When we decide to declutter our home, we want to get it done. We often start off strong. We feel an urge to get rid of all the things. We fill up bags full of stuff and our house feels different. Lighter. Once the obvious items have been decluttered, it can start to feel difficult. It can become overwhelming. It can be easy to have motivation but we can lose momentum.
Why not learn from the brightest and the best in the business? Most of these authors started off just like you and me. They were surrounded by excess stuff and wanted a change. They needed to do something different. They learnt by doing and figured out strategies to help others do the same.
Many were parents who felt suffocated by all the things in their home. It was making them feel crazy. Something had to change. Something had to go, and it couldn’t be the kids. As toys tend to be a big part of the problem, they become a large part of the process.
It’s one thing to ditch some plastic junk that you are sick of stepping on and putting away. It’s another to involve your children. Getting your children on board with decluttering is an important step. When we come alongside them to sort out what they don’t love or use, and find new homes for them by donating or selling, we help them to form new habits.
Below are my favourite books on decluttering that might be useful to you too.
1. The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
The Minimalist Home is the inspiration you need to start decluttering. Joshua does a deep dive into each room of the house and gives you steps to follow and questions to ponder. This helps you to reduce the inventory so you can focus on what really matters. Joshua has a comprehensive blog, YouTube channel and has published a number of other titles.
Messy Minimalism is for the messy folk out there who aren’t typically good at organising their homes. She takes a judgement free approach to decluttering and is permission giving that your house doesn’t need to look perfect. Rachelle has strategies and solutions that you can implement to create a purposeful home. She runs the Abundant Life with Less online community.
3. Declutter like a Motherby Allie Casazza
Declutter like a mother is written for mothers who are overwhelmed with all the stuff and are desperately seeking a change. Allie understands that season and openly talks about how seriously she struggled with this in early motherhood. In her book she motivates women to take charge, to get rid of the excess and to make a change for the better. Allie has a popular podcast, runs decluttering challenges, a book for children and has a huge following online.
Minimalist Moms is for mothers who seek to live intentionally. Diane gives a convincing argument for why reducing the stuff can have a positive impact on our lives. She gives practical steps to help you declutter your home. She also talks about the benefits of slowing down and saying no to extracurricular activities, and how this can help family life. Diane started with a podcast and has a community of like-minded individuals who strive to do more with less.
5. A Simpler Motherhoodby Emily Eusanio
A simpler motherhood empowers mothers to live life on purpose. When we declutter our homes and make a conscious effort to slow our schedule, it can have enormous benefits for our family. Emily unlocks the secrets to a simpler and more intentional life, and delves into marriage, parenting and faith. You can find Emily at The Simplified Mom on Instagram.
6. Love People, Use Things by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
Love People, Use Things speaks about the power of reducing what we have in our homes and simplifying our schedule. When we take steps to do this, it can change the trajectory of our lives. Known as The Minimalists, they took decluttering to a radical level and couldn’t help but share their journey. You can find Joshua and Ryan on their website, listen to their podcast or watch their documentaries Minimalism and Less is Now on Netflix.
7. Project 333 by Courtney Carver
Project 333 encourages readers, especially women, to consider how many outfits are in their wardrobe and how many of these actually get worn. Getting ready in the morning can be stressful and partly because we have too many options. Courtney writes about how you can manage with just 33 items in your closet for 3 months, and learn to love it. You can find out more on her website and Instagram.
8. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying upby Marie Kondo
The life changing magic of tidying up takes readers through an expert guide on decluttering. Marie explains the order that she uses to tackle each area of the home. She has a particular way of folding and storing items so that they are visually appealing and are stored neatly. Marie is a multi million copy international bestseller, writes more about her KonMari method on her website and has a series on Netflix.
In closing, these titles are packed full of ideas to get you inspired to start decluttering and practical steps you can follow. I love that these books not help you to get rid of the physical clutter, but help you to become more intentional with the time that we have. Life is short and the time we have with our children is precious.
Books can make great gifts. I know I have so many that I’d love to receive. Why not add a few that catch your eye and save them to your wishlist. You’ll be supporting a hard working author and you can always give them to a friend when you are finished.
These are available to purchase on Amazon or your favourite bookshop. Many are also available to borrow from your local library and can help to save you money. If you enjoy listening to audiobooks, apps like Libby and Borrowbox enable you to borrow titles for free.
I’m so excited for you as you begin your decluttering journey or seek to minimise your home even more. I know that as you reduce the clutter, you’ll gain more space, increase your focus and give you back more time. I’d love to hear about your journey and connect with you on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Before I had kids, I never got into decluttering. The stuff didn’t bother me. In fact I had so much stuff. I had 2 DVD racks filled to brim of alphabetised movies. I had 4 bookshelves full of novels, biographies and uni textbooks. I had a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes, including over 60 dresses. I loved collecting things and felt happy looking at our full shelves.
Fast forward a few years and we were blessed with a little baby. It was wonderful. We were blissfully happy. I loved staying home to take care of him.
That’s when it hit me. I was suffocating in stuff. Drowning under the sheer weight of it all. What I hadn’t realised pre-kids was just how little time you have once they are born. The saying goes, sleep when the baby sleeps. What if they never want to sleep without you, too alert in the daytime and wake with every sound?
That was my experience. I clearly remember feeling trapped under my sleeping baby. It was wonderful and lovely yet it was also really hard. It was hard to see the house unravel. Toys lying on the floor. Board books scattered everywhere.
Gifts from well wishes needing to have tags cut off and wrapping away. Bathroom needing a wipe over. Piles of washing to deal with. Breakfast dishes still in the sink. Dinner not prepared and no idea what to cook.
Stuff was stressful. I couldn’t see past it. My eyes were drswn to it and my heart seemed to beat faster in my chest. It bothered my husband a bit but he could quite easily ignore it and focus on the task at hand. Me? Not so much. I think most women feel the same way.
There were the piles of things to do and the stuff to find homes for. I thought that maybe if I bought some new cute baskets it would help to organise it all. After spending too much money on storage that I didn’t really need, I realised that organising wasn’t the problem.
The excess needed to go. I started going through everything. Nothing was safe. I read books, listened to podcasts and watched YouTube videos while I decluttered so I could be motivated and inspired. It felt like I had company. Someone to cheer me on along my decluttering journey.
There are many articles and books out there that are super helpful when it comes to minimising your home. Some people love the KonMari method of going in order of categories and getting everything out. For others you might devote an entire weekend or holiday week to it.
You might work like crazy to get it done. For some you might only have tiny snippets of time due to your young family, work or travel commitments, health issues or energy levels. For others, parting with things can be really hard. It takes a while to build up the decluttering muscle and get strong with letting go.
I like the onion analogy. You might look through your wardrobe and find a few things to get rid of. You see a jacket that you haven’t worn in years. Your logical brain tells you that if you haven’t worn it in ages, you probably won’t start now. Yet your heart still loves it. You remember when you bought it and the plans you had to wear it. You remember how much it cost you and it feels a waste to donate it.
A few months later, you look back in your wardrobe on a decluttering mission. You feel good after going through so much stuff. You get the sense more quickly whether the item in front of you should stay or if it should go. The further you get into decluttering, the more layers you start to peel off.
You become more ruthless. You can make decisions faster. You have accepted that the day you bought the item was the day you spent money. Keeping it unused in your wardrobe doesn’t get you your money back.
There is no one size fits all. There is no right way to declutter. You have to find the right way for you. In the end, the only thing that matters is that you declutter your home. It’s the end result that counts.
If you’re after my advice? Start with what bothers you. Pick one area of your house and go for it. Here are some pointers.
Is your wardrobe so tightly packed with clothing that it’s hard to move the coat hangers across? Are there items in there that you haven’t worn in years? Does it bother you having so many choices for outfits in the morning when you get dressed? Is the washing out of control? Clothing might be the area to start decluttering first.
Start going through your clothes. Pick a section at a time to focus on so the pile on your bed doesn’t get so high and so it’s not too overwhelming. Plus, when it comes time for sleep, you will actually be able to sleep on it. Hold up each item individually.
If you’re not sure if you still love it or if you will wear it again, try it on. Yes it will take you longer, but this way you can really see if it’s an item that fits you, looks good or you can see yourself wearing. Take a few seconds or minute to decide, then either put it back in your wardrobe or in your drawer, or throw it into your donation box. Consider having a box of items to sell if you have time to do so.
Does the sight of toys make you feel stressed out? Do you step on them and worry you’ll fall over? Does it make you panic when your kids pulls out a toy box and dumps it on the floor? Do you children pull out every item and then go to the next toy, without playing properly?
Does the toy collection cause fights? Do the toys with a million loose parts cause you anxiety? Do you dread birthday and Christmas time because it means that there will be more toys for you to manage? Perhaps this is an indicator that you need to start decluttering toys.
If you’re children are very young, you can most likely do a lot of the decluttering without them. You know what they love and use, and what they could probably do without. I love what Dawn suggests from The Minimal Mom. She recommends putting some toys in quarantine. Put the ones you think your kids won’t miss into a box, label it and hide it away in the shed, garage or attic. Put a reminder in your phone for 3 months time (or whatever time frame you’re happy with).
For slightly older kids, try to get them involved in the process. Ask them what toys they no longer play with, and could go to another child who doesn’t have much. For children who find it hard to part with stuff, consider letting them sell some of their toys.
I’ve heard of people paying their kids for items that don’t have a resell value but you’d really like out of the house. I have done this before and let me tell you, it works. It’s a good way to help with decluttering toys and keeps both parent and chid happy. I love lots of ideas here if you’re looking for more detail.
Another idea is a toy rotation. Put at least half of the toys away so there is less out on display. Children often do better when they have fewer options to choose from. They experience less overwhelm, tend to play more imaginatively and the fighting over toys decreases. To avoid having crazy amounts of toys entering your house after a birthday or Christmas, consider writing a list of ideas for relatives that might help them choose from.
Do you feel stressed out in the kitchen? Are your cupboards packed to the brim with appliances? Do you have too many Tupperware containers without lids or takeaway containers taking up valuable space? Is your pantry difficult to navigate? Do you find yourself spending too much on groceries because you don’t really know what you already have? Maybe the kitchen is the place for you to start decluttering.
We spend a lot of time in our kitchens preparing meals and tidying up. If we feel overwhelmed in this room, it will affect a big part of our day. The first thing to do is reduce the inventory. Go through cupboards and drawers one at a time. Be realistic about how much you use each item. Be harsh with appliances and consider donating those that have a singular use (eg. waffle machines and pie makers).
If it is something that other people use but you don’t ever seem to (like a rice cooker or electric frying pan), you don’t have to keep it. If you bought an item on a craze (think air fryer) but it’s big and bulky and you hate storing it, it’s time to go. If your ideal self would use this (bread machine or icecream maker) but you hadn’t got around to it yet, you can always declutter it and repurchase it later, in a season where you might have more capacity to use it.
Once you’ve gone through the drawers and cupboards, take time to look through the pantry, fridge and freezer. This will take some time. Ditch anything past its use by date, that looks questionable or you don’t remember how long it’s been there for. This is a time where buying some storage containers to display food can be a smart idea. It will looks neater and more appealing, keeps food more fresh, keeps creepy crawlies out and is easier to see at a glance what you need to top up.
Set up routines for doing the dishes, putting on the dishwasher and unpacking the dishwasher. Make sure other members of your household pull their weight, including children. Have set times when you meal plan, check the inventory of your food, order groceries or do a shop and meal prep
Another thing to think about is how much stuff is on the kitchen bench? It can easily be a dumping group for paperwork and a storing spot for appliances. Look at what is there right now. Consider what actually needs to stay there. Coffee machine? Of course. Kettle? Yep. Toaster? Probably not. Tea and sugar canisters? Probably not. Soda stream? Probably not. Be ruthless.
Try removing everything from the bench top. Find a spot in the cupboards or somewhere else for now (however keep in mind if you need to keep all of these things). Take note of what you use multiple times a day. A thermomix might be used 3-4 times whereas a blender or food processor might only be used a few times a week. A kettle might be used multiple times a day but a toaster only used once or twice.
Is it worth having the visual clutter and the reduced bench space just so you have convenient access to something? Think about what is more important to you. I used to have so much on our bench. For a small kitchen, it was actually ridiculous. Now we keep our kettle and coffee machine on our bench, and a drying rack for dishes. That’s it. Everything goes away until it’s time to use it, except for a loaf of bread and my to-do lists (I admit, I have a problem!).
Is your clutter problem in the bathroom? Do you have too many products? Are there items that have run out or you don’t use anymore? What is on the bench that doesn’t have to be? Perhaps decluttering the bathroom would be a useful place to start for you.
Take a minute to examine what you have in there right now. Are there some items you can throw away right now because they are empty or you don’t use? Do you have lots of sample products from hotel stays? Do some products react with your skin? Do you have make up that is old or you haven’t used in years? Go through and throw away any of the above.
Use up the containers that you can’t bear to part with, but give yourself a time limit. Take everything off the bathroom bench and put into the cupboards. If they can’t fit, you either have too many products or you need to store them somewhere else.
Be realistic about how often you use items, how often you do your make up to go out and how often you wear different types of perfume or nail polish. Know yourself and how many hair elastics and bobby pin clips you need. Go through the hair sprays and leave in serums. Hair and beauty products can be replaced relatively easily and cheaply so keep this in mind as you declutter.
Paper work, books, garage, shedand photos
These categories are big ones. For many parents feeling overwhelmed with their stuff, it’s mainly about the excess that they see everyday. They are the areas worth tackling first. If you are motivated to go through some of these items though, by all means, go for it! File paperwork at night in front of the TV and enjoy shredding documents that you don’t need to keep anymore.
Go through your books, section by section, and figure out which ones you want to read, read again or declutter. Ask your children to help look through their collection. Items in the garage or shed that you are decluttering can be high in value, so it is worth listing on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. Save photos to do last as it is such a big and often emotional task.
Know that starting is the hardest. Deciding to start and actually starting is the hardest part. Depending on your financial situation and how much a rush you are in will determine where you send the items. If you need the cash or know that it will help you part with things, sell as many items as you can. People will buy just about anything.
Do your best to avoid landfill. Join your local Buy Nothing group and enjoy the benefits from sharing and taking what you need. Donate to a women’s refuge or homeless shelter. Find an op shop that donates it’s proceeds to a charity that aligns with your values. For clothing that needs repairs, find a seamstress who can fix it. For worn down shoes, find a cobbler.
Volunteers at repair cafes can teach you how to fix up broken items. Old electronics can be recycled at Officeworks and Bunnings. Old phones can be sent to Mazuma mobile and they’ll send you money in return.
If you’re looking for some additional resources to help you on your way to decluttering your home, here are some books that I’ve found helpful on my journey.
In closing, when you become a parent, it can really feel like you’re suffocating in stuff. For the stay at home parent, often mums, it can be so overwhelming. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you start. Figure out what is causing you the most stress and begin decluttering there. Fill up bags and boxes and get them out of your house. This will bring you a lot of satisfaction as you take a step back and admire your clutter free home.
It won’t be a one-off job. Clutter has a way of infiltrating our lives. We are given presents, our children come home with party bags, we go to shows and seminars and get take home bags. We need to make a conscious effort not to bring more excess into our house. Stop it at the front door.
If it is something we love, need or will use, find an items to take out of your house to even it out. If you want to keep on decluttering and seeing progress, make it two or three items (or even more) that you remove before bringing in something new.
Going forward, be intentional with how you do gift giving. Put limits on how much you get. Write a list of ideas. Opt for more experiences rather than things, especially for children. You get to decide what comes into your house and what stays. By decluttering the excess, you will help to reduce the overwhelm. You will make space for what really matters, and you’ll be so glad you did.
We all have children in our life who we need to buy presents for, whether they’re our own, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and when our children go to parties. Sometimes it is hard coming up with an idea, especially when the child seems to have enough stuff already.
When a child receives lots of toys for their birthday or at Christmas time, they are initially excited. Most kids love the thrill of opening up a present to find a new thing inside. Once the shine has come off a bit and the gift doesn’t seem so interesting anymore, the following two things tend to happen:
There is an increase in overwhelm for the child. They have too much choice about what to play with. They get distracted. They don’t delve into deep, meaningful play. There is too much mess to clean up.
Secondly there is overwhelm for the parents. This tends to affect the primary caregiver, the one that is home the most. They have to find a spot to store it, create systems for toy rotations, tidy it up, manage the pieces.
It’s a lot. When I’ve gently asked some family members to avoid buying toys or less of them, I have been told, “but they like it,” or “they’ll be so excited opening the box.” Yes, of course they would be but in the end, as a parent I have to manage all the stuff. We have so many more things and toys than a generation or two ago. This wears us down and can steal some of the joy of motherhood.
I have been on a journey of decluttering and it has made the world of difference in our family.
Here are some gift ideas for children that won’t add to the overwhelm, go to landfill or break the bank.
#1. Gift idea: Toy library voucher
Toy libraries are amazing. My local one has gift vouchers for purchase for just $35 a year or $20 for 6 months. It is a brilliant way to give the gift that keeps on giving without adding to the excess in the family home. This can be bought with another family to keep cost down or even put money in the card to go towards buying the membership.
#2. Gift idea: Op shop voucher
Money doesn’t go very far in department stores. When my son went to spend some pocket money, the $15 barely bought one Paw Patrol car. We went across the road to Savers (a large op shop / thrift store) and he was amazed with what he could purchase. There were less options but there was a range of different things he could buy.
You could offer to take the child shopping to spend it, and could go towards books, clothes, shoes, dress ups, or art supplies. If there was a particular toy they wanted they could get that too, and when they get bored with it, sell or donate and then buy a different one. This reduces the impact on the environment because you aren’t buying a new toy with packaging, and the child is choosing something that they really want.
Growing up we had an uncle who only ever gave books as gifts. This didn’t always seem very exciting, but I secretly loved having a new one of my own to read. I loved being able to write my name in the front and keep it in my bookshelf. I could reread it again and again. Books can be expensive but they don’t have to be bought new. You could buy a set of books from Marketplace or Gumtree, or from an op shop for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to check first with the child or parents that second hand is ok. If they say it’s fine, money will go further meaning more books for them!
#4. Gift Idea: Audiobooks
Listening to a story in the car can help to pass the time, especially on long trips. It can be a different option to screens during rest time at home. They can be a relaxing way to wind down at bedtime. These can be bought as a CD format (new or secondhand) or downloaded on a device to listen on a speaker. Apps like Libby and Borrowbox even let you borrow audiobooks from the library for free!
#5. Gift Idea: Buy an Experience
This is my personal favourite gift and love when my boys are given one of these. The options are endless but here are some that won’t break the bank. Some could be money towards an experience, or pay for themselves and the child to do together as a special outing.
We have compiled a list of experiences and outings that our children have never done before. This is stuck on the fridge for ideas and inspiration for special weekends or if someone asks for a present idea. This helps our children to focus on less material things and helps us remember about the fun things we can do as a family.
Too much stuff can create stress in our lives, but meaningful experiences creates memories. I encourage you to be extra intentional with gift giving going forward. Toys themselves aren’t bad, but children can only play with so much. They only need so much. Less things to manage can help families feel happier too. 💕
One minute you have your home that you share with your other half. You know the one; your stuff, their stuff, your combined stuff. It’s pretty manageable. And just how you like it.
And then you have a baby.
Suddenly your house is out of control. Formula, bottles, teats, sterilisers, breast pumps, breast pads, breastfeeding pillows. Maternity clothes, feeding tops, nappies, baby wipes, bassinet, cot, linen, bouncer, rocker, mobile, board books, dummies or pacifiers. Baby clothes, pram, capsule, muslin wraps, blankets, sleeping suits, wraps and carriers. Baby toys, bath toys, teddy bears, pram toys, foot rattles. High chairs, baby spoons, bibs. Walkers, activity centres, ride on bikes.
You have a lot of stuff and then the kid gets Christmas presents or turns one. Throw in hand me downs, op shop bargains and well-meaning aunties and grandparents. More stuff. Colourful, noisy, plastic things everywhere and more clothes than days to wear them.
As they get older and more siblings come along, the clothes and gadgets and toys often get out of control. More toys than we can handle.
Don’t get me wrong. Most parents are so grateful for these things as it shows us that people care and it saves us money on buying it all ourselves.
However, this level of stuff is overwhelming. For many mothers, the clutter stresses them out and they aren’t able to manage it. We are already feeling behind with the washing piles and unwashed dishes, the what’s for dinner dilemma and what birthday cake to cook, the piles of paper on the bench, the unread emails and messages, the dirty shower we never get around to cleaning and the empty photo albums we need to one day fill.
There’s already so much going on in our brain, too many tabs open. When we see toys spread over the floor and chaos surrounding the house, it can be the tipping point.
When there is mention of clutter and children, it is often an assumption that the two go together. It’s just how it is. Children come with stuff. You just have to learn to live with it.
I disagree. While of course you will have a certain amount of stuff when you have children, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Over the last four years, I have learnt that the less toys that are in sight, the calmer I feel and the less mess that is able to be unleashed. Too many toys equal a child being overwhelmed at the choices he is presented with. His brain cannot cope and too much is vying for attention. He will pull something out, play with it briefly, and then do the same with the next one.
My top tips for reducing the toys:
Give away all noisy, battery operated toys (unless your child truly loves and plays with it). Source open ended toys that encourage imaginative play. Your child should be the boss of the toy and tell it what it is and what it can do. This makes for a quieter environment for you and your children and less cost and hassle for you to replace dead batteries.
Less dress ups. Children love to dress up as their favourite characters and heroes. They don’t need actual dress ups to do this. Fill a box with various scarves, hats, jackets and fabric. Ones with different colours, textures and sizes. Sit back and watch your child use their imagination to become whoever they want to be.
Less plastic, more wood. These are more beautiful to touch, lovingly created and much better for the environment. Where possible, opt for high quality toys with good craftsmanship. They feel nicer and often get played with more because of how they grip to each other. These will last the test of time and a better investment for your money.
Model getting rid of your excess things. Regularly go through your clothes, shoes, jewellery, books, kitchenware, nick nacks and paperwork. Talk aloud about how you don’t need this anymore, you already have two, I don’t really like this now, I prefer the pink ones, etc. Children long to imitate us, so demonstrate how you like to keep your things to a minimum.
Toy rotation. Most likely, your children will have more toys than space to store them. They also get bored with the same things. Start by selecting a few key toys to display on your cubes or shelves, and make sure you have a few different types (ie. Blocks, magnetic tiles, scarves or dress ups, animals, cars, trucks, train tracks, dolls, puzzles). Put the rest away in a different room or hidden from view in a cupboard. Some favourite might always be out and that’s ok (for us, matchbox cars are always displayed and played with). Have a regular time every week or so to switch these around. I find it best to do this once my kids are in bed.
Get kids involved. Let them choose what to donate to the op shop and which ones they would like to sell. Teach children the value of money by asking them to choose a price (within reason!), take photos to upload, collect the money from the person, under the doormat or letterbox. My three year old loves this process and happily runs to put his earnings into his jars.
Make gift giving intentional. Part of decluttering toys is making a plan to avoid more coming back in to your home. Create a list of gift ideas for your son or daughter’s upcoming birthday or Christmas. This could include ideas of clothing pieces and their current size, toys that you have wishlisted or seen in a store, money towards a bigger item (such as a trampoline) or an experience (to the movies, zoo, drive in, waterpark, bowling, etc). This doesn’t mean people must get something off the list and it won’t work for all families. However, if you have taken the time to put ideas together, and people insist of buying annoying plastic toys, I give you permission not to keep it. Quietly exchange it or regift to someone else. You get to choose what comes into your house.
Fiver parties. If you are hosting a party and are freaking out about the huge amount of gifts about to come in, consider writing in the invite if they could bring $5 in lieu of a present. You could mention that your child is saving up for a bike or lego set, and would love if you wanted to contribute to this. Always stress that this is optional, but many parents jump at the chance to spend less on presents and not have to go shopping for another party.
Utilise the toy library. Join your local toy library. Memberships cost around $35 a year depending on where you live. This enables you to borrow from a huge range of toys, puzzles, dress ups and more. I go into detail about toy libraries here.
I hope these give you a few starting ideas about how to declutter your children’s toys, and more importantly, stop more from coming in. Know that you are the keeper of your home. You have to clean, organize and maintain the house so you get to decide what and how much enters in.
Start with ten minutes a day, walking around with a box or bag and grab anything that you no longer love. Make regular trips to donate them or list them to sell.