8 Tips For Helping Our Children 
Let Go of Their Stuff!

If you have one child or ten, I don’t need to tell you that they have stuff.  A LOT OF STUFF! And, inevitably, when you’re ready to get rid of that stuff...THEY AREN'T!  

That stuff they haven’t so much as touched in months… toys, art work, clothing, books, gadgets, and birthday party goodie bag whistles INSTANTLY become prized possessions. WHAT!? WHY?! HOW?!

The challenge is real here people.  And without getting lost down a rabbit hole discussing macro level causes of how and/or why our kiddos have so much stuff…well…I’d rather just share with you practical tips that I have used with my own children, or know others have had success with! So, without further delay:  

Lets start at the top, and work our way down the list, shall we...


Whether you have bigs (the 6 and over set) or littles (the 5 and under crowd), just don’t let it in!  I know, this is easier said then done.  Family and friends can be more excited than we are to shop for our children, often buying the biggest, loudest and newest toys or gadgets on the shelf!  And let's be honest...sometimes, we like all that stuff too.

But I argue this: We are the purveyors of the world to our children.  We set the tone.  And for our littles, setting that tone right out of the gate is priceless and will make life for you a whole lot easier in the long run.  Even if you are just now changing course, those bigs will follow your lead!  Stay consistent and they will come along for the ride.  Pinky Promise!

So how do you set the tone?  
Encourage family and friends to buy experience gifts for your children.  Here’s a few great websites that allow you to buy experience gifts for others: VayableUnstuff Gifts, and the Fun Sherpa.  Just browsing the myriad of ideas listed at these sites can gets the creative gift giving juices flowing! 
Encourage family and friends to make donations in your children’s names to your favorite charitable causes, or theirs.  When your littles graduate to being bigs, let them choose a worthy cause.  Children are capable of remarkable compassion and experience great pride when they know they can make a difference in the world.  

Ok...Ok...I hear you: "That’s all great and good... But what do I do with the stuff that is already in my house...The Toys, Artwork, Clothing, Books, Gadgets, Birthday Party Goodie Bag Whistles and just stuff…TONS OF STUFF!"  

Your in LUCK...we've not even scratched the surface yet friends!
2. BOX IT UP.  

Engage your child(ren) to sort through their toys, clothes, art and school supplies, books, magazines, and those annoying birthday party goodie bag whistles (I hate those things!!)

Guide your child(ren) to create two piles: 'Keep' and 'Box'.  The ‘Box’ items go in a box (or two, or three or ten) and are stored in a garage, attic, basement…anywhere that is out of sight, with the understanding that if your kiddos don’t ask for items from those boxes over the course of a designated time frame, the items will be donated.  'Keep' items stay out. You are teaching them a valuable life skill here:  what to Keep, and what Not to Keep.  

Make sure to set clear guidelines with your children, mismanagement of expectations here can lead to tears...and lots of them! 


The Box Method can be a touch challenging for the under 8 crowd and their toys. A toy rotation is a great option for these littles!  Bigs like it too, actually! 

The toys in your home are remarkably reduced when using a toy rotation and you guessed it...your children are again, learning early organizing skills as they practice deciding what to keep out now and what to put away for later! The Blog at Playful Learning describes beautifully how to master this method. 

Parenting Bonus: seeing little eyes light up when a new box of toys materializes! 

Children LOVE their little treasures.   But those little treasures add up...QUICKLY.   A treasure box is a great way to meet them in the middle, so to speak, and another great way to help them develop those early organizing skills! 

A decorated shoe box is a great way to begin using this strategy! My Kids Adventures has a wonderful blog post on making DYI treasure boxes with your children. Treasure boxes hold their tiniest possessions: ticket stubs, pez despensers, rocks, gems, stickers, figurines, leaves, pine cones and yes, and yes...even those darned annoying birthday party goodie bag whistles.  That little stuff we grown ups hate having to pick up but they just can’t part with it. 

Encourage your children to look through their treasure boxes regularly and use the box to help guide them in making...you guessed it...those all important keep/not keep decisions.  That leaf may have been super important last month, but now they can’t even recall why have kept it.  Awesome… cheer them on to 'LET IT GO' and
make room for their latest collection of pinwheel seeds!

NOTE:  I never purge this box without their consent.  NEVER!  Fight the urge to purge …or you risk breaking your children’s trust.


Have a family with a competitive streak.  Make letting go a game!  Set a goal and a reward. Then, let your children loose on the clutter.  

The added benefit to this method:  you get to know your children a bit more, discovering what toys, items, clothes and knick-knacks they truly treasure.   You’ll be amazed at what they chose to let go of!  

Just be sure you are ready to follow through on the reward you have agreed on. 


Are you a yard sale junky?!!  Yes?  Fantastic.  Let your children in on the fun.  Let them keep the proceeds made from the sale of any toys, clothes, art and school supplies, books, magazines, and yes, even those darned birthday party goodie bag whistles (ya know, the ones we HATE!).  

Money is a great motivator…even for children!  This strategy works great when coupled with making it a game!

Make sure that you have your children actively help you at the sale.  Follow through is key here.  They aren’t consigning the object to you for you to sell...unless your willing to set that arrangement up.  And if so, great…another great opportunity for your children to learn ways to discard unwanted items!


Once all that extra stuff is gone, it's time to manage what is left and what else comes in!  

The Rule of Four is an increasingly popular way to manage the flow of items gifted into your home. 

The core of this method, children receive: 

A Gift they want,
A Gift they need,
A Gift to read & 
A Gift to wear.  

Engage your children, littles or bigs, in writing wish lists for these categories.  Again, you'll gain valuable insight into who your children are becoming: their likes and dislikes.  This strategy also helps you manage their long term gift receiving expectations and your purse strings.  

Its what they call...a Win-Win!

8. ONE IN...ONE OUT.  

Adopting a one in, one out rule is another great way to manage stuff.  Does your child want the newest or latest toy, gadget, gizmo, book or clothing.  Have them look through and donate/sell an item of their own that no longer brings them the same joy and excitement as the new item will.  

This is a great rule of thumb for grownups too! 

For every item that comes in…one item goes out. 

Starting early helps tremendously...but starting where you are is equally as effective.  Be honest with your children about your goals for owing less and becoming more organized as a family. I have said it before and I will say it again: Organizing is an ONGOING ACTION, not an end state.  And it requires buy in from your entire family.  

Do you have a strategy you have used with your children to help them let go?  Share it is the comments section below! 



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    Hi, I'm Alyson.  I got my start organizing moving around the country with my husband, an Active Duty Service Member. 12 moves in 17 years.  
    With each move, we have added children and pets to our family, creating the need to become, and more importantly FEEL, organized. With every move I have honed my craft, discovering new ways to keep our same stuff in spaces that are never the same, while also learning to let go of the stuff that just doesn't hold value to my and I any longer.  That includes how we spend our time!  
    I have turned a skill into a career I am passionate about!  With a background in Social Work, earning a Masters of Social Work in 2003, I have had the privilege of working with families in their homes and in the Mental Health field. These experiences inform the way I approach the Professional Organizing relationship: starting where you are with no judgement.  And that’s what you’ll get here on the Blog too!

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