5 Tips For Downsizing When You Have Kids

Are you thinking about downsizing? Maybe you are moving soon or you just want to simplify your life. Downsizing your belongings is the best place to start!

Letting go of our possessions can be difficult enough, not to mention the challenges kids bring into the mix. If you are anything like me you want this process to be easy and painless for the kids. 

How to help your children let go of things that no longer serve them.

Recently our family underwent a huge downsizing project. I had been wanting to simplify our home for quite a while. At one point I tried doing the Life Changing Method of Tidying Up thing.

The problem was I was the only one “tidying” my things!

When I brought the subject up to my husband he thought the whole idea was just plain stupid. He tends to keep EVERYTHING that may be the least little bit useful.

The kids take after him in this regard.

I on the otherhand do not keep much of anything. An item has to have deep sentimental value for it to take residence in my home. All my sentimental items fit into one medium sized box…

Can you see how this could create conflict?

Our house was getting so cramped something had to change. I don’t ask for much but I did demand we do something about this.

His solution? BUY A BIGGER HOUSE!

Fast forward a few months…

My husband gets laid off and we realize that we are going to have to move a few states away.

He has an eye-opening moment when faced with PACKING and HAULING a bunch of j-u-n-k half-way across the country!


In his defense, it wasn’t all junk. It was mostly duplicate (some times even triple!) tools and hardware stuff, building supplies, electronic stuff, games and DVD’S…you name it we had it stored away with the INTENTION of selling it.

After taking some time to really examine what we thought was worth taking with us and what we would be better off selling, donating or just throwing out we decided that we could realisitcly let go of 50% of our stuff!

I would have been happy with only letting go of 25% of our things but was exstatic when he came up with the 50%.

One more hurdle we needed to jump…the kids!

Our kids tend to be reluctant to say good-bye to things that no longer serve them.

They had so much stuff that they had outgrown, things that had broken and things that they just don’t play with taking up valuable space in their rooms.

We didn’t want to just go in there and start taking stuff. We wanted them to understand why they should be letting things go periodically. This actually turned into somewhat of a process but they understood that by letting go of the old we were making space for the new.

These are the steps we took to help the kids downsize their things.

We talked about why we needed to let things go.

For us, this meant we are moving and space is very limited. We also made sure they understood we were doing this as a family, we would ALL be letting go of our old things.

Then we talked about the types of things we needed to let go of. Toys that were broken or outgrown, ragged clothes, things they just don’t play with…

Finally, we promised that all the stuff we were getting rid of would go to a good home as long as it wasn’t broken or too worn out.

We laid things out in a single layer on their beds so they could easily be seen.

Our kids are very visual, so to give them an idea of how much we needed to try to let go of I split the bed in half with a piece of painters tape.

The goal was to get each bedful of stuff to fit on one side in a single layer.

Then, I took 3 large boxes and wrote a category on them: keep, trash, give.

We looked at things one by one.

This was a little painstaking but necessary so they could really see why some of this stuff wasn’t worth keeping. Again was it broken, torn, or outgrown? If so it needed to go into the appropriate box.

The “keepers” went to the left side of the bed until we were down to half, then it went into the keep box and we refilled the bed with the remaining things to sort.

For the hard things, we asked them a few questions.

Does it make you happy when you play with it?

Most of the time they would say, “I don’t know, I haven’t played with it in a long time!” That is when I pointed out that it isn’t one of their favorites and maybe we should find it a new home.

Is it part of a set that you are keeping?

Our girls play with Shopkins and Littlest Petshop toys the most, so if we came across an an odd item that is the question I used to decide what to do with it.

Was it a special gift from someone?

Most of their toys were gifts at one point, but there are those things that were aquired in a special moment and held sentimental value. For instance, that time I took the kids to Build-a-Bear those were very special to them.

Do you have anything else that is similar?

My daughter had 6 brown teddy bears (along with a million other bears…) so I asked if she could keep one or two of them and donate the rest. Once she saw the keep pile full of fun colored bears she decided that she didn’t want ANY brown ones, the colorful ones are what she loved.

Do you love it?

This is pretty simple, but it worked really well for clothes and things they were on the fence about. If you can’t say you love something the moment you set eyes on it, you don’t LOVE it.

Finally, get it out!

As soon as we finished sorting I loaded up the car and took the stuff to its proper resting place. In the past I made the mistake of keeping things in the garage until I had a “full load.”

Well that leads to curious kids digging through and trying to keep the stuff all over again! Take it from me: Just get it out!

The whole process went much quicker than I had anticipated. It almost became a game with the kids, they are very competitive so they each wanted to be the winner…the person that got rid of the most stuff!

Now did we get rid of a full 50% like we originally set out? Not quite, but we did par down A LOT and ended up making a little money in the process. Remember all those tools and building supplies? They sold like hotcakes!

We also made a few hefty donations to the local womens shelter and the VFW which we all feel pretty good about.




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