Successfully Decluttering And Keeping My Home Cleaner

It is no secret that keeping a neat and tidy house is a big stress of mine, and something I don't typically manage to successfully do. Thankfully getting a dishwasher has been a huge help, so the kitchen can be neater and cleaner far more often, and that has been life changing.

But the bane of my existence for so long has been my children's room and the guest room/office, the two rooms where my children spend the most time. (I've been "kicked out" of the office since that's where the kids usually watch movies and play on the computer, and I end up working on the dining room table or in my bedroom more often than not.)

My life has been increasingly stressful because it doesn't matter how much I'm on top of keeping the kids' room and the office clean, within less than a day the kids literally trash the place. And I'm not talking in exagerations. My children dump so much stuff on the floor that the floor is coated in layers and you can't see the floor or walk through without tripping on things. Seeing such bad messes makes my anxiety skyrocket. Each time I try to get the girls to clean up the mess they made (because honestly, it is them making the mess) it ends up being such a fight, they often refuse to do it, and I expend so much emotional energy just trying to get them to do it. Eventually I end up convincing my boys to do it, but then they get to be so resentful of having to clean the mess that their sisters mostly made.

The type of stuff that was generally covering the floor was blankets, kid products, toys (especially toys with multiple pieces), and clothes, generally a mix of dirty clothes that my kids took off and clean clothes that my kids emptied out onto the floor in the search for something to wear.

When I say it was bad, I mean it.

This was adding so much to my mental load, and literally everything I tried to improve the situation wasn't working. If you're wondering about the marble jar, yea, it kind of stopped working, the kids weren't motivated to do anything for marbles anymore.

Speaking to some people for advice, they said I need to do what I can to prevent the mess from happening in the first place instead of being on top of cleaning it up. But I said that I couldn't be with my kids 24 hours a day, and they generally make the mess when I'm in another room, and for my sanity's sake I couldn't be watching them like a hawk.

Hearing this, my friends recommended doing a major decluttering of everything that typically makes a mess. To put away every single toy, especially the mess making ones, and just leave out one or two toys, and when the kids learn to put those away, then I could take out more. And to do the same with the clothing. Leaving out just one week's worth of clothing and pack everything else up.
I was worried how my kids would react, and I chose a time that I had energy and everyone was out of the house, and I packed it all up. Seriously. I went through the kids' clothes and picked out their favorite seven outfits. I packed up all the mess making toys especially the things with lots of little pieces like Magnatiles and blocks. I packed up all the dress up clothes. I put the art supplies up high, out of reach of the children. I packed away the extra blankets and pillows that kept on ending up on the floor.

Major, major, major decluttering. The kids' room feels empty now.

And I also reorganized the clothing shelf. In the past, I specifically had it so that the younger the kids were, the closer their clothing was to the bottom of the shelf, so they could access it more easily. Now I did exactly the opposite and put the oldest kids clothes on the bottom and the littlest ones at the top. Now the girls can't take out clothing on their own; they need to ask me or their brothers to help take down their clothes so they could pick it out.

I was worried about the repercussions of what I did, how much the kids would melt down. But I explained to the kids that they hate cleaning up messes and I hate when there's a mess, so I put stuff away so it's hard to make a mess, so they don't have to clean up.

I did have to deal with one long melt down from one kid who was upset she couldn't reach her clothes on her own. But no one complained about the toys.

I left out each girl's favorite toy, a knock off American Girl doll, and some outfits for them. I also left out some balls, a jump rope, a maze ball, and Lego. I also have some board games and other games up high that the children need to ask for me to take down for them to play with.

And you know what? They're happy. I'm happy. The kids' room doesn't look gross and disgusting. The office/guest room doesn't look gross and disgusting. The living room/dining room isn't covered in toys.
There's no fights.
Cleaning up literally takes less than five minutes, if even that.

On top of that, because of the lack of mess in their room, the kids actually are enjoying their room more, and playing there more, and feeling like the place is much bigger.

In theory I'm not pro decluttering, because I do like my stuff. But I have to say that this has been life changing.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do in the long run. If my kids learning to keep the place clean with fewer stuff means that I'll now take out a few more things at a time, as long as they get in the practice of cleaning up after they use things. If I'll take out more outfits than what they have.

But for now, I have to say that decluttering my kids' stuff has made my home so much happier, cleaner, and less stressed out.

So that is a big, big, big win for me.

Do you have problems with messes in your house that your kids' make? What do you do to help prevent the mess? Anyone else also declutter in their home? What kind of difference did you feel it made for you?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. You could rotate their clothes and toys every 3-4 weeks if you think they can handle that better than adding items into their shelves or drawers

  2. I think my son's most memorable mess was when he had a friend over, and at some point he filled up a water bottle. I assumed he wanted to drink. After a while I went into his room (which of course had toys all over the floor) and discovered that his stuffed animals had decided to have a water fight.

  3. I did a version of this when my three kids were younger. It felt like the more toys they had, the longer it took to find the 'perfect' toy to play with- they were overwhelmed by the decision making process. By narrowing things down, they could maintain the space and make decisions. I also found that they had more imaginative and sustained play. Also, we routinely had other families over to play and not once was there an issue of 'not enough toys.'

  4. My daughter's grown and lives 500 miles away, but I should do this to myself. Craft stuff. Sewing supplies. Yarn. Yarn. Yarn.

    Leave out a couple projects and put the rest away. You know, this is brilliant.

  5. It's good you reigned in the mess with easy and useful ideas. Kids do have a lot to choose from so limiting that sounds quite smart and I'll use some of your ideas!

    Rotating toys as Mikimi suggested sounds like a great idea too.

    I have an IKEA rug designed in green with roads and race tracks printed on it & keep it rolled up and behind a large toy basket and when the kids want to play with Lego blocks, regular blocks or small items I spread it out like a picnic blanket really and let them have at it. After they finish I just scoop up the rug and use it like a funnel and the items just drop into whatever basket they belong in. It works like a dream. But limiting those toys is something I'm definitely going to look into. Thanks for sharing!


  6. I give my kids a 10 minute warning to pick up anything they want to keep and put away in the proper place, after 10 minutes I come by with a basket and collect anything left on the floor. I tell them if they don't like their stuff enough to take care of it I get to keep it. It works every time.

  7. We have a mess, because we have too much.

  8. my husband does this on a regular basis. eight outfits per kid. a few toys in circulation. the messy ones are high up and they ask us to take them down. they play, and then they clean up, because otherwise we won't take them down again. it also helps that we're not home as many hours as you are. and that they're always playing with the neighbors.

  9. I think that's brilliant. Kids get overwhelmed by having too many choices to make, and their stress levels rise too, even if they don't understand that. If the kids are happier and you're happier, I'd keep doing it! You can change things out once in awhile or tweak when needed, but it sounds like a win-win-win situation.

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