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Get Organized for Your Kids' Sake

Updated on January 16, 2020
Susan Caplan McCarthy profile image

After growing up in a home with parents who hoarded, Susan cleared her own clutter and then became a decluttering coach to help others.

Is It a Treasure or Clutter?

If you’re in your 50s or 60s (or older), you may be decluttering with an eye toward downsizing to a new home.

Or, you’ve had to empty the house that belonged to a parent or another family member and you couldn’t help wondering why they kept the stuff they did. Then, you started looking at the stuff you own and wondered what your family would think of your possessions.

Or, maybe, you find that having a lot of stuff is making it more difficult for you to keep your house clean and organized.

So, you start decluttering. Only, as you sort through the stuff in your house, you find yourself wondering if your kids or nieces and nephews would like this stuff someday. You return the items to their boxes thinking that someday your kids will appreciate that you saved all these things. Maybe they’ll be able sell this stuff for a lot of money in the future!

After a while, you realize you’re holding onto more stuff than you’re decluttering and wonder if you’re wasting your time trying to get organized.

Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Clutter

Margaret Magnuson in her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning encourages you to clear clutter for your family and your sake.
Margaret Magnuson in her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning encourages you to clear clutter for your family and your sake. | Source

What’s Important to You?

Chances are that several items in your home are connected to your personal experiences and achievements. Add in more stuff that reflects your family’s activities and you have a lot of sentimental items.

When decluttering, start with things that you don’t have a sentimental attachment to. Sort through your clothing, old files, kitchen gadgets, and so on. You can always go back to the things that are connected to your memories and judge if they’re important to hold onto.

Create a Keepsake Box

Gather things that are important only to you and store them in a shoebox. These are things that will be meaningless to your family but that you like to pull out and reminisce with once a year. This is the place for small items that you wouldn’t put on display but don’t want to toss in a drawer where it will become senseless clutter.

If it doesn’t fit in a small keepsake box and you don’t have it one display, consider what benefit you gain by keeping something stored in a box in your attic or out in your garage.

You Don't Have to Keep Things No One Wants

In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margaret Magnuson recommends that individual declutter things no one wants.
In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margaret Magnuson recommends that individual declutter things no one wants. | Source

What’s Important to Your Kids?

A lot of people act as conservators of their adult children’s childhood. They have toys stashed away because they are certain that their children will want to show their kids what they played with once upon a time.

They keep boxes of school papers because, well, won’t their kids think it’s funny to show off to their kids the C- they got on that third-grade spelling test?

Some parents even keep their children’s trophies and collections on display … even though these things were part of their kids’ lives twenty or thirty years ago.

At one point, I tried to help my parents by organizing the basement. In with some of my old toys, I found a set of broken badminton racquets and a net with holes. When I went to throw these things away, my mother stopped me.

She told me to return the items to the basement because someday the grandkids would play with them. Only, she didn't have grandkids! And, if she did, why would she want them to play with things held together with tape?

Be honest with yourself when deciding if something is worth holding onto.

Holding onto stuff that you think your kids will want?

Ask them if they want the items.

Talk to Your Kids

Although this seems like a simplistic solution, a lot of people don’t do this because they think that their adult kids won’t answer the right way (as in, you won’t hear the answer you want to hear).

Also, it can hurt to hear that things you’ve held onto for years (decades) are unwanted. You may be frustrated to learn you’ve been storing things for no reason – things that have taken up space and that you may have had to clean or rearrange, which took a lot of your time.

You may also feel angry that they don’t want things you consider family heirlooms.

However, times changes. Few people host dinner parties that require linen napkins, silver flatware, china plates, and crystal wine glasses. And those collectible figurines probably collect more dust than fond feelings nowadays.

Take a deep breath and consider how much appreciation and use you’ve shown these things. Maybe you’ve been holding onto them out of obligation. It’s okay to let this stuff go.

Declutter for Yourself

You aren't just decluttering for your kids' benefit. You are making your home cleaner, clearer, and more spacious.
You aren't just decluttering for your kids' benefit. You are making your home cleaner, clearer, and more spacious. | Source

What Legacy Do You Want to Leave?

According to Elizabeth Stewart, author of No Thanks Mom: The Top 10 Objects Your Kids Do Not Want, a lot of things that you think your kids may want someday are just cluttering up your home.

If an item is special to you, let your kids know about it now. However, just because something is important to you doesn’t mean that it will have any significance for your children. Ask your kids. If they say something isn’t important to them, don’t hold onto it because you think they’ll change their mind. They likely won’t.

What Items Do Your Kids Not Want?

Old snapshots and greeting cards
Steamer trunks, sewing machines, and old film projection equipment
Porcelain collectibles
Silver-plated items
Heavy, dark furniture
Persian rugs
Silver flatware and crystal
China plates

Want more information about the top 10 objects your kids don’t want – and what to do with them? Read Stewart’s book.

Let It Go

Organizing for your kids means that you let go of things you don’t need, use, and like. You don’t feel obligated to hold onto something because you hope someone might use it someday. You realize that just because something belonged to someone in your family, that doesn’t make it special to you.

You surround yourself with things you use and things you enjoy looking at. Your kids will be happy for you and for themselves.


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