the feelings of fear, guilt and shame that so often accompany hard things.
One of the resources I will be giving the moms in my life is Grit and Grace: Devotions for Warrior Moms. I love that the two authors, Suzanne and Gretta, are as real about the challenges and self-doubt around mothering as they are about the fact that they feel like they may never recover from bringing children into their homes.
Don’t do any of this alone. The mothering, the decluttering or anything else you feel like you just have to “grit” through. Because while you may need to grit those teeth, you don’t have to do it alone.
Hang in There, Mama!
For those moments when you think you’ll never live up to the Supermoms around you—when you’re elbow deep in the grind of diapers and laundry and peanut butter sandwiches—you need a good dose of Grit and Grace.
This refreshing collection of 90 daily devotions comes from two moms who’ve found themselves face-to-the-floor in need of encouragement—and now they’re offering it to you. Through humor and vulnerability, these short messages of truth remove the filters of perfection clouding your vision and bring clarity to your purpose as a mom. As you read the Scripture and prayer that accompany each day’s message, you’ll discover more fully who you are in Christ and how to raise your children to reflect His love to the world.
In receiving grace from the One who is present in your life right now and in every moment, you will find you have ever more grace to give your kids.
Enter to WIN! We are giving away a Grand Prize one lucky winner PLUS, Harvest House gave us 5 additional copies of Grit and Grace to give away to five more lucky winners! Our Grand Prize winner will get:
• A copy of Grit and Grace, of course!
• A $50 Starbucks card to take you and your mom friends out for coffee on us!!!
Enter to win by leaving a comment about your biggest kid related clutter issue below in the comments section. (We’ll randomly select 6 winners and notify them in the comments section by February 27th.)
REFLECT AND RESPOND
Today, look at the woman in your mirror and tell her, “God knew what He was doing when He picked you to be your kids’ mom.” Pray for God to guide you to reach out to a mom who needs to hear this same message: give her a call, drop her an email, or send her a quick text.
Kathi Lipp and Clutter Free thank Harvest House for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.
On today’s show, Kathi chats with author, Sue Heimer to talk about her book, When you Feel like Screaming: Practical Help for Frustrated Moms. Drawing from personal experiences, Sue and Kathi share practical tips for frustrated moms as well as encouragement for why you are the best imperfect mom for your child.
In this encouraging episode you will learn:
why it’s important to identify the root cause of our frustration
how to start looking for patterns to avoid blowups
practical tools to reduce the overall anxiety level in the home
DownloadSue’s 7 Questions to Ask Before Adding anything to your Schedule
Enter to Win!
Enter to win a copy of Sue’s book!
Two lucky winners will win a copy of When you Feel like Screaming: Practical Help for Frustrated Moms
Enter by answering in the comments:
“What do you do when you’re caught in that moment when you feel like your about to lose it?” Or tell us a recent moment when you “lost it” with your kids.
To help out the show:
• Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
• Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe now.
Special thanks to our sponsor (in)courage.me
This episode was sponsored by the (in)courage Devotional Bible featuring devotions from over 100 of our favorite writer friends, including our very own Michele Cushatt, Kathi’s co-host of Communicator Academy Podcast. Find out more here
Meet Our Guest
Sue Heimer is an author, counselor, Bible teacher and international speaker. Sue is the president and founder of Leaving Your Legacy Ministries, a ministry to encourage and support women in every stage of life. She is a sought after conference and retreat speaker inspiring thousands of women each year with her messages of hope. As a veteran home school mom she loves speaking at home school conferences and to moms in the trenches.
Sue recently authored When You Feel Like Screaming:Practical Help for Frustrated Moms which is available on Amazon, is the contributor to multiple books including What I Wish I Had Known, and is a regularly featured writer for Focus on the Family. Her greatest passion is to encourage women to love and lean on God in every aspect of their lives.
My first child’s high school graduation brought up a whole new set of fears and stress in me. Have I done enough to prepare her for adulthood?Will she make wise choices as she steps out from under our roof and into a world full of options?Will she be able to hold onto her faith in college—at a time when many young people discard theirs?
Her graduation felt like a defining moment in my parenting. I knew I’d done all I could to train her well, to prepare her for success. But now, facing what felt like a Parenting 101 Final Exam, the stakes were high. I didn’t want to fail. I certainly didn’t want my precious daughter to fail.
This tension bubbled up in the days leading to her graduation. Of course, she was dealing with her own emotions surrounding this milestone event and pulling away from me, busy preparing for adventures to come. I was grieving the upcoming loss of her daily presence, knowing before long she would move from our house and pursue her education.
The entire month before graduation was crammed with activity. Prom, sports banquets, end-of-the-year awards, ceremony rehearsals, all mixed into a swirling vortex of angst. So many events, so many decisions.
As graduation neared, our relationship, normally characterized by mutual love, respect, and lots of laughter, became contentious. This culminated in an angry verbal exchange as we walked through the campus parking lot on our way into her Baccalaureate ceremony. I can’t remember what precipitated the argument, but I remember how I felt. Off-balance. Overwhelmed. Defeated.
I had let stress and fear steal my joy.
Have you ever experienced relational stress leading up to a milestone event? Have you allowed that stress to ruin the event for you? For your child?
Heightened emotions come with any life-changing event, but we don’t have to let them rob us of the joy of the occasion, whether it’s a move, graduation, wedding, or some other major event. We can have fun and create precious memories without regret.
When approaching a big event in your child’s life, you don’t have to get caught up in the swirling emotional vortex. You can cultivate peace through journaling or talking with a trusted friend. Speak with a life coach, counselor, pastor or mentor. Talking through fears and concerns with a mom who’s walked the path before you might mean the difference between white-knuckling it through the milestone and really enjoying it.
One of the most important things we can do to maintain our equilibrium during these emotional times is to get alone with God and pour out our hearts to Him.
Jesus demonstrated the importance of getting alone with the Father before ministry. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). As we prepare to minister to our children during their “big day” we can follow Jesus’ example.
Last year my son graduated and this year my youngest daughter will graduate. I’ve learned a lot going through this letting-go process. I’ve learned to be intentional about processing my emotions. I’ve learned to carve out time in the busyness to be alone in the healing presence of my Father.
Are you facing a milestone event?
If so, how will you cultivate peace and plan for fun as you prepare for the event?
Elizabeth M. Thompson is a writer and speaker who loves helping women develop meaningful spiritual lives. She and her husband have three children and will soon be empty-nesters. They live, bike, kayak, and hike along the American River near Sacramento, CA. Prayer is her passion. For a free download of “Jumpstart Your Stalled Prayer Life” go to her website: www.ElizabethMThompson.com.
I can just hear you now: “Clutter-free” and “parenting” in the same sentence? For real?
Well, not so fast. Clutter-free parenting is not a one-and-done proposition. When my children were little, I took delight in the nice, neat shelves in my basement, holding up totes clearly marked with clothing sizes. I was also Y2K ready (dating myself here), and had organized shelving stocked fully with massive quantities of food for pending disaster, enough to feed a small country. Yes, some of you are judging me right now while others are in awe.
Okay, so I have my skeletons in the closet of overdoing things when it comes to organization. I readily admit that maybe, just maybe, my focus on being clutter-free and organized bordered on being a little neurotic. Notice the past tense in that last sentence.
Clutter-free parenting as your kids grow older
Making five little people do their chores was stressful, but it does not compare with four college kids who all have jobs and school and a creative twelve-year-old who reenacts Curious George episodes again and again. Somehow the college “adult” status has a built-in entitlement that they just simply cannot do chores nor participate in the clutter-free schooling environment of days gone by.
A little background might help here. I home-educated all of my children all the way through. Yep. I am one of those. I delighted in purchasing books – LOTS of them – and organizing it all. Until … Until our lives were interrupted by a tragedy that transformed our very existence.
Suddenly the pet peeves about clutter really did not matter anymore. Just making my kids happy, just surviving, just trying to maintain some level of cleanliness, that’s where my focus shifted.
Balancing compassion and expectations
The problem with that state of living is that if we aren’t careful, it becomes our new norm. Kids are smart and realize this. The compassionate heart of mommas can, um, enable their disobedient behavior with excuses. I confess I have done this many times. I rationalized in my brain that it was cruel to stress them out with the burden of having to actually chip in around the house. They had a past pain that somehow overruled maintaining a clutter-free zone.
Now I have four kids, all with jobs and in college. “I’m an adult now,” several of my children have informed me. I mused over what those words meant as college textbooks were scattered all over my dining room table, kitchen table, coffee table, well, actually EVERYWHERE! “Mom, I have to work.” “I don’t have time to rinse the plate off.” “Gotta go.” The enabling side of me felt compassionately that it was just too hard for them to be expected to do 5-10 minutes of chores. They were stressed. But then, so was I. I work too.
The climb back to a clutter-free zone with children is not completely victorious. We fail and sometimes give ourselves space and grace when times get really hectic. But we don’t stay there.
When I am tempted to feel guilty and mean about expecting children who live in our home to pitch in, I am reminded that allowing clutter to reign in our lives and in the lives of our children is actually not kind.
One Small Win: Holding kids accountable to a standard that fosters peace can set the foundation for their lives to be clutter-free in their mind and homes.
So to our children who are now young adults, my husband says, “You’re right – you’re an adult now . . . act like it!”
“A servant pampered from childhood will become a rebel.” Proverbs 29:21
Denise Pass is an author, CCM artist, worship leader and speaker from Fredericksburg, VA, where she lives with her amazing husband and five children. Denise is passionate about writing devotions and music that foster unshakable hope and healing in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Her ministry, Seeing Deep in a Shallow World seeks to be a compass grounded in Scripture and a place where real problems meet real, transparent faith and needed answers in Scripture.