Minimalism means freedom; it means letting go of the clutter that’s been stressing you out. Choosing to overcome the chaos in your home and create a simpler life is a big deal. And it’s, ironically, overwhelming when you haven’t started yet. What’s even more overwhelming about it is tackling this project with kids in the house.
When I started my big purge, I had three kids age three and under. I thought I’d never be able to make this important change in my home, and there were a lot of frustrating days.
Giving up wasn’t gonna happen though, because I had reached my breaking point and I was tired of cleaning up all the time. I wanted to be able to sit and enjoy my kids without having to pay the price of housework catch-up later. I wanted to spend my weekends soaking up family time, not doing seventeen loads of laundry.
What everyone else was calling “normal” and “just motherhood” really sucked to me, and I wasn’t okay with it. I was determined to find a better way, so I let go of the things that weren’t necessary for me to keep. It worked.
But how did I do it with kids hanging off my leg begging of boredom? How can you, the overwhelmed mom with her feet on the same ground mine stood on four years ago, declutter your entire house with little ones around? I’mma show you.
How to Purge Your Home with Kids in the House
1) Hire Netflix to babysit.
Let’s start with the obvious. I know I talk a lot about limiting technology, but sometimes you just gotta let it fly. Turn that TV on, girl. Paw Patrol's got your back. When I was working through my house, I would save the TV especially for this time. I’d make it a really big deal, serve popcorn and juice, and put on their favorite show. I could usually get in a good hour of purging this way.
2) Set a purging schedule.
I figured out that I needed to have set times each week that I tackled the clutter. Doing this helped me make it happen even during a tough week, and eliminated excuses. Purging was on my calendar for three hours every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday morning, it was a priority just like an appointment, so I had to follow through.
I got strict with myself and knew that if I really wanted this amazing lifestyle change (and I really really did), I had to put in the work. Plus, mama’s purging schedule quickly became a part of the kids’ routine, and they learned to expect it (and look forward to a little TV time). Kids are less likely to freak out and have meltdowns when something is familiar, expected, and happens routinely every week.
3) Include the tiny humans in the process.
Most days, my kids just wanted to be with me. They’d see me sitting on the floor sorting through old paperwork and photo albums and want to be in my lap or draw a picture of the Yo Gabba Gabba cast next to me. When I stopped fighting it (who says they have to be away from you and you need 100% focus?) and encouraged them to join me, it got a lot easier. I would make my decluttering super exciting and let them sit with me, ask them to “help” me sort things into piles, and turn it into quality time. After all, more time with my kids was my goal, so I needed to get used to being intentional about that.
What this ended up doing is making the process something my kids looked forward to, and I wonder if that’s part of the reason they’re so into it now. (if you haven’t seen my Periscopes where I declutter with my kids and they don’t give a what, you’re missin’ out)
So let your kids eat a snack on the floor next to you, bring in some blocks or coloring stuff and let them be near you. Talk to them, listen to music together, let them watch Netflix on the tablet while you purge the closet… your kids just want to be with you.
4) Get at it when they’re not awake.
If you’ve got a particularly fussy little guy, or you’re trying to purge something you don’t want them around for, tackle it while they’re napping. I used to put my older two down for their naps in my bedroom and the baby downstairs in his Pack & Play while I decluttered their bedroom. Shake it up rearrange, do what you gotta do to make this happen.
5) Hire help.
This may not be an option for everyone, but assuming you don’t have family around to lend a hand, this is something that’s worth an investment. When you put your money where your mouth is and invest in making this change happen, the likelihood of your success skyrockets.
Do you have a cleaning lady who comes once a month to help you out? Let her go (you’re not gonna need her anymore once you’re done anyway) and put the money into a few hours of babysitting so you can focus on banishing the clutter. Is there a girl who works at your church nursery who seems to love your kids? Offer to pay her $50 to come over and help you out on Saturday mornings.
6) Make a deal with Dad.
If things are really tough and you’re not making enough progress, make a deal with your hubby. Explain how much decluttering means to you and how much less stressed you’ll be when it’s done. Ask him to take the kids out of the house for a few hours one day so you can really hit it hard. You’re taking on a huge project that’s going to change the way your family spends their time in an amazing way, this is going to create space for more memories, more joy, and an intentional childhood for your kids - you guys need to be a team and you need some help. Ask for it.
7) Take it easier than planned.
I know when you first learn that you don't have t clean up all the time if you'll just declutter, you wanna go all in. You might be doing more harm than good though! If you have a baby, are pregnant, or have kids under the age of six in your house, making this happen is tough. You might need to slow down and allow yourself more time to get to your goal, and that's okay! Do it in ten minute chunks, dedicate one morning a week to it instead of three, whatever it takes, just hack away at it and it will happen.
If your kids aren’t super little, and you’ve got at least one who can handle some responsibility, things are easier. My oldest is seven now, and when I had to pack for our cross-country move (which involved a ton of purging because we moved with almost nothing), she saved me. Kids around this age really like being trusted and given responsibility, so let them help you! Even now when I have something important to do, Bella helps me by keeping the baby occupied, leading her brothers in a game, making a snack and heading to the backyard, or reading them a story.
Wherever you can get help and a little more time, take it. This matters, mama! Make it happen.
How do you get ish done with little kids in the house? Tell me in the comments!