Tuesday 16 August 2022

Using the Marie Kondo method to declutter an older child or teenager's room

For a little while my teenage son's bedroom had been descending into chaos, so I decided that we would tackle it together at the beginning of the summer holidays and have a really good clear out and clean. I'm a big fan of the Marie Kondo method for decluttering and organising, and so I decided that we would use this method in his bedroom. It was really successful and his room looks so much better now,  so I thought I'd share how we used the method on his room.

The Marie Kondo method involves sorting possessions by category. You start with categories of items that have little sentimental attachment and can obviously be removed. The main categories are clothes, books and paperwork, and then you move onto the smaller categories which can be customised based on the sorts of things that you own. 

I came up with a category list before we started, and I also added things as we went along. I've shared our category list below, and I'll go into detail about each one.

Marie Kondo for a child or teenager's bedroom

Downloadable a printable version of the checklist

Before you start, if possible clear a sorting area and gather together large boxes, bin bags, and bags for charity donations. As you sort you will find things that belong to later categories or to a new category so it's a good idea to have somewhere to keep them. Prepare for a few days of mess!

We did the declutter slowly and worked on a category or two every day. I planned the next day's category in advance and where possible gathered the items together in my sorting area. That way we both knew what was coming up. If we had a busy day then I planned a smaller and easier category to work on. 

I also cleaned as we went along, for example pulling out the bed to hoover underneath and giving the window a good clean. As the room begins to empty it's a good opportunity to think about whether your existing storage systems are working, and whether you need to look at repurposing or purchasing new storage.

Clothes - For me this is the easiest category for children as it's really obvious which things have been grown out of and can be passed on. I also keep on top of it anyway - every time we pack for a holiday I take out the things that no longer fit! I take clothes that are still in really good condition to the charity shop, and those which are a little more worn to the supermarket recycling bins.

Books - Again I find this quite an easy category as children's interests change so quickly and they grow out of books. But I am also quite careful here as I've recently found myself re-purchasing some of my old childhood favourites! So I found Harry a large box for carefully chosen 'sentimental' books which he can keep in his wardrobe.

Paperwork - I tried to start with the least sentimental items of paperwork, so for a child this includes instruction leaflets for toys, schoolwork, old notebooks, certificates and all the random pieces of paper that end up lying around. Some of the paperwork can be dealt with in the sentimental category, for example photos, letters and postcards, diaries and journals. 

Bags and accessories - Hats and caps, jewellery, belts, ties and so on.

Stationery - I like to sort this into 'current' stationery, including school pencil cases and desk stationery, and 'spare' stationery for when this runs out. Make sure that the pens all work, pencils are sharpened etc. and there isn't too much excess in the spare category. 

Decorative items - Pictures on the walls, cushions, blankets, fairy lights, ornaments and trinkets.

Jigsaws and games - Always a satisfying declutter as the boxes take up lots of room! I included card games, board games and puzzle games in this category.

Large toys - Playmobil sets, dolls houses, marble runs and so on.

Construction sets - For my son the majority of this category was Lego, also KNEX, Meccano, and magnet activity sets. 

Action figures and dolls - Also the accessories that go along with them like bottles and clothes.

Small toys and collectibles - Figurines like Pokemon toys, Shopkins, LOL Dolls and I also included trading cards. If you are getting rid of these then it might be worth looking at whether it's worth selling as they may have some value.

Completed craft projects - This was a surprisingly large category. Pottery painting efforts, sculptures from school and various other creations. Luckily much of it was no longer wanted!

Soft toys - Possibly the toughest category! But I found that putting stuffed animals together in one place really helped to see just how many there were. Our school loves to take these as donations for the soft toy raffle at the summer fair.

Sentimental - All those precious things that are much harder to part with, although my son was much more ruthless than I expected. I found that we had different ideas about the things that would be sentimental to him, so I had to let him take the lead! It could be photographs, ticket stubs, holiday souvenirs, postcards, gifts from friends or relatives, journals and so on. 

Extra categories - All children are different and you are bound to come up with extra categories as you go along. For example - toiletries and makeup, computer games and gaming accessories, DVDs, sporting equipment, badges, craft supplies.

Teenage girl's bedroom decluttering
Photo credit Kenny Eliason via Unsplash

For me the most difficult part of the tidy is getting rid of the excess items. There are lots of options - passing things to a younger relative or friend, selling, donating to a charity shop or recycling for example, and ideally it should be done as soon as possible. I like to at least get things neatly packed up so that I can grab a bag or two to take to the charity shop or deliver to a friend when I get the chance.

Just one last thought - when it comes to decluttering with children I think that the age of the child makes a huge difference. With very young children I think it's best not to really involve them, and instead I would just do the decluttering myself. Many of their possessions are ones that they've been given and they outgrow things so quickly. 

But older children have many more things which are sentimental to them, and things that they've specifically requested as gifts or chosen and purchased with their own money. So I think that using the Marie Kondo method works really well with older children and teenagers. I also think that regular decluttering is a really good habit to work on while they are younger so that they learn to keep on top of things, and hopefully they will remember this method so that they can use it in the future.

Category list background credit - Alessio Soggetti via Unsplash

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