Living with little ones means accepting a certain amount of chaos. But toys underfoot, overstuffed laundry hampers, and hectic schedules all wear us down far more than we realise. Is it any wonder that at the beginning of a new year we resolve to clear out our clutter and be more organised? Clutter can get in your way not only physically, but mentally. Paring down can help you find things faster, get more done, and think more clearly – all of which can make parenting easier. As a professional declutterer and organiser, here are my suggestions for simplifying your family’s living spaces and schedules.
1) Clear the decks!
Start by letting go of things you don’t need any more: clothes the kids have grown out of, toys and books that are past their prime, and items you never use or know you no longer need. Donate usable items to charity and bin the rest. Allow yourself to get through this task at your own pace, and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back! It’s hard work, but you’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
2) Keep like with like
Store the same types of items together. Make them accessible and easy to tidy up: for example, all toy cars in one box, all stuffed animals in a basket. Don’t spend money on fancy organising supplies; shoe boxes and laundry baskets make perfectly fine containers.
3) Take a ‘one in, one out’ approach
Make it a family rule to part with one old item (of similar size or value) whenever something new comes into the house. You’ll be far more selective about your purchases if you know you’ll have to jettison something you already own when you buy something new. The 'One out' rule does not necessarily mean throwing them in the bin. You can also choose to send them to storage instead. Self storage in London, for instance, will cost you just a few pounds each month and the space you save will be all worth it.
4) Streamline your schedule
Overfull calendars are another kind of clutter. If you constantly worry about getting out of the house on time, or about making it from point A to point B, take a good look at your timetable to ascertain which activities you can cut. Babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers don’t need highly regimented days – they’ll get enough of that when they start school. Instead of overstimulating them with too many activities, let some of their time remain unscripted.
5) Choose experiences over things
Make it your family philosophy to do more things together instead of acquiring new items. By spending your money on experiences, you won’t have to make room for new objects in your house. Instead, you’ll be making happy memories together. Our little ones’ early years go by quickly, and what they really want from us is our time and undivided attention – not more toys. As you gradually put your living space and your calendar in order, remember that de cluttering and organising is a process. Your house will never be perfectly tidy and your schedule may not run entirely smoothly. Instead, gauge your progress by how you feel: has letting go of some items made you feel more clear-headed? Has simplifying your days made you slow down and appreciate your time with your child? If so, you’re doing great – even if that laundry hamper is still stuffed full.
Nadia Arbach is a member of APDO, the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers UK. She works with families in Oxfordshire and further afield to simplify their living spaces and routines. If you’re looking for someone to guide you through the seas of clutter into open space where you can live your best life, visit clearthedecks.co.uk or email Nadia at clearthedecksUK@gmail.com. Quote ‘Toddle About’ for £20 off your first decluttering and organising session.