As a practicing minimalist mom, I've struggled with kids toy clutter a ton. Here's how I encourage healthy minimalism with my kids.

8 Steps to Teaching Kids Minimalism

One of the questions I get asked about the most is how I started a minimalist lifestyle with kids. It’s no secret that kids toys and products can easily take over your life if you let them. OK, it’s not really about letting them take over, it just kind of…happens. You might know that a clutter-free home makes you feel more tranquil and at peace, but you can’t seem to declutter with kids around all the time. If so, have no fear, I’ve put together a no-nonsense list of ideas for how you can practice minimalism with kids while teaching them how to apply minimalism to their lives as well! (No multi-step organizational systems required.)

Step 1: Declutter first, then organize

I cannot tell you how many times as a new mom I thought I could get an handle on things if I just applied more organizational tools to my life. Don’t ask me why I thought bringing more systems, and stuff into my life would somehow make things easier, but I did.

The idea of bringing more stuff in our homes, and applying more routines to our lives sounds like a crazy way to simplify, and yet, I don’t think I’m the only one who has bought into this myth. That’s why, if you’re thinking all you need is a few more organizational bins, storage totes, or drawer organizers, let me stop you right there. You don’t.

The best way to begin applying minimalism to your life with kids is by decluttering first and organizing second. My go-to method for decluttering any space is by using my 4 bin method. Using this simple decluttering system has allowed me to stop scatter cleaning and focus on actually tidying one area at a time. Grab my eBook, The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go for more help on clearing clutter.

As a practicing minimalist mom, I've struggled with kids toy clutter a ton. Here's how I encourage healthy minimalism with my kids.

Step 2: Find Cute Ways to Hide Clutter

Don’t deny it, life with kids feels chaotic sometimes, and it’s not just the toy clutter that makes it feel that way. This is why doing what you can to create a visually enjoyable home just might help you breathe a little easier every day. Studies show there are so many benefits to having a clutter-free home, but if you can’t actually achieve clutter-free, there are ways to fake it!

When my kids were babies and my living room was already taken over by exersaucers and baby swings, I knew I had to do something to keep the toy clutter out of sight as much as possible. That’s why I invested in cute storage that looked like home decor. This could be a coffee table that secretly lifts, decorative bins neatly stored on shelves, or even a nice TV consul with plenty of cupboard space!

Another method I talk about in The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go is having a one bin method for storing toy clutter. This makes cleaning up easier at the end of the day and provides a simple way for kids to learn to practice minimalism by picking up after themselves.

Step 3: Let kids clean

When my kids were young (ages 2 and 3) they always wanted to help me clean whenever they saw me vacuuming or wiping windows. Far be it for me to deny a little help around the house, I would always let them help me clean up. If you’re raising your eyebrows right now and thinking, Didn’t they just make a bigger mess? The answer is yes, yes they did.

Even though allowing kids to help clean can sometimes make your chores take a little longer (groan), it instills in them a sense of confidence and a desire to care for their space. This is one of the first steps to encouraging children to apply minimalism to their lives at a young age. Learning the value working for a tidy home is something that can be both learned and observed.

As a practicing minimalist mom, I've struggled with kids toy clutter a ton. Here's how I encourage healthy minimalism with my kids.

Step 4: Don’t make kids keep clutter

I know our original goal here was to talk about how to get our kids to declutter and practice minimalism, but something that may or may not surprise you is that often times parents are the problem. If you just bought your child a $50 toy and they express no interest in playing with it, do you insist that they do? if they were to tell you you could give it away, would you feel angry? Me too. That’s $50 I’ll never see again. It’s incredibly frustrating.

However, if the goal is to instill in our children a sense of detachment from material possessions, shouldn’t we allow them to detach from or declutter what they feel is best?

Now, if you’re wondering what in the world would happen if you decluttered that toy only to have them want it back 2 weeks later, I have a solution for that too…

Step 5: Have a Maybe Bin

In my 4 bin declutter method that I mentioned above, I have a Maybe Bin. This can be used for parents and kids alike. Essentially a Maybe Bin is a box or tote where we can store things that we think we might be ready to part with but aren’t quite sure. When doing this for yourself, you might opt to store your clothes that no longer fit, hand-me-down decorations you never display, or that kind of outdated artwork that you’re not sure if you like.

When it comes to kids you can begin applying the Maybe Bin even before they’re old enough to fight you on it. As you make your rounds tidying the house, chances are you’ll begin coming across toys that you don’t see them play with anymore. When this happens, scoop up these toys and store them in their Maybe Bin. You can hide this in the same place Santa hides their presents. (Wink, wink) If in 6 months, or whatever time frame you feel comfortable with, they haven’t asked about that toy, you can drop it off at the donation center! Grab The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go if you want more of a deep-dive into decluttering and the 4 bin method.

As they get older, you can begin including them in the Maybe Bin process. Check out the video below of my 13 year old using the Maybe Bin for the first time while we were decluttering her room.


Basic rules we follow for decluttering kids bedrooms πŸ‘‡πŸ½ πŸ‘‰πŸ½ Kids are in charge of what stays and what goes πŸ‘‰πŸ½ We go through everything together (They tend to struggle solo) πŸ‘‰πŸ½ We declutter before birthdays, spring cleaning, and Christmas Being more hands on and verb about decluttering without pressure has taught my kids to adapt the habits of decluttering and they see and feel the benefits of living with what they value. #decluttering #declutteringwithkids #kidsbedroom #teenbedroom #minimalistfamily #minimalismwithabigfamily #minimalismwithkids #bedroommakeoverideas #declutterfirst #declutteryourlife #organizationhacks #organizationforkids

♬ Little Things – Tiqta

Step 6: Allow your kids to declutter

When your kids are old enough (5+) you can begin welcoming them into the decluttering process. This is where my 4 bin method really comes in handy! I purchased declutter bins for when I did in-home declutter sessions but found them to be the most helpful in teaching my kids minimalism and decluttering methods.

Taking the time to teach them how to declutter, of course, is another time-consuming method, but can benefit them so much in the long run. Decluttering with our kids is something we do at least 2 times per year. Going through this process of elimination with them has demonstrated for them that filtering through their possessions is simply a normal thing to do so that they can adapt it into adulthood.

Step 7: Pay kids for their clutter

In recent years I had a random idea that has really been helpful when it comes to getting our kids to declutter. I started paying them per bag of clutter! If you fill this garbage bag with toys to donate, I will give you $5.

Rather than being a method of bribery, the reason I started paying my kids for decluttering is that I know for me, as an adult, it’s easier to part with stuff when I can sell it and get some cash. Ya feel me? Even though my kids didn’t invest their own money into this stuff, I still thought it might be a nice incentive to help them see some more benefit in letting go.

As they’ve gotten older, I have even committed to helping them sell their things on Facebook Marketplace. I currently have a box of Pokemon cards if anyone is interested!


Boss Club is an online course for kids (aaand kind of adults too) that teach business start up! Use my name: RENEE to save 10% β™₯️ #kidpreneur #entrepreneurship #homeschoolmom #sidehustle #kidsandmoney

♬ pass the dutchie sped up – vevonix

Step 8: Practice healthy minimalism yourself

Let’s face it, we all learn what we live. If your parents budgeted, you probably grew up budgeting. If your parents spent money like crazy, you probably spent money like crazy. Then again…maybe you went the opposite route of your parents, which brings me to my next point.

On the flip side, it important to be mindful to not sway too intensely to one side or the other. I have adult friends who still complain about their parents getting rid of their toys without asking. This can cause some kids to go into adulthood never wanting to get rid of anything because they felt they didn’t have a say when they were kids. This is similar to if you grew up struggling financially and were never able to buy anything. If this was your circumstances, you may have grown up to be a major over-spender.

At the end of the day, none of us are perfect, but doing your best to practice a healthy balance with your own minimalist practice can be the best way to instill these habits in your children as well.

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As a practicing minimalist mom, I've struggled with kids toy clutter a ton. Here's how I encourage healthy minimalism with my kids.
As a practicing minimalist mom, I've struggled with kids toy clutter a ton. Here's how I encourage healthy minimalism with my kids.

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