I scan the floor of my daughter's bedroom looking for clear spots to leapfrog across and give her a goodnight kiss. Clothes, art supplies, school papers, and books create a base layer of clutter that spans the entire space. My daughter watches me as I walk across the mess, skipping from one spot to the next, annoyed. I don't need to say anything. My face says it all — utter disapproval.
Yet, when my husband nags that our girls need to clean their rooms, I ironically push back. I think about when I was in middle school, my room was messy too, but I knew where EVERYTHING was within the chaos. I tell him, "They're getting older. It is their space. They should be able to keep it as they wish." And I believe that, but the minimalist within me cringes as the words leave my lips. So...
How do we get our kids to keep a clean room without nagging?
To me the answer to that is simple, less stuff = less mess.
However, going into your kids' rooms with a garbage bag creates nothing but animosity. We both know, even the most random trinket becomes a treasure when someone is forcing your hand toward a donation box. So...
How do we encourage our kids to willingly get rid of excess stuff?
This is something we've been working on for years with our two girls (who are currently eleven and twelve). If you've got little ones and you're looking for solutions, let me know here in our private Becoming UnBusy Facebook Group. I've got some great books and tips to recommend. Today though, I want to chat about something that worked so wonderfully, so beyond my expectations, that I just had to pause and share the idea with you. Last weekend, our family did a decluttering "Bedroom Swap."
What is a decluttering Bedroom Swap?
The concept is as simple as it sounds, you literally have your kids switch bedrooms. If you've got an only child, an alternative would be to just take everything out of their room except the furniture. And I mean everything — the toys in the toy box, the clothes out of the closet, the markers from the art desk and even the sheets from the bed. You need a clean slate for this project to work.
A Bedroom Swap is powerful because moving our possessions forces us to truly evaluate each item. Each book, t-shirt, and stuffed animal has to be transported from one room to the next. Let me take a moment to remind you, this is a family exercise, not something you do for your kids.
We want to use the Bedroom Swap as an opportunity to empower our kids to make choices and set up their new room. Every time you ask, "Donate or keep?" your kiddo is assessing their stuff. Each item has to have a place in the next space and they're in charge of finding it.
This seems like a lot of effort to get rid of a few things, is it really worth it?
Getting rid of excess crap from my kid's room was a good enough reason to try a decluttering Bedroom Swap. The other lessons we learned over the weekend were unexpected and powerful. In fact, we were so blown away by the "side effects" of this experiment.
How is spending time decluttering helping my family work on Becoming UnBusy?
We can all agree, less stuff = less mess.
In turn, less mess = more time.
And of course, free time = Becoming UnBusy (for adults and kids alike).
As adults, much of our time is spent working to earn an income to buy stuff, to maintain stuff — in the end we don't own stuff, our stuff owns us.
Learning to emotionally separate ourselves from our stuff, opens the door to a variety of paths to Becoming UnBusy. As parents, we have the opportunity to give our children a different relationship with stuff.
When I think of the decluttering Bedroom Swap, an old Chinese proverb comes to mind...
Tell me, and I forget.
Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I'll learn.
Doing a decluttering Bedroom Swap this weekend does just that, involves your kids in a life lesson that teaches them (and us!) tools that allow us to live an UnBusy Life. I cannot wait to share more with you, stay tuned!
PS: Ya know that feeling when someone shares an idea so good, you cannot help but say, "Ohhhhh" and nod your head subconsciously over and over?
This idea of doing a decluttering Bedroom Swap was inspired well over a decade ago when my first daughter was just a tiny little peanut in a crib. I still remember the Monday my co-worker, Christina Steder, came into the office explaining how her girls had done a Bedroom Swap over the weekend.
I asked a zillion questions, beyond curious about the why and the how, and just soaked in her answers. I knew then that someday, someday, I wanted to do this with my kids too.
Thank you for the inspiration, Christina! XO
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