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Simple steps to turn a kids bedroom from chaos to order

Guest post by Jen Robinson

Have you ever felt that it would probably be easier to climb Mount Everest than to get your children to tidy their rooms? This used to drive me to distraction. It didn’t seem to matter how many times I instructed, demanded, pleaded or even helped them (did the whole thing myself), nothing ever seemed to change. The kids bedrooms were always a mess, they could never find their favourite toys and cleaning was a nightmare. I just didn’t know how to fix it.

Simple steps to turn a kids bedroom from chaos to order - a process of de-cluttering, reducing and organising that has completely changed our lives.

Then one day my daughter made a comment that completely changed the way I thought about the problem. She said, ‘What do I do with all this stuff? There’s too much!’

I thought about that for quite a while. It turned out that it wasn’t that my children were being lazy (though I’m sure that was a factor too), it’s just that they had so many possessions, they didn’t know where to put them. So when I told them to tidy their rooms they found it impossible to get their heads around the request and it was easier just to do nothing.

What followed was a process of de-cluttering, reducing and organising that has completely changed our lives.

A few things I have learnt along the way are …

1) Don’t try to do it all by yourself

The first thing I learnt was that it was very important to fully include the children in the de-cluttering process. I have discovered that as soon as I decide that something needs to be thrown away, it becomes the next favourite toy and nothing short of blowing it up will get that thing out of the room. Children place a lot of sentimental value upon things that appear to us to be junk and can become quite distressed if we throw them away. However, if the children are a part of the de-cluttering process, the likelihood of tears or tantrums over a thrown out item are greatly reduced.

2) Stop making things worse!

Perhaps the most important thing I realised was that I needed to stop adding to the problem. It doesn’t matter how many things you get rid of, if you keep adding new items, the situation will simply not improve. I know that it can be very tempting to continue to purchase lots of physical gifts for various occasions throughout the year. We often subconsciously believe that this shows our children how much we love them. In practice though, the thing they want the most is actually to spend quality time with you. One of the best ways I have found to give a gift without adding to the clutter is to replace physical gifts with experiences. Some of the gifts my children have received recently include a ride on a steam train, an evening at Cirque Du Soleil and patting a lion cub at a wildlife park. We celebrate special occasions with a gift that helps us to create lasting memories for the family, not stuff that needs to be thrown out or fought over later.

3) Create a ‘one in, one out’ rule

You know what it’s like… birthdays and Christmas come along and all of a sudden there seem to be a mountain of extra toys in the house, lovingly gifted by family and friends. Happily, these occasions signify that our children are growing up and mean that many of the toys they loved in years gone by have been outgrown. Before adding anything new to the bedroom, we have a look through these older toys and swap a new item for one of the old ones. This means that the new toys can have the attention they deserve and the old ones can be donated to make another child smile. I have found that my children are quite happy to donate their old toys to The Good Samaritans or some other charity and seem to take pleasure in the knowledge that by doing so, they are helping children less fortunate than themselves.

4) Keeping a photo record is enough

Perhaps one of the greatest creators of clutter, in my daughter’s room in particular, were her arts and crafts. Every playgroup, kindergarten session, birthday party or rainy weekend seemed to result in another magnificent creation to add to the collection. Some of these were adorable and sentimental and some were simply junk but for some reason we kept them all. It got to the point where it became ridiculous. That was when it struck me that I could photograph her creations and toss the items themselves. I was sure to get the images printed and we found a little photo album in which to display them. She looks through this album regularly and this allows her to keep the memories alive without the clutter.

Simple steps to turn a kids bedroom from chaos to order

5) Not everything needs to be stored in the bedroom

In our family we are all avid readers. I spend a small fortune on books and it is simply not practical to keep all of these in the children’s bedrooms. We have a large bookcase in the family room which stores most of these and only those in favour at the moment go into their rooms. We go through the bookcase about once a year and get rid of any books that have been outgrown so that we can make way for the new additions.

6) We don’t need to keep old school work

At the end of every school year a small mountain of papers and completed school work comes through my front door. It is simply not necessary to keep most of this. The learning has happened and the physical work will never be looked at again. I keep a few of the most interesting items, pictures and projects in a box specifically set aside for this purpose and toss the rest.

7) I can kill two birds with the one stone

When there’s a change of season and I need to buy larger sizes of clothing for the new temperature, it’s a great time to go through all of their clothes and have a good toss out. To get an idea about what has been outgrown and what needs replacing, I get everything out, bag up the outgrown clothes and make my shopping list. When it comes to shopping though, I believe that again, less is more. My children usually gravitate towards the same half a dozen items of clothing anyway and don’t seem to know what to do with the others. Have you noticed that rather than find somewhere to put them, kids will often put their clothes into the laundry basket even if they haven’t actually been worn? To save my sanity and litres of water, I have stopped overfilling their wardrobes with clothes they will never wear.

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8) Swapping toys for money makes the job easier

If you are struggling with getting your child to agree to get rid of their toys then something that might help is to hold a garage sale. There’s nothing quite like the promise of a few extra dollars from old toys to stimulate a de-cluttering session with kids. In fact, depending upon how well you talk it up, you might find that you have to slow them down a little when they start selecting the items to include. You must make an agreement though, that they get to keep all of the proceeds from the sale of their toys, or you won’t find them quite so eager to participate in the future. My children often want to use the money generated to buy a new toy, but that’s OK, because they will have gotten rid of quite a few old ones in the process. Of course it is important not to put any of the unsold items back into the room. Make sure that they are donated straight to charity.

9) It’s OK to take baby steps

A little while ago my daughter became quite enthusiastic about de-cluttering her room and we took advantage of the opportunity to take everything out, refresh the paint, change the room around and turn it from a baby’s room into a little girl’s room. In the end she was far more ruthless than I ever would have been and only a few very special items went back in. Things don’t have to be this drastic though and I didn’t do this with my son. We took a slower approach but the end result was much the same.

Don’t be discouraged, it’s always going to be a work in progress when we have to manage another person’s belongings. It’s far more difficult to be ruthless and toss lots of things when you have to run them by someone else but in this situation I definitely recommend it. Be consistent and bit by bit you will start to win the battle.

So next time you find yourself getting frustrated by the state of your child’s bedroom, consider whether they simply have too much to stuff in there and just don’t know what to do with it all. Try some of my clutter busting ideas and hopefully everyone’s stress will be reduced.

Do you have any tips to add to help turn kids bedrooms from chaos to order?

Guest post: Jen Robinson is a mother, teacher and blogger who writes for busy women who want to streamline their work, nurture their families and reconnect with their passions. She lives on a small rural block in Western Australia with her husband, 2 children and far too many animals.
Jen currently has a free decluttering worksheet available for readers here.

If you’d like more inspiration, visit her at her:
Blog (www.lifewrangling.com)
Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Lifewrangling)
Twitter (https://www.twitter.com/lifewrangling).



  1. May 5, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    The ‘one in, one out’ rule has worked well in our house. Also, moving from a large house to a tiny unit had them go through their stuff, decide what was important and now they treasure what they have more.

    Their room isn’t always perfect, it is much quicker and easier to clean though.

    • May 8, 2016 at 7:56 AM

      Thanks Kylie 🙂 Downsizing is great for eliminating clutter.

  2. May 5, 2016 at 7:37 AM

    I agree that the kids have so much stuff that they really don’t know where to put it sometimes. Great advice on helping them declutter.

    • May 8, 2016 at 7:55 AM

      Thanks for reading Lori 🙂