Cluttered living quarters (and schedules) are such a problem these days that “decluttering” has become an industry. There are literally thousands of “productivity and organizing professionals” who make their living by helping clients decide what to throw out, where to put the essentials, and how to keep life in long-term order.
If you’d rather save the cost of professional help, it pays to learn the art of clutter-free living sooner rather than later. Whether your children are preschoolers or middle schoolers, no time is too soon to start emphasizing and modeling the following principles.
The best way to manage clutter is to avoid accumulating it in the first place. From closets to calendars, it pays to look at available space before buying/accepting/committing to another item. (Another good reason not to buy your kids everything they beg for.)
Whole-Life Thinking Beats Instant Gratification
Impulsive accumulation is often fueled by lack of clarity on long-term priorities. Young children know what they’re naturally made for; but too often they lose sight of it as adult society tells them what they “should” enjoy or work hard at. Don’t fight your children’s natural interests. You could confuse them into the habit of cluttering their lives with whatever’s in easy reach, because doubting one’s instincts on what to say Yes to—means equal uncertainty on when to say No.
Most “Storage” Is More Trouble Than It’s Worth
Once upon a time, stuff you never used was pushed into your own attic or garage. Now, we have professional “self-storage facilities” for keeping extra possessions out of sight, out of mind. Often so out of mind that many households are still auto-paying rent on storage spaces no one has visited in years, the actual contents long forgotten.
The “I might need it someday” habit rarely does anyone any good. If your place is already cluttered with extras, organize the family into a “purge team” (with a special outing as reward for getting through the whole attic/garage/storage unit) to sort long-unused items for discarding or giving away. And for the long term, consider a household rule that for every new possession that comes in, another goes out.
“A Place for Everything” Really Does Work
For those things your family does keep, reduce “can’t find it” stress by:
- Putting frequently used things in easy reach (defined by the actual user’s height)
- Reserving less accessible space for things used less frequently
- Emphasizing the habit of putting things away, not just because they trip youup, but so the owner can find them again
- Notcleaning the kids’ rooms for them, but encouraging them to develop their own organizing systems (respect wins a lot more cooperation than does presumption or nagging)
Contrary to popular adult opinion, children are not natural slobs: they appreciate the security of ordered, uncluttered surroundings as much as anybody. They just need guidance and positive examples to become responsible participants in creating those surroundings.
REMOVING UNNECESSARY CLUTTER FROM PRIMARY EDUCATION
Perfectionistic pressure to “get straight A’s” or “get into the best schools” was never good for kids, especially at primary-school age. And public schools aren’t the only offenders: the “ridiculous pressure some parents feel to send their kids to the Ivy League” colleges can lead them to opt for the most demanding (and most assignment-cluttered) private schools as early as first grade. If you want something better for your children—an education that emphasizes active skill development and community participation over an abundance of empty status symbols—contact Shady Oak to ask about our proven “6 Pillars” approach.
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!