How to declutter with small children underfoot

Purging is hard. But it gets even harder when you have little kids running around! We’ve had to adapt suggested decluttering methods a little bit to accommodate living with two toddlers. Here’s what we’ve found works for us:

1. Set reasonable goals

Know your limits and know when to take a break – you won’t be able to do as much as your friends who are childless, and that’s ok! When we work on really large projects, we find we need at least two days a week off to catch up on all the housework that piles up in the meantime. We also try to keep at least one day (usually Sundays) as a day of rest so we don’t get completely overwhelmed. This means we spend at most 4 days a week with full steam on one large effort. Alternatively, just tackle small areas every day.

2. Begin with the areas of least effort & highest return

It’s easy to get burned out while decluttering! Choose a task that makes a huge visual impact and you’ll feel really motivated to continue in your efforts because you can already see the difference. On the flip side, if you start with a really difficult task, you’ll lose steam quickly.

Here are some areas I’d suggest starting with:
– Go through each room of the house and throw away everything that’s obviously trash.
– Do the laundry – you need to do it anyway, and it’ll clear up a lot of floor space!
– The front of the fridge – I was surprised how much cleaner our kitchen looked just by removing papers and magnets.
– The dining table – having an open and clean surface is sooo refreshing!

Put off sorting through these difficult items at first:
– Sentimental items
– Office and financial papers
– Boxes with lots of tiny items (like jewelry)

You get the picture!

3. Have a contained junk space that you regularly sort through

I often find that I need to quickly move an item out of a room my children are playing in. The older they get, the more creative they get at reaching things! I also sometimes try to declutter while they are awake, and need to quickly find a place to hide the stack of items I’d like to move out of the house. Enter: the closet (or a box in the laundry room, a cabinet in the bathroom, etc.). I just toss things in there and work through them more effectively when I get a chance. The key here is that you have to regularly sort through this space. It should also be a relatively small space so that you are forced to keep items moving.

4. Do it without the children

While I am able to sometimes get work done with the kids up (see #3), it usually ends up getting messier instead of cleaner if I attempt to purge with them around. They just aren’t old enough to be helpful – and that’s ok! So we make good use of nap time and bedtime around here. Even if you only set aside 30 minutes every day after they go to sleep at night, you can get a lot done with two adults and no mess-making children.

For larger projects, enlist the help of your family and friends! When my parents visit, we usually have at least one project we try to get done. Either my parents play with the kids, or my mom and I take them out while my husband and dad do some sort of home improvement project that’s just too loud to do during naptime.

If your family isn’t close by, try working out a co-op with a group of friends – the husbands and wives can take turns taking the kids out while the other adults help each other on house projects (example: the guys can take the kids to the playground while the women do x job at so and so’s house, switching houses each time). Or, take turns babysitting for each other so that the adults can all just work on their own homes. We all need the help!

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for getting stuff done with kids?


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