Decluttering Kids Rooms

Author: Naomi Liddell

Does anyone else become acutely aware of the sheer amount of kid crap in their house at this time of year? Perhaps it’s the impending influx of Christmas presents that brings on the need for a clear out. So rather than leaving it to the new year (when everyone’s all in the declutter-new-year-new-me mood) I thought I’d be sensible and give you my tips on decluttering kids rooms this side of the silly season.

These are all tried and tested by me. Each are quite simple things you can do year round to keep everything manageable and avoid a ginormous clear out. Although this will also give you some guidance on that ginormous clear out if you’re currently struggling to push the door open to their bedroom. 

Decluttering Kids Artwork

If you’re like me and get sentimental over even the barely legible drawings they flood back from school, then let’s first agree that you can’t keep every single piece of paper your kids hand you. There’s something difficult about chucking their artwork out, but it is kinda necessary. Unless you’re happy to drown in 18 years worth of paper eventually. So as things come in I assess whether I want to keep it or not. The more generic school stuff gets chucked straight in the recycling. Then in Ethan’s bedroom we have:

  1. A concertina folder
  2. A string with bulldog clips on it along the wall

All of which can be picked up at your local B&Ms or Home Bargains for a few quid. The concertina folder has a section labelled for each year (Age 4, Age 5, etc.) and we write the year on the back of each piece and pop any sentimental ones in there. It doesn’t take up too much space and it means that technically, his whole life of meaningful drawings/paper should live in one folder. 

If he’s really proud of something he’s made or done, it will get pinned up on the string on the wall with a bulldog clip. The string along the length of the wall acts as his own little curated gallery of his favourite drawings, cards from friends, photos of the family, etc. We thought it would be a nice way to inject his identity into his bedroom. We had planned next year to replace it with a row of 5 clipboards to make it more uniform, but the string works well for now. Then if they want to make more room on their wall, they swap it with something else and the old item either gets filed or tossed.

If you’re super struggling with the idea of tossing sentimental paper, but you want to keep a limit on the amount you keep, take a picture on your phone of everything they bring home and save it to a folder. Then just keep the super special notes and drawings in a folder. 

Decluttering Kids Clothes

The rate kids grow is terribly annoying. No sooner have we bought Ethan jeans than they’re swinging around his ankles. Then we have to hide the fact by making him wear hi-top boots until we can get out shopping again. This happens about every 6 months. Team that with an ever-growing baby and we have a big clothing turnover in our house. So what to do with the clothes they’ve outgrown? Well, you could wait until the wardrobe becomes overwhelming and you have to do a BIG sort out. Or you can do it as you go. This is what’s worked for me:

  1. A box for hand-me-downs to get passed on.
  2. A permanent laundry basket/bin as an exit route for donations.

At the top of Ethan’s wardrobe (next to the concertina folder of drawings) we have an IKEA box that’s just for clothes we’re going to keep for Finn. We try to make sure they’re in great condition and also classic pieces that aren’t going to be out of fashion in 4 years time. 

At the bottom of my built-in wardrobe we have this slim fit IKEA bin. The bin is always lined with a plastic bin bag (you can use your regular old black bags or these biodegradable ones), and the roll of bags lives in the bottom permanently. As I’m sorting the clean washing, or as they get ready in the morning, if it becomes apparent that something doesn’t fit them anymore, it gets folded and thrown straight into the donate bin. Once the bag is full, the clothing gets donated. Simple. Ongoing. And much easier than having to do a mass clear out or having half-full bags lying around my hall all the time.

Decluttering Kids Toys

This is the hard one, isn’t it? There’s so much emotion tied up in toys. Whether that’s our kiddos not wanting to let things go or our parental denial that they have grown up – and don’t want to play with that thing you spent £80 on last Christmas anymore (Paw Patrol boat, I’m looking at you). There is much debate online about whether children should be involved in the decluttering of their toys. But I’ll just tell you what’s worked for our family and you can make up your own mind on how to tackle it. 

We made an international move back to the UK from Australia when Ethan was three years old and I’m convinced that has turned him into a hoarder. I mean, the boy objects when I donate my clothes “Mum, I really like that jumper on you”. I’m pretty sure getting rid of a ton and packing all our things into a shipping container has had some kind of effect on him. To the point that when we try to involve him in the decluttering process he gets waaaaayyyyy too upset. 

For us, the sneak tactic works best. Once in a while, when he’s at school, I go in and load up a box full of things I’m certain he no longer plays with. This box goes in the garage. If he noticed something is gone and is looking for it, I’d get it for him. Otherwise, after a couple of months, the box gets donated. To this day, he has never noticed anything that’s gone to the garage. 

If your kid is emotionally able to deal with parting with things, perhaps you can adopt the one-in-one-out rule. So for every new toy brought home, they have to choose something to pass on. When Ethan gets a bit older we’ll definitely give this another go.
This post is going on for long enough as it is, but I’m sure we can do another one soon (maybe after the big bearded man has been and turned our houses upside down) about toy storage and how to actually deal with all those belongings you do want to keep. 

Let me know if you found these tips helpful and as always, please share your mastermind advice on kid clutter below. Even those I know who are more minimalist in their approach struggle with the quantity of kid stuff from time to time. 


Naomi loves daytime baths, learning things and rock music.
(Oh and her kids. She loves them too)
Follow Naomi on Instagram @naomiliddell
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14 thoughts on “Decluttering Kids Rooms

  1. A post on toy storage would be great Naomi. I’m on the hunt for a chest of drawers that doesn’t look like a chest of drawers and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I find drawers much easier than shelves or cupboards for storing the wee fiddly bits in. We are coming down with the Ikea kallax (or whatever it’s called now) and it’s great but……

    1. Susie drawers are so much easier than shelves. I’m with you there. Great brief for the post. We have an IKEA Kallax and it’s the best for storage, but yeah… I’ll need to find some equally functional but different storage ideas.

  2. Great tips Naomi! I try hard to live a more minimal existence, but feel like we’re perpetually struggling with the ongoing cycle of outgrown clothes, accessories, toys, and other toddler paraphernalia! And, with another little one arriving in the new year, I’m keen to get the house sorted. Love the Ikea donate bin idea and I do the toys-to-the-garage trick too – he hasn’t missed one yet. Agree that I would love more ‘smart’ storage ideas for kids’ rooms and general living areas – baskets are my best friend at the moment but there’s only so many our home can take!

    1. I love a basket too Danni. But I’ll get my thinking/researching cap on for some ‘smart’ storage. Good way to put it. Perhaps that should be the title of the post?

  3. Another idea for the artwork is to get it made into a coffee table book. I haven’t done it because I’m quite attached to the actual pictures, but I have seen services where you either send all of the artwork off to them or send in photos. Then you can keep it forever and it won’t fade or get damaged.

    1. Oh Jade that’s genius. How nice would it be to have a row of these books over the years? I’ll need to look into that.

  4. Wow! I have just done exactly this. Has left my boys toy chests empty in their rooms, ready and waiting to be filled with whatever Santa brings!

    I find that a yearly toy clear out is good. My kids also feel very much on the cusp between diplo and lego… so I keep all of it, knowing how much fun they can keep getting out of Duplo if the mood is right . I’ve got boxes of stuff in garage and try to rotate it round to keep things fresh it seems to work but isn’t fool proof x

  5. I love this post so much! Have one of those bins doing nothing in my garage – come the new year it will have a new life.

    I have a little boy and we’re trying got another baby and I’m finding I’m just keeping EVERYTHING!! He’s now 3 and the amount of grown out of clothes is ever increasing.

    I’d love a new year toy storage post. The toys in our living room are kept in nice IKEA boxes of different colours and sizes which also match our decor! When we actually bother to tidy everything away it looks like a grown up room which is nice. Larger toys like a car park and painting easel are in the cupboard under the stairs!

    1. Sarah you need vacuum bags in your life for those hand-me-downs. Just chuck the clothes in according to age and make sure you label them. Also, try to keep them somewhere accessible rather than the loft or you’ll end up digging out the 6 month clothes when baby is 2. Haha. xo

  6. I have a son 15 and daughter 12. The last few years I’ve minimised everything. They are totally on board with it too. If it no longer fits or gets played with off it goes to FB marketplace or Ebay or a car boot sale. If the item was bought for them, birthday or Christmas, then they get the money. If not, say a winter coat I bought for them, the money goes back into buying a new one. I’ve found this approach is teaching them the value of money. If my daughter gets £10 for something she no longer wants or needs, she is very selective of what she would spend the money on – compared to me giving her £10 just because. This way there’s no complaining when we have a clear out.

  7. This is a very spendy solution, I will warn you now, but have you come across Doodle Nest? I haven’t done it myself yet but I LOVE the idea of turning children’s creations into a beautifully photographed coffee table book. Re the drawers above, we use the Muji opaque drawers. While I appreciate these are not the prettiest either, they stack nicely and hold a good amount of trains/cars/musical instruments… and work very well for us. They look slightly prettier than some alternatives and are very flexible. Although also drowning in a sea of stuff at the moment, we are hoping to move just after Christmas so I am trying to keep my head above water for another couple of weeks!!

  8. Very late to this post but I’m always looking for toy decluttering and storage ideas. My eldest was 4 at the beginning of Dec and my youngest is 2 at the beginning of Feb so I always feel I need a big clear out in Nov. They don’t have that many toys compared to a lot of their friends but it still feels too much to me, and now it’s insane, where am I supposed to put ALL the vehicles?! We have an entire Kallax box full and its not enough! And where does the combine harvester, tractor and tailer go?! I feel another clear out coming!! Lol!

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