Learning from Lockdown – my 5 decluttering rules for families
The challenge of lockdown
For most people with a young family, lockdown has been a challenging time. The list of activities that parents have had to add to their daily routines since kids have been home from school seems endless.
Over the past few weeks, you’ve had to help with school work, find ways to keep children entertained, carefully plan excursions to get exercise and fresh air whilst social distancing, provide a catering service offering breakfast, lunch and an evening meal (and regular snacks) – all on top of things like the weekly shop or keeping your house tidy – not forgetting the fact that you still need to dial into ZOOM conference calls at hourly intervals because you’re working from home.
Life can quickly start to feel claustrophobic and family relationships have to bear the strain.
Lessons from lockdown
But although lockdown has been challenging, it has also taught us some important life lessons.
If you are like me, you’re actually enjoying being at home with your closest family and have started to appreciate other family members who we haven’t been able to see in person. We can appreciate nature growing around us without having to compete with traffic and exhaust fumes. Instead of jumping in the car to go to another part of the country, we’re noticing how much our local areas have to offer and time we spent commuting is now being used to exercise or read books.
Managing the space we live in – the benefits of decluttering
Another thing that we can also learn from being in lockdown is the value of decluttering – that is, keeping our living spaces organised, tidy and free from mess. There’s nothing like living in the same space for a long time to help you realise that you need to keep it clutter-free and tidy, and that keeping it tidy helps you feel more comfortable, relaxed and happier to spend time there. And the less space you have to live in, the more important it is to keep it tidy.
Staying Clutter-free. 5 key rules for young families
But keeping your living space tidy is easier said than done, especially when you think of that long daily to-do list I rattled off at the start of this article. So, when I work with young families, I recommend five golden rules to help them stay clutter-free:
1. Take steps to reduce clutter.
Young children in particular often receive a lot of presents and end up with toys and games they don’t need. They can easily forget about everything they have and just carry on playing with a few favourite toys! Try to avoid buying or receiving extra presents for the sake of it and concentrate on giving children fewer toys that they will really value. If they’re not playing with something, it shows they don’t need it, so try selling it second-hand or passing it on to friends, family or giving it to a charitable cause. You’ll end up with more space, spend less time tidying up and be helping someone less fortunate.
2. Let your children play with one toy for longer.
When children have an endless choice of toys to play with, they’ll end up playing with them for a short time only. Set clear rules about how many toys they can play with during a given period and be firm about policing them. Your children and you will start to find more creative ways of playing, and their toys will take on more meaning and value.
3. Makes sure everything you keep has a “home”
– a logical space where things can be easily put away, still within reach for children to play with them. A golden rule is to sort toys into logical categories, with labels on transparent boxes, whenever possible.
4. Space savers.
Use fabric sacks to replace bulky toy boxes. These use up less space and are easier to store. Attach clear labels or cut out the toy label/picture from the box to neck of the sack. So even toddlers can recognise which toy each sack contains.
5. Make them responsible.
When you give children responsibility for keeping their space tidy, they feel empowered. It gives them the feeling they are in charge and that you trust them – and make sure you set a good example with your own tidying habits! You can start with making tidying up a competition game. For example, set a timer to start collecting and putting away jigsaw sets or lego blocks against a parent, friend or sibling; the winner will be adequately rewarded!
More than just space management
Following those five key rules offers families benefits on lots of different levels.
To start with, you’ll simply have less tidying to do around the house, which in turns frees up time for you to do things you actually want to spend your time doing. You’ll start to appreciate your living space more and feel less stressed about having to tidy up repeatedly, and giving children clear rules about keeping spaces tidy should also help to prevent those family “meltdowns” we are all too familiar with.
But perhaps just as significantly, you’ll be teaching your children the value of their toys, encouraging them to appreciate and take better care of their possessions. You’ll also be getting them into good habits and helping them to understand the value of taking responsibility for tidying up after themselves.