parent opinion

The surprising mental load of managing your kids' "stuff".

In the hunt for a white-collared shirt this week, I found myself up a step-ladder in my eldest son's bedroom rummaging through a storage box filled with age 6-8 clothes. 

I had a Book Week parade deadline to meet, and I knew we had owned one because I had photographic proof of my eldest son as Harry Potter in 2017. 

Did I locate that white shirt? No. 

Do I know where that white shirt ended up? No.

Did I find a lot of other clothing I now needed to sort and wash? Yes.

While my youngest son was unfazed to parade as Harry Potter in his blue school shirt, the mound of old clothes that I needed to sort through and decide what to do with, annoyed me. 

My search for one white shirt had started a snowball effect I had to face head-on, and I felt overwhelmed.

Some of these clothes were already too small for my youngest and could proceed straight to his cousins, but some items could be washed and worn immediately. Which meant I also needed to sort out his current lot of clothing to find room for these extras. 

And then I would need to store any remaining items and donate the rest. 

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In my distant (and clearly more organised) past, I had lovingly placed all these clothes into a storage bag and put them up and out of the way on the very top shelf of my now almost teenage son's closet. 

There they had sat collecting dust as a 'future me' problem for a year too long. And now, not only had I missed the boat on a bunch of cute clothes my youngest won't get to wear, I realised I had several other long-lost storage bags stuffed with more clothes I needed to sort through. 

Suddenly my next few weekends were looking busy.

And kids' clothes are only one part of the 'stuff' problem. 

Don't get me started on the toy cupboard with the door that keeps bursting open, the kids' overstocked bookshelves or the overflowing craft cupboard.


I spent half a day under the house a few weeks ago searching for Anh Do's 'Weirdo' book series I knew my youngest son was ready to read. I found a ton of great books I swore I had only boxed up and stored under the house yesterday but apparently, four years have since passed. 

These 'new' books are now stacked in piles in our living room because the 'old' books still line his bedroom bookshelves. 

Every birthday and Christmas there's a new influx of 'stuff' that is lovely and so very welcome and while I try to integrate it, it takes work to stay on top of the sorting as kids grow up so fast.

During the first and second COVID lockdowns, I had a huge baby and toddler toy clear out. Some items went to family and friends with younger kids and the rest of it went on Facebook Marketplace. I can't lie, it felt good to clear the decks - briefly. Because here we are just a couple of years later in desperate need of another kids' stuff declutter. And going through kids' clothes, books and toys is the sort of job that often gets trumped by the more pressing demands of cooking and washing but that permanently sits on the bottom of my rolling mental 'to-do' list. 

Yet the constant sorting of their stuff is not a 'one and done' type of situation. It is a never-ending task that requires thought, planning and emotional strength, and it's the emotional strength part that makes it really challenging.

Every time I walk into my now Year 1 son's door I see a wooden postbox toy staring at me. He hasn't played with it for YEARS because it is for toddlers but it has personal significance because I purchased it for my eldest son over a decade ago when we were living in the UK. 


It's the same story with that mound of old clothes sitting in the storage bags and the half-chewed Julia Donaldson picture books on the shelf. 

And the overflowing soft toy collection. I am not a hoarder (promise) but it is hard to be brutal with the cute furry little friends they used to love so much.


They might just be books, teddies, t-shirts or old wooden post boxes but every time I look at something as part of the ongoing stuff sort-out, it sparks a dozen happy memories.

The great holidays where certain clothes were last worn, the book that one of my sons used to giggle at when I read it aloud. Or the teddy that was a gift from a dear friend.

I know I should set aside some time to tackle the physical act of sorting alongside the emotions that come with it all because let's be honest, it never feels like the 'right time' to sort through dusty storage boxes or get teary over teddies.

Anita Birges is a professional organiser and director of Mise en Place. She believes that when it comes to organising your kids, it's all about doing things in manageable chunks, acting fast and making sure the kids are not involved.

She shared her top five tips to declutter your kids' toys, books and 'stuff' with Mamamia to help me get started:

1. Leave the kids out of it if they are under the age of 5. You know what they do and don’t play with and you can make those decisions of what stays and what goes.

2. Have a plan of where the no longer used toys are going to go. Some options can include handing them down to other family members with kids or donating them to a charity.


3. Break down the project into bite-size pieces so that it's not such a daunting task. One day do dress-ups, one day do cars and trains, and one day tackle the Lego.

4. I want you to prepare yourself with some heavy-duty laundry bags or boxes for the toys that are leaving your home. Now, plastic bags are not strong enough and they rip easily. It can be really frustrating after all that decluttering work when the toys end up all over the room again.

5. Now this is so important…. Get your decluttered toys out of your home within 24 hours. Trust me, you don’t want your kids rummaging through those bags and making all that hard work a waste of your time. 

I need to just get started and attack those piles of clothes before I work my way up to the teddies and the postbox. 

Maybe, I'll just save those for the next big sort out.

Anita Birges is a Professional Organiser, decluttering guru and property stylist with over 10 years of experience in the home organising industry. Follow her on Instagram here.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Senior Lifestyle Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied / Canva.

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