Kids are miniature hoarders. They cling to every free, gifted and earned toy given to them. Getting your kids to clean their room and declutter can be a source of stress for everyone, which is probably why there’s so much clutter piling up in their rooms right now. Here are a few tips on how to declutter your kids’ room without having to hire a professional negotiator (but hiring a professional home organizer is really helpful), plus some Bay Area businesses that can help with the process.

Declutter without kids (for parents of kids under age 5)

Parents of kids under the age of 5 have it a bit easier when it comes to cleaning up because you can sneak into their rooms like a ninja and box up toys to donate or store without them being none the wiser. And if your kid is a smarty pants, then assure them all you did was “reorganize” (that is telling the truth after all).

  • Sort: Gather and sort toys, crafts and books into piles for donation or to keep. New-condition toys can be saved for holiday and fundraiser drives at your child’s school. Toys that are still in the packaging can be re-gifted (hey, saves you a trip to the store!). Everything that is being kept should be stored in containers that are easy for the child to access.
  • Use symbols: Create labels with symbols to remind your little one where items are stowed. Tack the symbols, such as images of books, toy cars, dolls etc., onto the outside of baskets, bins, jars and even directly onto shelves. Or heck, put those labels on the outside of the dresser too so they can learn where to put their clean clothes.
  • Don’t forget the dresser: Speaking of dressers, ever notice that your child’s dresser drawers look like an explosion of mini socks and undies? Take control and reuse short and smaller product boxes, Apple is a favorite, which are in nice condition and sturdy to sort and organize clothes.
  • Pro Tip: After school drop-off or while dad/mom is out with the kids on the weekend is the best time to tackle this project. When your little hoarder returns home they’ll be excited to explore all the new organizing which is a great time to teach them where items are stored and how to put things away.

Declutter with kids (recommended ages 5-12)

As kids get older it gets easier but also harder to declutter. Gone are the days of sneaking toys out of their room without them even noticing. If every time you step into your child’s room to declutter you get chased out by a toy laser, here’s a few tips to lessen the heartburn:

  • Get philanthropic: Get your kids into the decluttering spirit by choosing a few toys and books they no longer play with to donate to a child in need. Kids inherently love feeling like they’re helping other kids.
  • Let the kids THINK they’re in control: Kids who are reticent to part with their toys may need some help selecting which to donate. Help them by setting out the toys and games you recommend for donation. Then, have them put half in a donate pile and the other half in a keep pile.
  • Creative storage solutions: Using items to organize that are not for their intended purpose is a great way to reuse what you have and gives organizing a unique flair. For example, not sure how to organize and stow long toys that are used regularly? Purchase a long under bed basket to stow swords, lasers, baseball bats and more. Another example is using an old toolbox or wooden crate for art supplies. But before you organize the art supplies, get out a piece of paper and have your child test each marker. The dry markers get tossed. It’s a good lesson to teach the importance of putting caps back on markers.
  • Pro Tip: Tackle this project right after you child has written out a birthday wish list or there’s an upcoming holiday or vacation (Easter candy counts as a gift!) to help incentivize and put the project in perspective. Let them accompany you to a donation center to see their impact first-hand. For kids who are closer to 12 years old who are having a hard time parting with their goods, give them any money made from selling their items or reimburse them for the amount listed on the donation receipts. Money in the pocket to buy new things is a great incentive (and an opportunity to teach about business and finances).

How to stay sane (for all parents)

Hire a professional home organizer. Yes, these companies exist. One local option is Spruced Co. and they are extra cool as they specialize in eco-friendly home organization by using natural textiles, glass and metal storage solutions and are big into reusing what you already own. Here are a couple of tips that will help keep you sane even if you don’t hire a professional:

  • Reuse: Reuse baskets and bins that you already own first to organize the games, books and toys that are being kept. It gives the room a personalized look and saves money. See-through containers are great for storing items that are visually pleasing such as playdough or kinetic sand while woven baskets and wooden crates are better for messy looking toys such as toy cars and stuffed animals.
  • Research: A professional will tell you how to implement creative solutions for storing games and toys in a way your kids can easily replicate on their own. If you’re organizing on your own, spend a few hours on Pinterest and organization blogs to get ideas. Remember, implementing a storage plan your kids can do on their own is key to long-term success for you and them.
  • Make a plan: Once all the currently-owned organizing containers are used, a professional will note what your storage needs are along with exact sizes, styles and what will be stored in them. They’ll even send you links to purchase the additional items. If you do this on your own, stay sane and make these same notes before shopping. Please, don’t walk into a Container Store without a plan. You will never be the same again if you do.

Donation Locations

Read RedTri’s list of where to donate your used toys; below are some favorites:

  • Local Schools: Your child’s school will accept gently used books for the library and new condition toys for fundraisers and toy drives etc. Be sure to call ahead of time to ask what they need and if they’re currently accepting donations.
  • SCRAP (a San Francisco nonprofit): Donate your duplicate marker sets and crayons and all other arts and crafts materials and toys that will be repurposed and made available to teachers, parents, artists and organizations.
  • GoodWill: They take almost everything so if you need a one-stop-shop this place is for you. Don’t forget to snag a donation receipt to file with your taxes!

Resale Locations

  • Green Apple Books: They will buy your good-condition children’s books. It’s also a great bookstore to shop for yourself and children. Win-win.
  • Monkei Miles: They will purchase your like-new children’s clothing and shoes for cash.
  • Chloes Closet: They will consign your children’s clothing, shoes and toys. Then they will donate anything they don’t sell on your behalf.
  • Nextdoor and Craigslist: These apps are great if you want sell or give away your items in the comfort of your own home. Just post photos and descriptions of the items you’re selling or giving away for free and wait for the takers to contact you.

Now, go set a timer for two hours and tackle one room and start the decluttering process!

Do you have any tips on how you declutter with your little ones? Share them below!

—Tarah Beaven

All images by Tarah Photography