Every year when I’m taking down the Christmas tree and packing away the decorations, it feels like a treat to get the house back to normal.
“This is MY Christmas!” I’ll caption a photo of my clean, clutter-free living room when all of those darn pine needles are swept up and the garlands are back in storage. Sometimes I’ll make it until Jan. 2 before I de-Christmas the house, but other years I think I’ve done it as early as Dec. 27. I can’t help it!
There’s nothing like bringing a bunch of new things into your home to make it feel ever so CROWDED, which means January is a popular time for purging and de-cluttering.
In the spirit of starting off 2018 with less “stuff,” here’s a handy 50-step checklist for any parents looking to simplify a.k.a. Get Rid of Their Kids’ Junk …
Are the kids watching you?
Quick! Turn on a show (if they absolutely cannot leave the house — that is clearly better, if you can arrange it).
Now grab a handful of garbage bags — black ones, so they can’t see inside.
Sneak into the messiest kid-infested area of your home.
Open two garbage bags. One is for actual garbage a.k.a ‘broken Happy Meal’ toys and random bits of bagel, and the other is for stuff to donate (that needs to be hidden, naturally).
First, attack the area that drives you the craziest. This is going to be different for every parent.
Pick up the first item you see.
If it’s broken and not worth repairing, toss it.
If it’s a cheap piece of dollar store junk, toss it.
If it’s a puzzle that’s definitely missing pieces, toss it.
If it’s something your child bought at a yard sale and never looked at again, toss it. You extended its life, but it doesn’t get a free pass forever.
If it’s been chewed on by a pet (or toddler), toss it.
If it’s a book with pages torn out, toss it.
If it’s a little piece from a board game no one plays, toss it.
Take a deep breath, now that some of the garbage is cleared up.
If you step on anything sharp, like a LEGO, you get to angrily throw it in the trash bag. That’s only fair.
Is it a toy your child hasn’t played with in ages? Donate it.
Is it a toy that’s way too babyish for your kids? Donate it.
A book they’re too old for? Donate it.
An intact puzzle no one ever does? Donate it.
A kiddie board game you honestly can’t play again because if you do, you will burst the vein in your forehead in frustration? Donate it.
If it’s money, Finders Keepers.
If you find nasty bits of old food, you’re perfectly within your rights to yell at the family member you suspect left it in the toybox.
Now move onto the art supply cabinet.
I KNOW, it’s terrible. They just shove things in and don’t bother to put them away neatly, and now there’s glitter everywhere and WE’RE BOTH CRYING.
Start with the half-crumpled pieces of paper. Designate a third garbage bag for paper recycling. You’re going to fill it with “precious” artwork and you’re not even going to be sorry.
If it’s a good piece of art, put it aside.
If it’s a scribble on a piece of paper, recycle it. (Seriously, these kids are paper-wasters!)
If it’s a random bead, toss it. It’s not worth looking for the bead bin. Your life is precious.
If it’s a dried-up marker, toss it — and file it in your memory for when your child asks for new markers and promises that this time, they really WILL put the caps back on.
If it’s a broken crayon, toss it. You may think you’re gonna melt a bunch of them together to make new crayons, but who are you fooling? Really?
If it’s a dried-up glue stick, toss it and threaten to stop buying glue sticks.
If it’s a colouring book they don’t use but it looks new, donate it.
If it’s a colouring book full of scribbles and no one will miss it, toss it. (Or recycle it? Who knows these days? Crayon is waxy though … hmmm …)
If it’s your own personal Donald Duck colouring book from childhood that has somehow survived this long, KEEP IT. Your art is precious.
Dragging your garbage bags behind you, sneak into your children’s rooms.
UGH, the mess. I know. I feel you.
If it’s a random school paper that doesn’t seem special, recycle it.
If it’s a Rainbow Loom elastic, toss it. There are millions more and you’re never going to win that war.
If it’s a ripped rubber Polly Pocket outfit, toss it.
If it’s a headless Polly Pocket, toss it.
If it’s anything to do with a frigging Polly Pocket, toss it, because those things are always losing their heads and tearing their little rubber outfits.
If it’s a Shopkin, KEEP IT. Those little jerks are like $5 each, and maybe they’ll get Beanie-Baby valuable someday.
If it’s a piece of Lego, keep it (providing you didn’t step on it) because Lego is $$$ and your son will somehow notice if it’s missing.
If it’s outgrown clothing, donate it.
If it’s a pair of Build-a-Bear underpants, do NOT accidentally put them in your child’s underwear drawer. (Look for the tail hole.)
If it’s a Barbie shoe, chuck it as hard as you can in the general direction of the Barbie house for satisfying plastic “clunk!”
Sneak all three garbage bags outside while your children are glued to their show.
Transfer the recycling and garbage to standard clear bags (once you’re safely away from sight) and stash the black bag of donations in your vehicle. Triple-knot it.
Days later, when the kids ask what you’re dropping off at the donation centre in that mysterious black bag, reply “Vegetables” and promptly change the subject.
I’m Heather Laura Clarke. I’m a writer living in beautiful Nova Scotia, I have a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, I married my high school sweetheart, and this is the story of my handmade life.
I have depression and anxiety, and I fight like hell every day to keep them from taking over my life. Creating things helps.
Whether I’m writing novels, decorating a room, busting out my power tools to build furniture, getting muddy in the pottery studio, sewing clothes, or cross-stitching a swear word, I’m all about using my creativity to craft a life I love.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2009, so if you dig deep into the archives, you’ll meet a bright-eyed 25-year-old newlywed who was basically obsessed with having kids, buying a cozy house, and supporting herself full-time with her writing. (Spoiler alert: she got exactly what she wanted.)