I must admit- I look forward to the week before school all year long…. because it brings with it the annual “Great Desk Clean Out” event at our house! For the other 51 weeks of the year, I shudder as I watch my kids pack into the nooks and crannies of their desk cubbies and drawers- stacks of school papers, folded fortune tellers and table footballs, patches and buttons, and little trinkets collected as sporting events and birthday parties, piles of school Valentines and notes from friends. My kids are like junior hoarders-in-training… saving every bit and scrap of stuff that comes their way, not wanting to part with any of it “just in case.”
But by the end of the summer, even they are starting to ask me how soon we might be able to work together to clean up their desks (and of course by this point, their belongings are overflowing to their bookcases and bins throughout their shared rooms!), and when I announce that “today is their day” I am actually met by fist-pumps rather than the eye-rolling that I might expect! As my kids are getting older, they are beginning to appreciate and understand how nice it is to have an organized space to work in, and to be able to find the things that they are looking for when they want them. And I think that it is important to teach our kids how to clean up and organize a cluttered and messy space. So here is how I do it…
Pick an area to start!
I prefer to start with bookshelves and bins. First empty the area (shelf or bin) and sort the contents. Decide what to purge- separating it into piles of trash, charity donations, and items to pass along to siblings. I also use one of our laundry baskets to put items into that belong in other rooms- and I return those items later after I have cleaned out ALL of the kids rooms. Everything that is left is what we intend to keep- so those items are sorted by category so that like items can be grouped together into bins or containers.
Let the Child Decide What Stays and What Goes
If you want to teach your child how to de-clutter, you are going to have to relinguish the power to them to decide what stays and what goes. (Please note- this may not work for kids under the age of 6 or 7!) If you secretly clean out your child’s desk while they are at school one day- and purge half of their stuff…. you are not teaching them how to make these kinds of decisions on their own, and even worse- they might actually want to hang on to even more stuff because you are making them afraid that one day they will walk into their room and their belongings will have just disappeared!
Once you’ve cleared out the storage spaces, tackle the desk!
Once I have cleaned out the bins and my child and I have decided what will be stored in each bin, it is so much easier to tackle the mess that is the desk! Start at the top and work your way down the left side of the desk and then over to the right. Touch every single item on the desk and decide it it stays or goes, and if it stays- decide where it stays. In many cases, we were able to consolidate papers and other “important treasures” into the right bin (favorite rocks, baseball cards, marbles, important papers, etc) and the desk was alleviated of 90% of its contents rather quickly.
Admire your accomplishment!
My kids are so proud of how great their room looks, and surprised that it only took us a few hours to complete the job. And they actually feel pretty motivated to keep their desks and room this clean! (Um yeah- I might have heard this before….)
Do any of you like to tackle the kids bedrooms the week before school starts? Or I am just the only (crazy) one?