The busy parent’s guide to less clutter and more calm

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Struggling to manage the post-holiday clutter? Back into the weekly routine and  fighting your way through piles of ‘stuff’? You’re not alone.

Many of us have discovered the season for giving is leaving us with way too many ‘things’. As the hodgepodge mounts up, and we run out of time to sort it, we’re left feeling overwhelmed and disorganised.

Busy mornings get busier as we hunt for the basics, tempers fray in the search for the hair brush, the day’s favourite shoes or ‘teddy’, and the quest to clean up, clear out and find the floor seems insurmountable.

Marie Kondo to the rescue

Got a pile of stuff to be sorted into ‘keep, donate, chuck’? Maybe it’s time to take a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s book (or Netflix show). A tiny, Japanese tidying mastermind, she’s on a mission to revolutionise the way we approach decluttering in our homes.

In a nutshell, her approach asks you to consider your emotional attachment to your stuff. Firstly, she recommends placing your hands on every object in your home and asking yourself if it ‘sparks joy’ and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and be rid of it. Once this is done and you’re left with the joyful remainder, put everything in places that are visible, easy to find and always put them back there. In other words, every item has a home.

Sounds simple. So, what’s stopping you?

Let it go! Let it go!

Letting go of favourite objects isn’t easy. What about that cute dress your toddler wore the first time they walked? How about all those books you love? Marie Kondo suggests thinking carefully about whether your treasured items have done their dash.

“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order.”

And science backs up her notion with various studies, including one from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, telling us our brains will be better off without all the chaos and that a clear, organised space helps minds of all ages function better.

Perhaps the hardest part is getting started. Family-wrangling, laundry, dishes and emails to reply to often come first. So, how to begin?

Baby steps

The Kondo way is to kick it off with the items you’re least attached to. Makes sense. Once you disappear down that misty, nostalgic tunnel of old photos or travel knicknacks, you’ll be stuck in a blissful past when things were simpler and… focus!

Concentrate on what you can do this week in the quest to declutter. With children around, bite-sized action works best. We’ve asked around and come up with a few tips from Kiwis who have simplified things, cleared out and found the floor:

Toys, books, clothing and much-loved creations have a habit of appearing in every room in the house. While it would be great if children chose to play in just one spot, in real life your home is their castle.

Sarah, a mother of three children under six, says she tried a rotation system to manage the mini-invasion.

“Choose a selection of toys and books you want to have on display. Put the rest away out of sight and reach.” Sarah suggests the garage. “You can even involve your children in the choice, explaining that the toys aren’t being thrown away, they’re just on holiday.” After a month, rotate the toys and ‘new’ books from the garage back into the living room or play area and see what happens. She says the reaction was immediate.

“Lego they hadn’t seen for weeks was suddenly exciting, as if it was brand new. It kept them occupied for ages.”

Storage doesn’t need to be ugly
Introduce storage options that beautify and balance your family spaces. Say no to plastic and include some natural, sustainable storage options that everyone can use and enjoy. We like this woven Pandan partition tray from Curiate, with six compartments.

Belonging is important
Take some time to talk to your children about where objects live. It’s no use setting up beautiful storage options if the message isn’t clear. The hair brush lives on the hook by the bathroom sink. That’s it’s home. It needs to go home every time it’s used. Expect to gently repeat this message many times before it sinks in.

Give it away
Want to nurture givers? On a quest to donate and declutter her home, Molly, a Mum of two, taught her daughters a game to encourage empathy and the concept of giving. She called it Joy or Give.

“I explained that ‘joy’ meant keeping the item and ‘give’ meant giving it away to someone else who might need it more. While my five-year-old gave away quite a few things, my two-year-old wanted to keep it all. But it was worth a shot and I felt like it was the first step in making them aware of just how much stuff they have!”

Make it a game
There are plenty of other ways to include children in the decluttering process:

  • A tidy up song for when it’s time to sort and clear

  • Showing your children how to fold clean clothes properly - you’ll be surprised how engaged they can be.

  • Time them - that age old ploy still works. “How long do you think it will take us to put away the toys today? Okay I’ll set the timer!”

Remember the library
Both book and toy libraries are an amazingly cost effective and sustainable resource for families seeking to simplify and cut back. Google your local now, or organise to share toys and books with your friends or other mums in your community.

Keep it going
Good intentions have a habit of dissolving as the year goes by. Diary another declutter reminder next month or quarter and keep up the good work.

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