This piece for ARTIcles was inspired by a neighbor who spoke with Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin about the woes of all that "kid stuff" to get through in preparation for a move this summer. Thank you for being our muse! And if you missed our adult-sized version of decluttering to move, give it a read ->
From the time Violet was a baby and stretching well into toddlerhood, she moved a lot, bopping around Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Her age made it easier on us, the parents, in that she didn't fully realize what was happening. She was also in a phase of life during which she naturally was outgrowing everything from books and toys to baby furniture and clothing at a fast pace, so purging during each move was simplified a bit.
Then she turned six.
"I'm ooo-l-d," she whined. Insert palm in face on every parent who hears this sweet nonsense. Mitigating her pain somewhat was the fact that her 6th birthday was in fact extra special - it fell on Easter. So, we called it "B-Easter," and managed an impromptu egg hunt blended with tea party, followed by chalk, bubbles, kites, and bikes. Not bad!
What we were less prepared for was the storm brewing behind this sweet looking little Texan's face after sharing a few days later that they would be moving. You'd think we stole her puppy! "But you did make a New Year's Resolution to buy a house this year," teased my husband. (True story! What kind of "resolution" is that?!)
Violet began plotting. How could she pack EVERYTHING? How could she make her new home JUST like her current home? She packed boxes herself. She filled bags and tried knotting them closed before I could even look and confirm it was really just full of her Beanie Boos. It was cute and annoying simultaneously. We had to get going!
While the word "fair" is banned in our household — Try it! It's amazing how many other, more informative words your kid will use when fair is off the table — it was deemed "fair game" to use her passions and personality to help manage the situation. Decluttering was going to happen as packing proceeded. Not everything was getting on the moving truck, whether you were 6 or 36. And we did not want to end enemies.
Tried & Tested Pint-Sized Strategies
Here are the strategies we used with our 6-year-old, and more recently with a set of adult children who were equally disinclined to part ways with a lot of stuff all at once.
- Don't make it an "all at once" task. Friendly disclaimer: We know, sometimes a move is unexpected and abrupt. This then does not apply. In general, you have some notice, maybe even months, to prepare for a move. Consider starting with your child's least used and noticeable items in deep drawers, backs of closets, bins and boxes that have collected dust, and 'stuff' that truly doesn't fit (or work!) anymore. Something small each weekend. Let them play and experience it one last time if they want as they sort into piles to rehome, donate, recycle, resell, or maybe even trash. Smallest box is for the move.
- And time it. Ask them to focus on the task for no more than 15 minutes. For 6-year-old Violet that was less than one episode of Sofia the First and totally manageable.
- Know thy child. Appeal to sweet spots. Violet loves, loves, loves to be a helper. Extending that to helping others who have unmet needs for new books, clothes, and toys was a major source of success and pride. She even made cards to go with her donations. And the donations were not generic. We brought some into a women's shelter, for example, where we knew who would directly benefit locally. Seeing is believing, even when you're six.
- Take photos and videos (and Artifct it!) of special items that don't make the cut. Have you noticed how kids of all ages, even at 56, love to browse photos and videos on their phone, in social media, etc.? We even have a video of 2-year-old Violet dancing and the moment she stops you can hear her say, "I want to see!" Sometimes you just like to see something to trigger that happy nostalgia or moments of pride from that hard one roller skating derby or large collections of anything that can't possibly come or maybe will but cannot be displayed in its entirety.
- Embrace porch or garage sales. There's simple logic in favor of selling a large amount of 'stuff' even for low prices and gaining the power to buy that new whiz-bang toy or container of slime or funny hat all by yourself! Kids don't generally have money of their own and this is a good opportunity to reward their help in the decluttering process. Violet sold books she'd outgrown and a several movies too.
Special Case: Moving to a New Country
Another friendly disclaimer: In a country as large as the US, another state can sure feel like another country ... No matter the excitement and motivation to make the leap and move to a foreign country, I empathize with what you will go through in terms of energy, cost, and general discombobulation. Every move we made was hard but heading into a foreign culture amplifies the desire for the comfort familiar objects, foods, music, and more can offer.
International moving and shipping fees, or conversely long-term self-storage fees, may mean your decluttering and downsizing tasks are more extreme. This is definitely a time Artifcts can help. Want to show off your transformer collection ... special dolls ... cool bike ... but can't take them with you? Artifct to remember and show your new friends what your life was like in your home country!
We bet you can adapt these ideas to your own kids. Or, if you are a professional organizer, we hope these tactics can help you as you work with clients in similar situations.
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