The #1 Tip for Having a Calm, Happy Home with Young Children

The #1 TIP FOR HAVING A CALM, HAPPY HOME WITH CONSIDERATE, SELF-RELIANT CHILDREN  by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler

You can be the smartest parent on the block and give your child the best developmental opportunities with this one tip—declutter, go minimalist on toys and stuff for your child(ren), and increase the calm in your home overnight!

“The playroom was the bane of my existence… I didn’t enjoy motherhood,” Bentonville, Arkansas, mom Allie Casazza said. “I didn’t enjoy [my kids]. They were a bother to me.” One day, Casazza had enough. She gave nearly every toy in the house away. Not as a punishment, but for the good of the family. That one action “saved my motherhood, my marriage,” she said. Literally overnight, she said, things in her home changed. “I had been so resentful of my husband, telling him, ‘you have no idea what I go through all day,’ but after the toys were gone I immediately felt lighter. I had so much less stress,” she said. Genevieve Shaw Brown, (2016). This mom threw out her toys and got her life back. September 27, 2016, abcnews.com.

Clutter is disorienting. I don’t say this to make you feel guilty. I am naturally a clutter-bug.  In fact, I just had to do major filing and reorganization in my office because it became totally nonfunctional.  Next, for the bedroom closet!

These days, most of our children in the Western world have too much stuff.  It is disorienting when a child has to search for a toy that they want.  Think about what happens to your brain when you go to add something to your shopping list on your phone.  If you’re like me, you pick up the phone with that intention, but there are so many apps calling your name, you end up checking what the notifications are on Facebook.  An hour later, you remember you were heading to the grocery store and realize that was the reason you picked up your phone– you never meant to check Facebook at all!  How many times per week (or per day) does this happen?  Do you sometimes feel like you in constant reaction mode and just not in charge of your time anymore?

The same dynamic is at play when a child approaches their “toy box” (or your version of that area in your home).  They may go to the toy box knowing that they want to play.  However, once they start taking things out to look for what they want, they become distracted and forget what they were doing in the first place. Pretty soon, they’ve taken everything out of it and haven’t found anything that stands out as novel and interesting.

When they have too much stuff, their attentional systems become overwhelmed and, at the same time, they are still bored.  In this way, having too many toys interferes with their learning and development. 

Research shows that children and adults alike are less able to focus and learn in cluttered environments.  Cluttering your home with toys is likely to add a sense of chaos and unease for everyone. Parents, especially Moms, often tell me that the clutter and the need to be constantly picking up the children’s things makes them feel stressed most of the time they’re at home. This is not right!

 Three steps to minimize clutter.

  1. Throw it out!  Give most of the child’s toys away. Make a big deal out of decluttering. You could do this with some of your closets first and show them how great it is—how much lighter it feels, how much easier it is to find things.
  2. Get a system!  Establish and maintain an orderly method for putting things away that aren’t being used. You can use bins and separate them so that there is a bin for shoes, a bin for toys, a bin for their plates, cups and eating utensils.  It may seem to you that it would be difficult to have young children put their things away consistently but it works very well to start this in the early years, because it turns out that toddlers are very interested in categorizing and organizing things and will happily participate in keeping their environment orderly.  A place for everything, and everything in its place.
  3. Limit the stuff coming in!  Keep things from getting out of hand again. Limit the amount of stuff you bring in.  Limit all gift-giving at holidays and birthdays to a small number, like 4—total—from parents, relatives, friends, etc. Here is a rule one family found that worked: one thing they want; one thing they need; one thing they’ll wear; one thing they’ll read. What is a good rule for your family?

If you want to have a calm household that is a haven for everyone, minimizing clutter is one of the best ways you can achieve this. So, as you approach the holiday season, think about minimizing the number of gifts (aka the amount of stuff) you bring into your home. Reject the consumerism of the season and invest in experiences together instead. Your whole family will be glad you did!  And please share how you did it!

Support your child’s learning and development.

Protect them from attention deficit problems.

Declutter the environment.

This entry was posted in early childhood, family, parenting, Toddlers, young children. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The #1 Tip for Having a Calm, Happy Home with Young Children

  1. Dear Dr Ginny Trierweiler, I appreciated the honesty of your contributors, and the good sense you make in your article. I should like to add a couple of suggestions.

    (i) Children should have no electronic devices of any kind in their bedrooms ever, and there should be no toys there either (toys are kept in a space or box, and the children only put them away at the end of play). Books should be the only other extraneous items in the bedroom besides clothing, shoes, and personal keepsakes. Children need to know their bedrooms are for naps or for sleeping. Yes, to a book chosen from the shelf for a bedtime story. After that, there is no distraction from sleep.

    (ii) In relation to your laudable aim to “Protect them from attention deficit problems”: no televisions, computers, iPads, Kindles, mobile / cell phones, etc, should ever be left in the bedroom of any child including teenagers. Please see my Post “Beware the Light!”, their use, especially late in the evening, and through the night, can cause chronic sleep-deprivation, leading to an inability to rise in time in the morning, and lack of ability to concentrate in class. All these devices must be removed at night by a parent or carer, and checked to ensure all are present. This is a really serious issue that I feel many people don’t take seriously.
    Regards, I C O’Brien.

    • admin says:

      Dear Iseult Catherine O’Brien, thank you so much for your additional, brilliant suggestions!

      When I work with adults in therapy, I often suggest that bedrooms are for 2 activities and 2 activities only, one being sleep. Televisions, computers, etc. in the bedroom detract from the primary purpose of the bedroom being to rest and most of us can ill afford that. Sometimes I don’t add this part because people find it so difficult to follow, including me!

      I would love for you to share your post on my Facebook page if you would. Facebook.com/bornforbrilliance

      Thank you so much for engaging!

      Warm regards,

      Ginny

      • Dear Ginny ~

        Thank you for your enthusiasm for my suggestions. I do not use Facebook at all. However, if you have another medium, I should be pleased to place my Post there. I know the whole subject of electronic devices is a minefield for parents, but we have to be brave!

        Kind regards, Iseult.
        Iseult Catherine O’Brien

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