How to De-Clutter Your Home When You’ve Got Messy Kids

Local parents chime in on how to toss their kids’ clutter, including putting items on consignment and hosting clothing exchanges and toy swaps

If you’ve ever checked out the community forums on, you may have noticed that there’s an entire forum devoted to “de-cluttering.” Maybe it’s just me — okay, it probably is just me — but when Coraline was a baby I’d look at these posts and think, It can’t be that hard to keep the clutter out. These women are just junior hoarders, in denial. But now that Coraline is a toddler, clutter is my most formidable enemy, and I eat my words.

See, my daughter is actually a junior hoarder. She doesn’t play so much as simply collect an assortment of toys and random items like receipts and hair elastics into bags and move them around from room to room (and to Grandma’s house and the car and the backyard). We can’t walk to the playground without an extra five pounds of tchotchkes and kitchen appliances. On the evenings I’m feeling particularly bold, I’ll dump out these various bags on the living room floor and try to sort it all out so it can be put away. The last time I began this process I chickened out after opening the third backpack — there was no amount of wine or Grey’s Anatomy that would get me through the arduous task of reorganizing all that she has amassed. So I started shoving it all in a big box in the closet. My plan is to one day — when well-rested, fed, and with patience abounding — dive in and not only organize, but purge.

And this is the problem with kid’s clutter: While you’re busy managing their stuff (an epic task in and of itself), the stuff you amass is neglected. My closet is an abyss into which things go but rarely return. It’s stuffed with clothes I don’t ever wear, Santa’s wrapping paper, and other vestiges of my past life (snowboarding boots, high heels, etc.) I don’t know if it’s the oppressiveness of this humid summer weather or if, in my old age, I just crave a simpler life, but I want this stuff out and I want it out now. Apparently clutter isn’t just on my mind — this week I had a few parents share some great ideas for how to move stuff out without throwing it out.

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The Bowl of Misfit Toys: Place all unwanted or forgotten toys in a bowl or box by the door. After a playdate, tell each friend to take something on their way out. While their parents may not thank you, the kids surely will. And you’ll have a few less things to worry about stepping on.

Naked Ladies Party: Invite your girlfriends (and their friends) over, requesting that everyone bring a bag (or six) of unwanted clothes. Drink wine, talk shop, and go “shopping” for free. It’s a great way to meet new people, unload closet clutter, and refresh your own wardrobe. Everything that hasn’t been reclaimed at the end of the evening gets donated.

Consignment: If you have outgrown kids’ clothes and can’t pass them off to friends, try to find a local shop that sells gently used pieces on consignment. You can make a few bucks, and feel good that you’re helping some other local mama score up fresh duds on a  budget. Land of Oz (Rhinebeck), Little Ones (New Paltz), The Kids Shoppe (Red Hook), and pretty soon Illuminated Baby (Woodstock) all do consignment.

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