Children's favourite time of year would have to be Christmas (with birthdays coming in a very close second). That's because they are showered with an abundance of gifts and love and kisses, and who doesn't like that kind of attention?
However, those gifts, dare I say it, eventually become clutter in your home. I know this sounds harsh, but from my experience working with families, it's true. And it's the mum who has to sort out the mess.
Over recent years, consumerism has been at an all-time high. With the likes of cheap chain stores offering inexpensive toys for kids (which kids love), it's easy to bring, for want of a better word, "crap" into the house. Of course, there are the amazingly expensive toys that children "really need" and "really want" as well, and which they inevitably and eventually receive.
It doesn't matter what age your child is, he is usually given lots of toys and clothes that he doesn't really need, or that you as a parent don't want him to wear, and which both mother and child will eventually ignore as it all piles up. But ignoring the stuff doesn't make it go away.
A lot of my clients are busy mothers. And with their everyday "busyness" they get to a point of not knowing where to start in getting their kids' rooms into shape.
Bedrooms are a dual-purpose area, used for sleeping as well as play. The trick is to get a balance so that there is space available to play, but at the same time, playthings can be tidied away quickly and efficiently so that when it's bedtime, the room is restful and safe to walk into in the middle of the night.
January is the perfect time to have a clean-out of your child's bedroom. It's just after Christmas, when possibly the bedroom will be bursting at the seams. So where to start and what to do?
Have a good look around your child's room and ascertain what zones you want to set up. If it's for a baby, then really all that should be required is a place for sleep, a place for storing clothes, a changing table, drawers, a lamp, a chair and/or bed for night-time feeding, possibly a small covered rubbish bin, and washing basket for baby's clothes only.
You will know that babies don't need a lot of "stuff" at this age. In their room, it's all about sleeping - there is certainly no leaving them alone in the nursery to entertain themselves, unless, of course, it's because they're babbling away in their cot on an early morning!
So in the nursery, keep it simple for baby and yourself. Make it restful. If you have an abundance of clothes for baby, then keep only what you absolutely love to put him/her in. Use the storage available, and if you run out of storage, may I suggest that you might have too much stuff?
If you have clothes for the baby to grow into, get a couple of large, clear plastic storage containers with lids and sort the clothes into these. But again, limit yourself to two bins. Store these bins in the garage or somewhere else that's dry and safe. But get them out of the baby's room, because only the things that you need and use for baby should be in here.
If your child is older, ask yourself what unsupervised activities your child can be in their room for. Set up zones for these activities, but limit these zones to a maximum of three. Otherwise, your child's bedroom will turn into a playroom, rather than a room for quiet time and sleeping.
Remove the clutter from your home
Once you have the vision of what you want for each room, it's time to start culling (that's making space for the look you want). Be ruthless here. Start on one area at a time. Grab some big boxes or bags and start filling them with stuff to give away, donate, or sell.
Now, don't fall into the trap of creating a huge pile of stuff to sell that doesn't actually make its way to an online auction site or the markets. If you haven't sold it within two months, get it out of the house. Otherwise, every time you look at the pile of stuff to sell, you'll see it as a negative reminder of something that hasn't been actioned. And at the end of the day, we have enough negative reminders in this world - via the news - that frankly, I don't think we need any more.
If money is tight (not unusual after the birth of a child, especially in this current financial climate), then use this as a strong motivator to sell what you don't want or need. And remember, we can only accept new and wonderful blessings into our life when we make room for them to enter. So by releasing the old, you are making the new welcome.
Set up the zones and containerise accessories
So you've made some space - and I am sure you can feel the energy starting to change already. This will be the "chi".
Chi is the ancient Chinese word for energy. Energy cannot move and low as it should if there is clutter and stuff everywhere. Imagine yourself as a gentle breeze trying to blow through a room. You come through the door and slam up hard against a box of something. You stay for a while, eventually moving up and over the box, and wham! You bang into a piece of furniture that is too big for the room and was placed in a walkway.
But with clear spaces in the room, energy lows beautifully, easily and peacefully twisting around furniture and making the atmosphere feel light and happy. You get my drift.
Remember the zones you identified before? In the bedroom, set these up and be sure to make the bed the star of the room, so that it's inviting, warm, and away from a window if possible.
Containerise the tools required for each activity. Sort "like with like" and store them in easy-to-access containers, then label them either with words and/or a picture of what's inside. With clearly labelled containers, it will be easy for your child to learn where their stuff should go. If they are not quite at the reading age, stick a picture on the front of the container so they can associate the words with the picture.
If you have a huge amount of items in one category - for example, dress-ups - go to a deeper level with your organising and separate these containers into shoes, accessories, and clothes. The more stuff you have, the deeper your organising efforts will have to be to control it all, and to ensure that the system works long-term.
Work on one zone at a time, because I know that decluttering and organising can be overwhelming and it's easy to get yourself in a muddle by trying to do too many areas at once. If you find yourself losing focus or motivation, take a break. Go outside, breathe in some fresh air, get a bite to eat and a drink, make a phone call if you need to (for support!), and then come back in and finish what you started.
Sort the clothing
Now the room is feeling good, looking fabulous, and you will probably be very proud of yourself and your efforts - as well you should be! So let's tackle the clothes. As I mentioned before, keep what you and/or your child loves, and get rid of the rest.
Again, work on one area at a time. Check out the wardrobe. Pull every item of clothing out. Make the decision to keep, sell, or give away. Put back the items you want to keep. And when the boxes or bags are full, move them immediately out to your car or garage.
If you find that you require more storage items, such as hanging cubbyholes, shoe boxes, or drawer organisers, make a list and then do a shop run all at once, rather than popping out throughout the day (or, worse, giving up entirely just because you don't have all of the accessories you need). By the way, hanging organisers are a great way to store shoes, toys, and jumpers.
Once the wardrobe is fully completed, move on to the drawers. Drawers exist for a reason: To store things. But some families either don't use them - preferring the floor instead - or cram them so full that they become more of a nuisance than a help. Store only what will it neatly and comfortably into the drawers, as this makes it easy for your little one to choose for what they want to wear.
If you buy clothes on sale, yet don't have the room for them, then stop shopping. It's as simple as that. Make life easier on yourself and your bank balance.
Michelle Denholm used to run her own decluttering and organising business. She has helped many busy families bring order into an otherwise chaotic and cluttered environment.