It’s spring cleaning time and the start of moving season. Coincidence? I think not.
Seriously. That’s it. Once you’ve got that down, the rest of the move will be a cinch. If you have kids like I do, that’s probably not an option. Kids will start asking for their lovey or their bed, so you may need to keep a few things. Time to begin the decluttering process instead.
Full disclosure here: I love getting rid of stuff. I get giddy imagining donation bags piled high in the trunk of my minivan. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know this about me if you came into my house. I’ve never been a shopper and I’ve moved a zillion times, so you’d guess my house would be on the more minimalist side of the equation. As much as I would love to pretend this was the case, I have three kids and a very large and generous extended family. Add that in with birthday parties, home improvement projects, sports and hobbies and we have a house filled with love and lots and lots of stuff.
Set a Date for Donation Weekend
Before Marie Kondo came and drastically altered my life, we had our own way of decluttering in the Wenzke household. It’s our tradition to have donation weekend the first weekend of November. It’s right before my daughter’s and husband’s birthdays and before the holiday season begins. Plus, Halloween candy is a good incentive for me. It’s on the calendar for 2016, 2017, and 2018. Nothing will come between me and donation weekend. We typically do a smaller version in the spring as well, but I’m mentally prepared for that November weekend months in advance. Pick a date that works for you. If you’re moving, let’s make that date next weekend.
Get the Kids on Board
I’ve never been able to donate the kids’ things without asking them first. I can’t lie if Victoria asks me, “Mom, where’d you put my orange star that I’m holding in that picture upstairs?” Of course, the kids will only ask about obscure toys that they haven’t played with in years but are now obsessed with finding. I would feel too guilty about getting rid of their things without their consent. That’s why I’ve made the kids part of the donation process since they were toddlers. I’ve never pushed them into donating something they didn’t want to donate. Over the years they’ve learned that this is what we do at our house and they’ve learned why donation weekend is important.
Why Donations are Important
By October I’m already panicked about the influx of toys and stuff that will come pouring into our house. Yes, we are incredibly fortunate that this is a “problem” and I recognize how lucky we are to be able to afford toys for the kids. That’s why I am adamant that we give back and that our kids learn the lesson of giving back to others. So, to kick off every donation weekend, I create a poster listing the reasons why donations are important. We’ve been doing it long enough that the kids already know these things, but it’s still a good reminder and the basis for our starting pep talk.
When we first started doing this, I was amazed at how the kids internalized these reasons. They would talk about the benefits weeks after the hard work was done. My daughter would say, “I love that my room is so clean and that I can find my doll clothes right away. Plus, it’s cool knowing that another girl who doesn’t have any toys has a new doll to play with.” And, yes, we talk about taxes a lot in our house (reason #5). The kids just can’t get enough.
Incentivizing the Kids: Candy, Books, and $$$
It’s a long weekend, so we like to motivate the kids with tangible benefits. There’s the Halloween candy for a quick energy replenisher. There are also the books from our school’s annual October book fair. The kids can spend up to $15 on books at the fair that we’ll save for donation weekend prizes. For the book prizes, we eyeball their effort level at the end of the weekend. For the money prize, we bring out the scale. Each kid creates his or her own pile of donated items. For the shared toys (which are most of their possessions), they all need to agree to donate the item. My husband and I then weigh the items. They receive $0.25 per pound of donations, both for their individual items and the group items. The person with the most donated weight gets a bonus of $1.00. Typically, each kid makes about $15-$20 plus their book prizes. To us, it’s worth every penny to get the kids excited and involved in donation weekend. We itemize every single donation for tax purposes and we want them to learn that making donations can earn you real money.
Using the Kondo Method and Decluttering By Category
I thought we had donation weekend down until I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I talked about it so much that my kids kept asking me, “Is your life changed, Mom?” “Yes, kids. It is.” Instead of decluttering by room, I now declutter by category (mind blowing, I know). I finally reached the children’s books category. It was time for the test. I wanted to make Marie Kondo proud. The kids and I took every children’s book we owned and brought it to the basement. We have a ridiculous number of books, especially considering that we’re constantly getting books from the library. When our books were spread out throughout the house, it didn’t seem like we had so many. Once we brought them all together, it was an embarrassing quantity of books.
Shopping at the “Bookstore”
I lined up each and every book flat on the floor with the cover facing up. I grouped them by category like you would find at a book store. There was the princess section, the superhero section, the Curious George books, the chapter books, and the easy readers. I gave each kid a pad of sticky notes. They waited by the stairs until the store owner invited them in for the grand opening.
“Welcome, Kids! Please feel free to buy anything you want.”
The kids rushed in like kids in a candy store, hurrying to put their sticky notes on any and every book they wanted. I worried at first as the sticky notes went fast and furious. Then, they slowed down. All three kids were given several opportunities, over the course of two days, to go back to the store to make sure they didn’t miss anything. We ended up with over one hundred books that nobody wanted and we donated them to charity.
What Fascinated Me Most About “Bookstore” Donation Weekend
The bookstore was a huge success and we repeated the process with the kids’ stuffed animals. These items were always part of donation weekends, but the framing of the question was completely different. It wasn’t about whether the kids wanted to lose an item. It was whether they wanted to “purchase” a new one. We were no longer asking the kids, “Do you want to get rid of this?” Instead, we asked them, “Does this bring you enough joy that you would want to buy it?” The kids acted much less nostalgic when they needed to use a sticky note to keep the item, even though they had an unlimited number of sticky notes.
You Honestly Want Me to Do This Before I Move?
There’s no doubt that decluttering the Marie Kondo way is a lot of work. The thing is, so is getting rid of things the old way (by room instead of category). No matter how you look at it, you have tons to do before your move. It’s well worth your while to start this process as soon as you know you are moving. The more you get rid of, the less you need to pack. The less you pack, the less you need to pay to move. You’ll also have less to unpack. All the time you spend right now getting rid of things will come back to you in spades on the other side of this. Plus, you’ll have a super clean home when you get to your new city. It’s totally worth the effort. It can even be fun. My kids can’t wait until the next “bookstore” day.