THE MESS GANG
Should it stay or should it go now?
If the room is a total mess and you cannot even fathom where to start, first remove anything that doesn't belong - cups, bath towels, wellington boots etc. Next, pick up all items which are broken beyond repair and use the age-old decluttering mantra of "I am ruthless". Check out your local recycling centre to see what can be taken there - this encourages an eco-conscience in both us and the children. One planet and all that jazz...
A googly eye for a googly eye
A mountain of school uniforms, plastic toys and craft materials meshed together in a sticky, knotted ball can intimidate even the most resolute declutterer. However, if you establish a system that stores like with like, things will be organised in no time. Divide everything into categories and store similar articles together - this is an easy habit for children to pick up and for you to encourage.
If you leave me now...
Many children will be dead set against letting anything go - they may scream bloody teddy bear murder or simply refuse to co-operate with your attempts to make them see the light at the end of the toy tunnel. Baby steps are crucial here. Start with a shelf or a box, asking them which pieces they want to save and what can go on to make another child happy through donation. Tugging on their heartstrings and emphasising the 'do-good' nature of donating items is a winner with kids - they are born generous, so let's keep it that way. It also helps children learn the process of decluttering for themselves and the benefits that it brings.
Colour-coded chaos calming measures
Even the youngest of toddlers can be taught to stow away items (like crayons, cars and smaller toys) into baskets of a certain colour. For instance, you could try red for craft materials, blue for animal figurines, green for toy cars and so on. This instils good habits that our kids can grow up with, and they can be adapted and added to as they grow.
Most children end up in the smallest bedroom, meaning floor space is at a premium. To battle the potential floor clutter, affix a series of hooks within easy reach to house clothes, laundry, shoes and toys - it is quicker, easier and cheaper than fixing shelves. Collections of cars and hair accessories, for instance, can be given a bag of their own. Find a good selection of drawstring bags and hang away.
Toy car booty
The 8+ age group may like the idea of selling unwanted items at a car boot sale. If your offspring is hoping to save up for a games console perhaps, or if they need spending money for a school trip, the cash raised by such a sale could be a welcome boost.
Lead by example
Overall, be sure to practice the above-principles throughout the home. If youngsters see you sorting the things you no longer need on a regular basis, it will help them establish a positive attitude towards decluttering, thus avoiding the dreaded hoarding of everything they own under a bed - because that's where monsters should reside!