How to get your family on board with decluttering
By Cari Milton, decluttering and organising coach at Clutter Free with Caz
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You’ve spent way more time than you’d like cleaning the house. The space is feeling tidy and relaxed and it makes you absurdly happy. It may not be magazine layout perfect, but things are where they belong for the most part.
You enjoy a cup of tea in your happy place… and then it happens.
Maybe it’s the kids pulling out toys, leaving them discarded like the debris field of a plane wreck, in their search for that one specific thing they really wanted. They don’t play with most of it, but struggle to let a single thing go.
Or your partner comes home, leaving their keys and other random items piled on the table where they collect other clutter to them like an electromagnet. It could be a hobby that creeps into the rest of the house, until you find paraphernalia in every single room… or worse, there’s a mountain of stuff that hasn’t been touched since the cretaceous period (ok, slight exaggeration there!) but they can’t possibly part with it.
The allure of one day having the time or energy to use it is strong.
You mentally throw your hands in the air and resign yourself to living with clutter, because you don’t know how to get your family on board.
I talk to a lot of women about clutter and what their challenges are in tackling it. That story is their most common pain point! I don’t have a magic wand to wave (if wishing made it so!), and it won’t happen overnight, but here are a few strategies for infecting them with the clutter free bug!
♥ First, make it fun!
Let’s be real, if it feels like a chore, it’s going to be met with resistance. Make it a game for the kids, get silly with them. Record a video of you (and them) doing the tidy up and then play it at ridiculous speed. Watch them crack up as they see themselves zooming around the screen. Set a challenge… if they keep things where they belong instead of the floor for an agreed amount of time (even just a day to start with!), have a treat with them.
Keep a basket somewhere the family can put items to donate. It may take a while for this to catch on if they are younger, because kids often view their stuff as an extension of themselves. We have one and it fills up every few weeks!
♥ Second, Lead by example.
Get your own stuff in order first. Declutter your closet, donate things you don’t use anymore, toss out anything unusable. If you’re the head chef in the house, declutter the kitchen so you have only what you use and need. Make sure your personal desk area is clutter free. Let them see you enjoying the benefits of being clutter free!
♥ Third, set them up to succeed!
If you’ve got kids, start as young as possible by giving them less stuff. Advertising convinces parents they need every contraption under the sun for their little darling, but we got through millennia as a species without seven different types of items to hold our babies when they weren’t in our arms.
You don’t need most of it. Consider experience gifts over toys… a day trip somewhere fun creates memories you’ll both cherish… and no clutter! If you do give toys, go for quality over quantity. One well made toy that will last is a much better option than several things grabbed from the shelves of the local discount store! You’ll be picking up the broken pieces of those within days.
♥ Fourth, communicate!
Talk to the family about why you are decluttering. ‘Laundry piles up because we have too many clothes! Let’s pare down so it’s less overwhelming.’ Or ‘If we donated some of these toys you’ve outgrown, you’d be able to find your favourites so much easier!’ Remind partners what the benefits are, if they make homes for their things, they’ll never have to tear the house apart searching for their keys (for example).
♥ Fifth, give them the tools they need.
Help them by setting up systems that will work for them and for you! For kids, a toybox is a recipe for disaster, because when everything goes in one container, they inevitably must dig for things. Try baskets or bins on shelves instead and label the heck out of everything! If they can see Barbie goes in this bin, things are more likely to end up where they belong. If your little ones are pre-reading age, use picture labels for easy recognition.
The same works for partners and other grown-ups, too. Labelled containers are your friend! Start with something they use often, like your utility drawer. I don’t know about you, but my techy Virgo husband would be almost giddy at the sight of the batteries, cords, and those tiny tech accessories all being in clear, labelled containers. I’m pretty sure if we tallied up the amount of time he has spent searching for those types of things in his life, it would add up to months!
Once they have the tools, give them the opportunity to fail too. Don’t automatically swoop in to save the day when they can’t find something. Sometimes a little tough love is needed to form new habits… make some suggestions on where it might be and remind them where it should be. But let them try to find it for themselves.
♥ Last, create your own clutter free zone!
This is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re going to need to carve out your own little clutter free zone where you can retreat to keep from losing your *$%@ while you work with them on learning new habits.
Trust me. It will be worth it.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas on how to get your family on board with decluttering.
Caz Milton is a Decluttering & Organising Coach who helps busy women go from being stressed and overwhelmed by clutter in their homes to feeling in control with organised, clutter free spaces!
She has spent decades helping family and friends declutter just for fun and is coming up on her first anniversary in business. Caz absolutely lives for the transformations she makes in her clients lives and their feedback makes her as giddy as a schoolgirl!
Caz lives in sunny Queensland, Australia with her hunky husband, 3 teens, and a menagerie of critters in a tiny suburban home. You can usually find her writing saucy novels, cross stitching snarky samplers, or organising the pantry. Again.
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