Decluttering With Children Underfoot


Normally clients find childcare for their kids while I help them (not that they have to for my sake, but they want to make the most of the time they’re paying me for), so my experience decluttering with children underfoot is formed by cleaning and decluttering with my four kids and what I hear from readers.

I don’t want any of this advice to come across as “See, it’s just this easy … you simply do this and this!” Any advice dealing with kids may or may not work for your kids, but I say anything that might help is worth a try. Sometimes you won’t know something will work or not without giving it a try.

Use Naptime or After Bedtime

This isn’t so much an idea as it is a reminder. I know that baby nap-time is a very special time! You may have things planned for that time, or it might be your only alone time of the day. The same is probably true for after the kids go to bed – my guess is you have your favorite rituals that may include enjoying your favorite show and checking Facebook. You enjoy these times to yourself (and you should)!

But, if you can get through the Declutter Challenge, think of what that could do for you and your home. Think of the extra time you’ll have when it’s so much easier to maintain the home, or imagine not stressing anymore about the house! That is worth a little sacrifice!

Consider setting a timer and a limit to how how you’ll work every day. This might help you feel better about the time you’re spending decluttering, because it has a boundary and isn’t taking over your whole life. Sick days will probably happen, but taking time to hold your sick baby doesn’t have to stop all progress. After all, it’s about progress, not perfection.

Let Other Things Go

You only have so many hours in the day, and if you’re taking on new things to do every day, something else will need to give. Be easy on yourself. This isn’t a permanent thing, you are making a choice to replace an activity now so that you can declutter, then all your activities will be easier.

  • Relax your cleaning to the necessary, maybe by doing your Cleaning Routine every 2 weeks instead of every week.
  • Choose convenient dinners. While you’re decluttering, it’s okay to do easy dinners – like sandwiches, eggs and toast, or whatever is easy for you.
  • Whatever Makes Sense For You … don’t be a martyr, let yourself do what you need to do to make it work.

Ask For Help With Other Things

Decluttering is a big project, it only makes sense to ask for help. Decluttering the home is best as a team effort with everyone who lives there, but there’s nothing that says every member of the team has to focus on the decluttering. Some members of the family can help by contributing in other areas.

  • Trade babysitting with a friend or ask a family member to help a few hours so that you have some hours to really focus each week.
  • Ask your partner to handle some of your normal things – maybe dinners some nights each week, laundry, some cleaning. They may not do it like you would or as well as you would, but it’s only temporary!

Setup A Fun Area Near You

When your kids are still too young to play happily alone in their rooms, consider setting up something fun for them near you. Bring a coloring book, some play-doh, their favorite toy set, or whatever strikes their fancy.

Let The Kids Help!

My three older kids help me! It is actually awesome when they help me because it goes a lot faster. As I’m sorting through a drawer, they can help me put things in the right donate/trash/relocate bins quickly and we can move through the daily area with speed.

Plus, imagine how it’s helping them learn about decluttering … win-win!

And when in need, put in a movie.

Alright, I’m not winning any parenting awards with this suggestion, but that doesn’t make it less useful. Keep this trick in your back pocket for the days you really need a little extra help. (Curious George is my best friend some days!)


There is no one-way that works, but there is a way to make it work. I’d love to hear how you make it work in the comments below! Think of all the other parents you could help who might read! 



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6 thoughts on “Decluttering With Children Underfoot

  1. I had my 6yr old son help me sort toys. I thought it would be a fight to get him to part with stuff but, he was actually on board. He was also really helpful to tell me what small parts went with what toys so that I could put them together and sell them in our consignment sale this spring. We will be putting our house on the market next year (we are building a new home) and I really want to get my house decluttered now and not wait until we have to get it done in just a few weeks.
    P.S. I miss you! I enjoy your blog so, I can still get some great Mary advice :-)

    1. That’s so good that you had some help decluttering … I used to be nervous about my kids helping too, but you’ll never know if they can really help or not unless you try. :)

      ps: Miss you too!

    1. Good idea! (I could never baby wear. I tried and had every kind of wear-er, but it was just never comfortable for me. I love the idea, though!)

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