Kids, Clutter, and the Joys of Repurposing

Eliza Clark
September 9, 2013

Kids are notorious for causing clutter. Babies come with an awesome (or fearsome) array of equipment and gadgets. Young children go through strollers, scooters, and car seats at an alarming rate.  And don't even mention the clothes they outgrow, the toys and books they accumulate, or the artwork they churn out. It's enough to make you vow never to have kids... oops, too late for that.

But there's hope! Because even though they do bring immense amounts of stuff into the house, kids are also highly skilled in the art of repurposing clutter. Where we see junk and giveaways, they see treasure and hours of amusement. So strike a deal with your little ones: they let you give away some of their out-grown stuff, and you let them dive for pearls in the depths of your wardrobes and cupboards. Clearing out the closets was never so much fun.

Here are some recent hits from the clutter parade at our house:

Some people save ribbons. (These people shall remain nameless.) Ribbons are pretty, and it seems a shame to throw them away. But what are we going to do with a whole basketful? The kids know the answer to that one: tie them all together to create a long, trailing Rapunzel braid and hang it over the side of the bunk bed for witches and princes to climb up; or lay them out on the floor to create a pathway through the house from which no one must stray; or use them as a leash for various stuffed animals and take them for a "walk." Of course.

Those of you who save shoe boxes, you know who you are. Hand them over to your kids immediately to be painted, covered in collage and put to use storing and organizing all of their tiny action figures or dollhouse furniture.

Those dozens of old t-shirts stacked on a shelf have got to go, haven't they? Yes, or you could just hand them to the kids with a good pair of scissors instead. Snip them into strips for weaving projects, cut them up for rags, or, if you are craftily inclined, remake them into kids' leggings or dresses. (You'll find good DIY guides in this book and tons of ideas on Pinterest.)

What else is in that closet? Worn out shoes? Out-of-date scarves? Costume jewelry you've been saving since high school? Neckties with unsightly stains? They shall molder in dark corners no longer but be brought forth to join the other finery in the dress-up bin.

Is there a cabinet somewhere filled with ancient electronics? A cassette player, perhaps (yes, we're that old)? Don't take it to be recycled before giving your kids the chance to take it apart with screwdriver and see how it all works under the hood.

How about your kitchen cupboards? Could they use a bit of clearing out? The kids are ready to help with that too. Those mismatched food storage containers that you are longing to ditch can have a useful second life storing various art supplies. And the kitchen implements that you don't remember how to use can surely be put to use pounding play-dough.

So you see, really, very little needs to go to waste with the little ones around. They know how to breathe new life into just about anything.

From the Parents

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