On Letting Our Children Declutter

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For the first however many months or so of simplifying, my children didn’t want to declutter…

They weren’t interested in sorting out their much loved toys, until one day, they were. But the thing I quickly realised, was that they wanted to declutter all of the things that I really wanted to keep. “Are you sure you want to donate that eye pleasing teddy?” check. “Do you really want to pass on that well made train set?” check. “And you really want to sell, my favourite toy of you own?” check, check and check.

Gosh it was hard. Here they were willing and able to declutter and I was standing in their way, the very same I, who had been waiting for this moment for months. At first I couldn’t handle it and so I steered them towards getting rid of the things that I wasn’t attached to. I mean I could handle donating that game that I quite liked but we hardly played but the dolls house that I had lovingly spent hours searching for, well that was slightly harder.

Yet they were decluttering and that was what I wanted right? Did I really want to hold onto all of this stuff for no real reason, or did I want them to let go of what they didn’t love and use. Because I couldn’t have both, at least not in the amounts that I wanted to keep.

I started to think about how I would feel if I had built up the momentum to declutter, only to be told that I was wrong, that I should be holding onto the thing that I was ready to simplify, the thing that held no meaning for me. I knew that it would make me frustrated and hurt for having my judgement questioned, so surely it was the same for my kids?

I worked on my feeling around this by practicing and reading more and more about minimalism. We were in this for the long haul and so I had to trust my children. I was already okay with them not wanting to declutter and so I had to be okay with them wanting to declutter, the things I didn’t want them to. And yes, more than likely I had spent money on some of the things that they wanted to minimise but once I had bought the toy, the teddy, the book and given it to my children - surely it was theirs to decide.

Just as I would treat a gift as soon as it was placed into my hands, it was mine to do with as I wish, so really it should be the same for them. I have certainly simplified presents, lovingly given to me by my husband and my family and just because I liked something once, doesn’t mean I have to like it forever.

And so after a while I stopped saying something, when when things I didn’t want to leave made their way into the charity bag. I stopped valuing my feelings over their stuff and instead, started putting my trust in theirs.

Sometimes that meant that a tacky plastic toy stayed over a nice wooden one but in that moment, that was what sparked them the most joy. And biting my tongue worked, bedrooms slowly became simplified, toys that remained were loved and played with and the declutter muscle, was being flexed for us all.

One day, my daughter decided that she wanted to sell something, that I had bought her only a few month earlier. It was quite an expensive play set, which I thought that she would really like. And she did briefly but then it just got pushed to the side, in favour of her preferred play set because even she knew - that she really didn't need more. But I could have said no. I could have asked her to keep it, just to ease the feeling of wasting money but instead, I asked if she was sure and she was.

It left the house that day and the bit of money we did make was saved. We gained extra space, a better understanding, on what and what not to buy in the first place and more importantly, we gained trust in each other - over what goes and what remains. We set the scene for a lifetime of mindful ownership, created repeated patterns of only keeping what we love and use, in valuing extra space over stuff gathering dust, and are living our daily lives, in tune with our own path to minimalism.