Declutter the Kids Room


  • to remove mess or clutter from (a place)
  • to organize and prioritize (one’s commitments, material possessions, etc.)
  • to let it go

I work with parents every week to tackle clutter in the kids room and around the house. Some parents have rules for a dedicated toy storage space, such as the kids room or playroom, but most homes I visit have a naturally evolving system of everything everywhere… toys, books, shoes, backpacks in the living room, on the kitchen table, under mom and dad’s bedsheets. I’ve seen it all…

A little before we get started:

This parent gave the birthday gift of an organized room to his teen son. What a great dad! Here I am in the “Before.”

Why does the kid stuff get out of control? Common answers:

  • Parents plan to have another child soon and want to save everything to reuse (makes total sense!)
  • Parents want the most for their kids
  • Grandma wants the most for the grandkids
  • Friends of the parents want the most for their friend’s kids

Everybody is so giving! 

There comes a point when enough is enough…

How much is too much with toys, books, clothing, artwork, and memorabilia? The answer lies within YOU, parent or guardian. Here’s a hint: the less there is, the less you have to clean up, sort through, put into storage, and the easier it will be to find things.

Here I am celebrating in the “After.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the kids simply picked up after themselves?

Unfortunately the littles can only do so much on their own.

Helen Neville, a pediatric advice nurse at Kaiser Permanente for 35 years, gave an Ages and Stages in Early Childhood Development workshop that brings things to light. She specializes in inborn temperament and authors Is this a Phase? Child DevelopmentParent Strategies Birth to 6 Years, and other books on temperament, sleep, and potty training.

Q&A with Helen Neville

Question: At what age is it best to help kids clean their room?

Answer:  Clean up with them ages 2-5. You have to help and make it fun and interesting.

Question: At what point is it easier to get kids to give up toys without being hurt by it?

Answer:  3-5 year olds forget what’s important to them, which can include toys. A 2-year old won’t care to lose toys, a 6-year old may start to miss them.

Grab the kids! It’s time to get their room in order. 

Step One 

  • When working with a child to declutter toys and books, tell them about places they can donate to kids in need, such as to homeless shelters and toy drives. Pick a place to donate together and follow through with it. ‘Tis always the season to give give give away!
  • Tackle clutter with the kids for as long as their attention can be held, they are having fun, and being productive with you.
  • Kids (as do adults) can get overwhelmed by choice. Allow them to make decisions on what to keep and what to donate for only a few things at a time. When their interest starts to wane…

Step Two

  • Set them free! Don’t get frustrated. It’s up to you, parent or guardian, to continue sorting, decluttering, and putting things away.
  • Put excess toys into labeled bins and store in the garage for 3 months. What the child remembers and asks for, bring out. What they forget, donate.

Tackle kids clutter on a regular basis. Downsize a little at a time together and instill great habits in everyone. Do not give up. Your kids clutter is your clutter. Set a regular schedule, find balance with the amount of stuff you are willing buy/accept/store/donate, and turn challenges into successes.

Prevent and Take Action on Toy Clutter

  • At your child’s next birthday party, make a themed gift donation box that everyone attending knows about in advance. Gifts received will go directly to charity, such as school supplies to a classroom in need.
  • What we hold off as a reward can be what kids are motivated toward. Find creative ways to get your child to let go of excess toys often, such as making it a house agreement during the weekly family meeting to only allow in a new toy or book if one or two goes out.


Isabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email for more information. Gift certificates are available.