I’ve never forced my kids into decluttering their space. Over the past couple of years, I’ve asked them from time to time if they’d like to go through their things, but I’ve never said they had to. This has created a really good trust between us. It is a trust that says they have their space in the house that is under their control. I believe kids need that. They need something to claim and care for.
And even though I’ve never forced it, the kids have chosen every once in a while to declutter. It usually isn’t a great deal of stuff, but it’s a declutter nonetheless. The greatest result of the decluttering has been them saying to me that they feel more at peace with less stuff crowding their rooms.
That peaceful feeling is so important for my kids.
I have a fourteen year-old son with autism, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety. And I have a twelve year-old daughter with developmental delays that land her on the autism spectrum but not actually autistic, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, vision impairment, and speech disfluency.
Life in our house is never dull, and while both kids are considered by all accounts to be higher functioning, their needs are still quite prevalent.
So that brings me to this week.
A few days ago, my son called to me from his bedroom, “Mommy, can you come help me?”
I walked into his room and he had all of his bins that housed various toys emptied and spread out across his floor.
“What are you up to?” I asked.
“I need you to help me get rid of things.”
I then told him that he could just pick out what he didn’t want and I’d get him a bag. But that wasn’t what he meant.
“No, I need help. I want to minimize and I don’t know how.”
My minimalism heart jumped for joy!
I quickly came up with a game plan. This was the big minimalism moment I had been waiting for. I never push, but I always hope for my kids to finally want to break free of all the remaining stuff in their rooms. I mean, it’s organized stuff – stuff that was put away – but most doesn’t get used and serves no purpose other than collecting dust.
So I took bits and pieces from everything I’ve read and learned over the past couple of years and said, “This is what we’re going to do. I’m going to hand you each item and ask you some questions that will help you decide whether or not you want to keep it.”
My son agreed, and we began.
Do you play with this?
Do you like it?
Do you like it enough to say you love it?
Does it give you joy?
Do you see yourself playing with it in the near future?
As we went through each item, my son looked carefully at it and answered my questions. The vast majority of things got an immediate no for being played with. I expected that. Many things he liked, but he didn’t love. And there were only a couple of items that he said gave him joy. Nothing actually got a yes for playing with it in the near future.
The few items that brought him joy were items that he holds strong memories with. He kept those. He kept items he uses to make stop motion videos (a hobby he enjoys), and he kept his drawing supplies (another hobby).
The rest he asked me to take away.
And so I did. With him watching, I took the items that filled three large bins in his room and I put them into a very large, black trash bag. I then took the empty bins and the giant bag out to the garage.
And while I know this isn’t going to set well with some, I took the big trash bag and I put it in our dumpster. You see, finality is important to a person with autism. My son needed to see it be finished.
After everything was disposed of, we vacuumed up his room and he said to me, “This is so much better.”
During this entire process, my daughter was watching. I bet you can guess what happened next.
Yep! She asked me to do the same thing in her room. So the next day, we did. We filled another large, black trash bag. We emptied multiple bins. And we discovered that when kids decide to grow up, they do it quickly. Items that were great toys just last year are now things that my daughter said just, “Aren’t the same.”
She’s entering the teen years and things like baby dolls don’t cut it anymore. *sigh*
Both kids now have quite a bit of extra space in their rooms. The removal of toy bins does amazing things that way. And since both kids have hobbies that require surface area (drawing, movie making, writing, etc…), I’ve started searching for desks to put in their rooms. They are both thrilled with the idea of having a desk to use rather than doing everything on the dining room table. The desks will be a great addition – useful, purposeful, and perfect for those teen years.
If you have kids, how do they react to decluttering and minimizing? Have you taken an approach similar to mine? And does anyone out there share in the special needs mom life with me?