At what age do kids understand decluttering? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 07-13-2005, 10:39 PM - Thread Starter
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We are becoming overwhelmed with toys and I would like to get rid of some of them but I don't think dd is old enough to understand. She is three and I'm worried that she will think she is being punished if we ask her to get rid of some of her toys. I would like to have her pick out some toys that she can part with and sell them at our garage sale and let her spend some of the money she makes on something new. I think, though, that she doesn't quite understand the concept of money and the idea that once the toy is sold that it is gone forever.

So, at what age can I expect her to understand this concept? I think she's getting close to understanding but I'd like to hear other's experiences with their kids.
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#2 of 12 Old 07-15-2005, 08:29 AM
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I think around age 4 - 4 1/2, IMO. Until then you should probably box some things up while she's sleeping and put them in the basement/garage for a week or so. If she doesn't ask for them then it's safe to give them away, I think. Good luck! And good job teaching your dd the importance of decluttering!
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#3 of 12 Old 07-22-2005, 11:37 PM
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I'm able to introduce my 29 month old about giving things away that we don't use - but it takes a few weeks.

I picked out a tablet (we had 3) and suggested we give it to a friend that really liked hers. At first she said "No, mine!" And I said - OK, yes it's yours. You may keep it if you want. But I was thinking that you had 3 of them and R had none, and wouldn't he like it. I had to repeat this for about 3 weeks - like maybe once or twice a week. No daily or anything and not when she showed stress about it. And one day she talked about giving the tablet away. And when I tried to do it, she said no mine, so I backed off. And then a couple of weeks later we were able to do it.

Was it painful? Yeah. Would it have been easier to just get rid of it when she wasn't looking, absolutely. But somehow that felt dishonest to me. Like I was violating her trust. I should tell you that DH and I both have major packrat problems.

Anyway it seems a little easier for her to get rid of things now. She's potty trained and we talked about giving her cloth diapers and covers to another baby she knows and I think she's pretty excited about it.

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#4 of 12 Old 07-23-2005, 12:26 AM
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The way I introduced the basic decluttering with my ds (starting around 3 yo) is by having a bin of extra toys that he wasn't using downstairs. When he was getting bored of his old toys, he got to pick out which new ones he wanted and then pick 1-2 toys to put downstairs in the bin. While it didn't actual declutter because we didn't get rid of anything, it helped him learn that it's okay to let some things go. Now we regularly pick out toys that we can donate (and he's almost 3 1/2). I think that taking it in steps like that eases the transition for little ones.
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#5 of 12 Old 07-23-2005, 06:29 PM
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Well, I think she's definitely too young to actually be able to make the choice of what she's rather keep, and rather give away. I mean, kids that age have a hard time deciding what to order in a restaurant!

Perhaps a way to start with her, is to rotate her toys? We've always had very minimal storage, but found that dd's room was less overwhelming if about half of her stuff was just...put away. Then when we bring out something after a couple of months, it's "new" again. She wouldn't get upset that her other things weren't there, because she knew they were still hers.

And if I saw that there were toys that she really just wasn't playing with anymore, I'd go ahead and donate them after a decent period of time being out of sight. If she didn't play with it much when it was "new" again, and hasn't asked for it either, then it's an okay time for that toy to go, I figured.

I did try to get dd involved in all of this when she was an older 3, but it just didn't work out very well. Besides, most of the toys that she picked to give up, were newer, more expensive toys, that I knew she'd get much more play out of, over the next couple of years.
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#6 of 12 Old 07-24-2005, 12:31 PM
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In my experience, it works better if I do the decluttering first, so the kids understand how nice it is to have uncluttered space. THEN, when things get cluttered up again, they're able to select which items they don't want, and willingly declutter. At least my girls do- ds is kind of young to understand the concept. At his age, he'll quickly forget about a "favorite" toy if he gets something new (something small that's easy to put away!!!)

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#7 of 12 Old 07-24-2005, 03:18 PM
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we are actually in the process of decluttering right now. My oldest (4 in november) is somewhat helping but mostly ill come to him with 2 or 3 of his things and say " you need to give at least one to (insert childs name or friend whatever) because he doesnt have any toys." He will usually decide 2 are "his and the 3rd can be for the friend. while its not the best it works.
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#8 of 12 Old 07-24-2005, 07:27 PM
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Well, my 22 mo. old woke up from her nap while I was decluttering her toys the other day. She cheerfully came in and helped: put some items in, took a couple out, and cheerfully followed me out to put the tote in the garage, with nary a protest.

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#9 of 12 Old 08-01-2005, 03:17 PM
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My 22 mo old doesnt have as many toys as any of our friends do. He plays with all of them on almost a daily basis and get this he has been good about putting them away everyday for the last half a year at least. We have baskets for his toys and he knows which go on which basket. MY DH started when he was a baby helping him grab and put things in his baskets before bed time... and it has never been a problem now that he can do it on his own. I think the key is to limit what comes in - pitch what he doesnt play with and teach by example on picking up. He is kind of outthere though because he does like order, will push chairs to be flush with the table and if the lazy susan is off he adjusts it, and takes trash to the trash can on his own if he sees it on the floor Anyway... that is kind of how we are though so I am assuming he is accustomed to it. I would think limiting what comes in is the best. I dont throw things that he likes but things that are broken we tell him they are trash and he is happy to let them go and takes them to the trash himself. But I think until they are older the burden is mainly on you on controlling their enviroment. The great thing about limiting toys is that I feel I can spend more money on good quality toys and I rather have less of them than a bunch of the cheapie ones YKWIM?
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#10 of 12 Old 08-07-2005, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by tbarthauer
She is three and I'm worried that she will think she is being punished if we ask her to get rid of some of her toys.
Do you punish her? If not, she probably doesn't know the concept.

I would like to have her pick out some toys that she can part with and sell them at our garage sale and let her spend some of the money she makes on something new.
My 3-year-old would LOVE this idea. She doesn't fully understand money either, but she is aware that it is the stuff that makes buying things possible, and she really enjoys having money to carry with her and buy trinkets in our neighborhood. If yours doesn't care much about that, do you think she might understand better the idea of giving the toys away to other people who need/can use them?

My dd started decluttering toys in earnest at barely 3yo, when we were moving. Since everyone was decluttering everything at the time, it was natural. She still sometimes gets in the mood to weed her toys, when she sees me weeding a closet or drawer. I've found that her ideas about what toys to keep or part with are TOTALLY different from what I would choose. So occasionally, if she wants to get rid of something I consider important (for example, a stuffed animal that technically belongs to me and has sentimental value, or a very multi-functional toy I know that her sister will use soon), I will quietly put it away in the closet, or discuss it with her -- she changes her mind pretty easily. She's never missed anything she chose to get rid of. Frankly, toys are optional: they're nice to have, but easy not to miss. The funniest part of the moving-decluttering was that we got rid of the TV in the move, and she has never once commented or appeared to notice! And she did watch it, regularly.

Oye Yemaya oloto
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#11 of 12 Old 08-11-2005, 01:16 PM
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My DD just turned three, and she LOVES to play "Keep, Goodwill" with her stuff. Like another poster, she often chooses to get rid of different things than I would have thought. I'm not sure how much she really grasps the concept that others will be playing with her toys, but she's happy enough to put them in a box to go away (knowing she won't be playing with them anymore).
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#12 of 12 Old 08-11-2005, 01:59 PM
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I havent read through the other replies so forgive me if this has been mentioned already but......I dont think they are ever too young to understand "giving to those less fortunate". You can call your local children's hospital and ask if they are taking donations then explain to your daughter that she can "share" her toys with the sick little boys and girls at the hospital.....usually the hospital will write you a letter to thank you and she will get the idea... It's a good idea to do this especially around birthdays and Christmas when you KNOW they are getting more toys and need to clear some of the old stuff out.....HTH
ps....homeless shelters or women's shelters are great too!

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