keeping a simple home with kids


i get asked often (by readers and friends alike) how to maintain a simple, minimalist home with children.  because i have two myself (7 and 3), i know the struggles.  and have written about it myself: minimalism and children.  while researching the topic, i found an article on zenhabits titled: 21 tips on keeping a simple home with kids.

here are some of the highlights:

  • Identify the important. The first step in decluttering is identifying which toys and other possessions are truly important to the kids. What do they play with, what do they love? Then get rid of as much of the rest as possible, keeping only those they use and love.
  • Massively purge. In the beginning, if you have a lot of kid clutter, you’ll want to go through a massive purge. The way to do this is to block off a day to go through their rooms. Do one area at a time: a drawer, a section of the closet, a shelf. Take everything out of that area, put it in a pile. From that pile, take only the really important stuff. Get rid of the rest.
  • Leave space. When you put the important stuff back, don’t try to fill up each drawer, shelf or closet area. Allow there to be some space around the objects. It’s much nicer looking, and it leaves room for a couple of extra items later if necessary.
  • A home for everything. We haven’t actually completely succeeded at this, but we try to teach the kids that everything they own has a “home”. This means that if they’re going to put away a toy, they should know where its home is, and put it there.
  • Allow them to mess. Kids are not perfect. They will inevitably make a mess. You have to allow them to do this. Then, when they’re done, ask them to clean it up. No harm, no foul.
  • Go for quality. Instead of getting them a huge pile of cheap junk, go for quality toys or possessions that will last long. Wood is better than plastic, for example.

if you have small children, you will enjoy the entire article.  some of the steps you will instinctively be doing already.  others will bring you new inspiration. 

related posts:

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    I really like that article.. I read it a while back.

    However, as for the ‘massive purging’, I found it very helpful NOT to do a small section at a time; when you take out E-V-E-R-Y toy your kid has and put them all together on a table / on the floor, you’ll finally see what a bunch of crap you’ve collected over the years.

    When you’d do a drawer / shelf at a time, you are much more inclined to think: “Ohh, it’s not so bad, there’s only a few of…..” whereas when you put everything together, you’ll REALLY be shocked and more motivated to purge. :)

    Greetings from the netherlands!

  2. says

    My kids are 13 and 11 and I’ve purged their rooms about once a year for their lives to date, including twice for moves where I’ve gotten rid of multiple Hefty pages of stuff. Amazingly, stuff keeps accumulating.

    I recently read a quote somewhere (maybe at ZenHabits?) about letting kids have some freedom of expression in how they live, including a messy space if they want it, so this year I’ve decided to let them live in their own space with these caveats:

    1. No food in bedrooms.
    2. I only do laundry that is in hampers (I will *not* pick things up off the floor or go searching for dirty clothes). So, if you want it for school, get it in a hamper or wash it yourself.
    3. The floor must be *completely* clear once every two weeks for the cleaning lady so she can vacuum, dust and make beds. I don’t care where it goes, but the stuff has to be hidden. :~)

    I went through and cleared all the floors by putting everything in clear bins and stacking them up in the closet and around the edge of the rooms. I offered to help them sort any time they want, but I warned them that my style is to toss A LOT a la Peter Walsh, so no one has taken me up on this offer yet.

    I don’t know yet how this social experiment is going to work. It’s been almost two weeks and I have to just close the doors to their rooms to avoid looking at the mess. I didn’t come to a simplified life until my late 20’s and minimalism until my late 30’s, so it may take a while until they drink the kool aid with me.


  3. di says

    My boyfriends’ kids kept most of their books all over their bedroom floor. One day, I returned most of them to their book shelf. My boyfriend would not let me finish returning the remainder. When the kids came home, they were upset that their room had been cleaned.

    The dust and dirt was extremely unhealthy.

    But to each his own. Even when you think you’re doing something nice for someone, it may not be the way they wish to live.

  4. di says

    From an early age, I taught my girls how to take good care of themselves.

    Every summer, I’d give them an additional responsibility. It was a good time for them to learn something new and incorporate it into their daily routine.

    By the age of twelve, they vacuumed and did their own laundry. Before going to bed, they put things away in their room and chose their outfits for the next day.

    As teens, they learned to cook, iron and wash their own dishes.

    I wanted them to be confident in taking good care of themselves before pursuing a career.

    My oldest rebelled. My youngest insisted on learning everything at an early age. Each matured at different rates.

  5. di says

    I always cleaned my kids’ room with them until they reached a certain age where they could do it independently.

  6. di says

    My kids only had 3 small boxes of toys, half a dozen games and a dozen books. They watched Sesame Street and other children’s programs. We walked in the woods, went to the beach, library or visited friends. There was also time to lounge, rest and just enjoy each other’s company.

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