#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…
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.
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*** DUE TO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, PART TWO IS UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME. STAY TUNED FOR NEXT WEEK’S PODCAST. ***
Meet Our Guest
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
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!
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