Everyone with kids knows that they typically come with lots of STUFF. And somehow it keeps coming in…if you have more than one kid the challenge is even greater.
This buildup is natural. More than any other time of life, the very nature of childhood is about growth and change. Your child’s abilities, interests, and sizes are constantly evolving – and all the toys, clothes, learning materials change along with them. And young ones are magnets for toys and gifts from relatives.
This means if you aren’t keeping a constant vigil on moving out outgrown items (and how many of us are, really?) you’ve likely got some backlog of unused and unneeded kid stuff.
If your kids have a little more time at home during the summer, take advantage of that to do some weeding.
Break It Down
You’ll have a better chance at success if you focus their attention onto one category of stuff at a time. A general request to “clean out the playroom” isn’t going to get them very far. But a specific request to gather up all the DVDs and choose the ones they love to watch is much easier to get follow through on.
If you divide up the project into categories you’re teaching an important skill about grouping “like items” together.
Put out a big bag or box and have the kids weed some or all of these groups:
- Board games
- Clothes that don’t fit (can even break this down by type – tops, pants, jackets)
- Sports equipment
- Craft supplies
- Art projects/ drawings
- DVDs, video games
- Toys (you can break this category down by type – electronic, stuffies, dolls)
Create a System and Motivate
Sometimes it’s easier to decide what to keep, rather than what to let go of. Clearly labeling 3 bags or boxes – KEEP, MAYBE, DONATE/SELL can help. Let your family know it’s like going shopping for things they love within our own collection. This helps kids get in touch with making conscious choices about what they really use and like.
Motivation strategies to get them going:
- Help them visualize the end result – more space to play with their favorite items
- Use a timer to bound the work
- Offer incentives or rewards – a movie night after clearing out unwanted DVDs for example.
- Create a contest or game around who can purge the most
If you’re paying for a babysitter or childcare, enlist their help to tackle 1 category a day. Even as little as ½ hour each week spent on weeding will go a long way to staying ahead of the next influx of new gifts or purchases!
Is your collection a potential goldmine?
Consider this scenario – a person has a huge collection of books in boxes and shelves that they have been able to keep stored for many years — literally a few thousand books. Now they are losing their free storage space and under a time constraint to get all the books out but don’t have room in their home to just move them there.
The issue is within the collection are numerous valuable items that could be re-sold. What should the person do? Spend the time to dig through the collection for the gems and potentially make some good money? Pay to move and store the books elsewhere to have enough time to comb through the collection more thoroughly? Cut their losses and sell the bulk to a book dealer? Donate everything?
Lots of people face these tough choices with their collections. Here are some frank questions to ask yourself if you’re considering selling off collectibles:
- How badly do you need the money?
- Do you know for sure you can make money on the items?
- How much time and money will it cost you to make the money?
- Will what you’re likely to make compensate you for your time and expenses?
Consider these costs and don’t discount the costs that aren’t monetary:
- Hiring help to prep and sell items
- Making time for researching the market
- Having an appraiser do an evaluation
- Your time manning a garage sale
- Your time preparing items for resale
- Your space that can be taken up storing items waiting to be sold
- Your peace of mind and security being compromised dealing with strangers
Can you envision the entire collection gone with no money in hand?
How would you feel? Would you feel lighter? Would you be horrified?
Give yourself some boundaries – consider setting a deadline for completion and determine a budget for the preparation process. At the end of the day, donation is usually a way to distribute your possessions most easily.
This isn’t to say it’s never worth the time & money to sell items. It’s always for you to decide how your time and money are best spent. Being honest with yourself and having clarity about what is involved in the selling process is essential for making sound decisions.
Rule: Keep only as many books as will fit on your shelves
If you have more books than can fit on your shelves. It’s time to take a hard look at your attachments and figure out how to let some go.
Unless it’s a collectable or has deep sentimental value, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like I paid a lot of money for this book and won’t be able to recoup my losses?
- Does having these books make me feel like an expert?
- Do I long for the days when I read with my children?
- Will I ever really have the time to catch upon the amount of reading I have stored here?
- Could I easily get this book at the library if I really needed it in the future?
As with many of the items in our home, we hang onto more than we need because of emotional attachments. Being aware of this pull can help you loosen your grip and reduce your clutter.
You have 3 basic options for books you don’t need:
1.) Give your books a new life. Donate to your local Friends of the Public Library, thrift stores, or recycling center. Sometimes, you can even get a library volunteer to come pick them up for you.
2.) Resell the books yourself. Shop them at your local used bookstore, on Craigslist, on eBay or even on Amazon. Though the ratio of books to cash can be quite low, it you have the time and energy, you can get something for them.
3.) Find someone to sell books for you. You can locate an eBay reseller or your local estate liquidator may have contacts for local book dealers.
While you are looking to make some money from your collection, don’t lose sight of the value of your own time when you take on a book-selling project.
Part of letting go of information is trusting that the resources will be available to you when you need them. And, who knows? You might even make a new friend while searching the library bookshelves for Moby Dick.
What has helped you declutter your bookshelves? Let us know!
Do you really want your home to turn into a library?
Books, CDs, toys, clothes, office supplies…how do you decide how much is enough?
Facing the challenge of purging any collection can be daunting. How can you bear to let go of things you still like or are still useful – even when they make your home feel cluttered?
If you’re having trouble setting boundaries around certain types of items one tactic we find useful is “Container As Arbitrary Limiter”. The idea here is to make a firm decision about where a collection is going to live and use that defined space to set the boundary on how much to keep.
Let’s take books as an example. Many people love their books and hate parting with them. Clearly, books live best standing up on shelves. So the available bookshelves in the house can be the “container” in this case. When the number of books owned overflows the available shelf space, a decision has to be made either to add more shelving, or get rid of some books! Which choice you make is up to you – it’s your home and you get to decide how much wall space is dedicated to storing books.
Do you have lots of great books that won’t fit on the shelves? Probably! But limiting the collection to ONLY what will comfortably fit on your shelves is an arbitrary way to set a boundary for yourself.
Setting a clear boundary that your book collection has to fit in the available space helps clarify why you are purging.
- Making conscious choices around limits is important if you want less clutter in your home.
- Having a clear limit helps objectify the purging process a little.
- Honoring those limits is a way of respecting your values and goals around how you want to live in your home.
If the collection starts to expand outside the boundaries of the shelves and you find there are books on the floor, coffee table, wedged into every available gap – that is a sign that you either need to re-assess the collection or redefined the limits.
If it’s difficult to determine when your collection is maxed out, a container provides objective feedback, letting you know how much is too much.
Read our related post: Aack! I can’t get rid of anything!