Conquering clutter for homeschoolers


Written by Amida of Journey into Unschooling.

Chinese New Year is just around the corner and for me, it means a massive purge session. Something about the upcoming New Year always brings on the urge for me to clean, clean, clean.

Out with the old and in with the — well, hopefully, nothing!

This time around, I am determined to keep the Stuff at bay and out of my house.

Just seeing the amount of things that have snuck in and filled up all corners of my home is enough to make me think twice about my spending and acquiring habits (because in actuality, a lot of things enter in the form of gifts, freebies, and deals-too-good-to-pass-up).

Want to join me in cleaning out the clutter?

If so, grab your gloves and 30-gallon heavy duty bags and favorite playlist. It’s time to purge!

Touch and dump

My method for a great cleaning is simple — move fast and think fast. This is no time to be wishy-washy or sentimental.

Just start with a pile, a box, or a table top and remove everything on it that you don’t want. Don’t ponder too much about each item.

I find it helpful to visualize what I want the space to look like before cleaning. If it’s a cleared counter top, then I work towards that and know that everything has to be thrown away, given away, or put away.

It’s always slow going at first but once you start seeing space, momentum takes over and you will want to just get rid of everything to make even more space.

It’s a thrilling feeling to declutter.

Realize what works for you

One year, I put all my loose beans and grains into mason jars and stored them in the cabinet.

It looked fantastic! So pretty, so organized!

This year, I threw them all away, because apparently, it never occurred to me to look for food in pretty mason jars. I usually just open a bag of beans or whatnot and cook the whole thing.

If you, on the other hand, like transferring all your dried goods into more visually appealing containers, the go for it.

What’s important is to know how you use your space and what works for you.

Schedule a donation or garbage pick-up

I am lucky to live in an area with lots of donation options, many that come right to your house to pick up your stuff for you.

Usually, I don’t schedule a pick up until I’ve got a good five or six bags filled. Then I have a better idea of how many more I can fill up and can give a better estimate for the driver.

Besides the donation truck, I also schedule the garbage truck to pick up extra bags, preferably around the same time as donations pick up.


Don’t save (too much) for the next kid

I love hand-me-downs, especially the baby clothes worn by all my kids.

But in reality, as they get older, they develop their own tastes in clothes and acquire their own sets through gifts, so it’s pointless to keep saving for the next kid.

I totally understand if your children are close in age and of the same gender. But for me, I’d end up storing clothes for 3-4 years before the next kid even fits them. That means at any given time, I have at least 4-5 complete wardrobes in storage. That’s a lot of potential space!

If you have kids, chances are, you have toys, and tons of them. We have so many toys that most are stored in the garage and not played with.

Why store toys that aren’t played with? I do keep a few outgrown ones for keepsakes, but the rest end up in the donation bag.

Gifts and freebies

I love getting gifts, but honestly, I don’t love most of it.

Many times, we open gifts, admire them for a few days and then sort of forget about them.

Instead of letting them collect dust on the counter, if it isn’t love at first sight, return or re-gift to someone who would love it more. I won’t tell.


And now on to my ultimate weakness — homeschool freebies.

If you are part of a homeschool group, more than likely, someone somewhere is getting rid of something.

You get all excited and take everything home — textbooks, workbooks, craft kits, science kits — you’ve really hit the jackpot!

“I’ll sort through them again later and integrate them into our school day,” you tell yourself.

But then days pass, then weeks, and before you know it, that pile has taken up valuable space in the garage for months on end and you have absolutely no use for the majority of it.

I know. It’s hard to say no. But the truth is, you, like the person before you, probably won’t and will never have use for 95% of the stuff in that freebie pile.

Do yourself a favor and get rid of it.

So there you have it, my game plan to major clean outs: visualize your space and get rid of everything that doesn’t fit in that picture. It may take a couple of days, it may even take a week. But be diligent and continue editing and deleting until you’ve reach a “done” point.

I cannot tell you how exhilarating it feels to walk into my kitchen after a good purging and see counter space, as opposed to piles of stuff.

The best time to start is now. Grab that bag and start editing.

How do you keep the clutter under control?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.


  1. I love decluttering! Sometimes I’m afraid I’m too hasty in deciding to get rid of stuff. I have three kiddos, and I’ve learned you really don’t need a lot! And things you had with the first, the third doesn’t use because he/she has siblings to keep her entertained.

    Oftentimes – either because I think there’s too much stuff or the kids have had poor attitudes regarding certain toys – I’ll put things away in a big bin. I may rotate these things out or eventually get rid of/pass along those things that aren’t missed. When we get new things, I involve the kids in choosing items to pass on (for instance, one stuffed animal in, one out). I love consumables, like art supplies, and put away extras for when current things get used up.

    There are almost always a couple bags on a bench near the front door – things to return to people, others to pass on/donate. When I’m putting away outgrown clothes, I’ll often do a quick inventory of things already in plastic bins and remove duplicates/extras to pass on to friends with younger kids. But, since I’m open to having more children, I do keep a bunch of things for that possibility.

    It’s hard for me to get rid of books, but we use the library a lot, so I know we don’t have to own every book under the sun. When our current shelves start getting too full, I go through them and purge.

    It can be hard but is very rewarding, and is easier if you keep up with it rather that letting it get out of hand.

    • There were several baby toys I’ve passed on because my second child was much more interested in playing with what her big brother was using.

  2. You are right on the money about the homeschool freebies! They’re like homeschooler crack……you feel thrilled and excited at getting your hands on them, and then really horrible and guilty about taking them later on. And there are always lots of people happy to enable your habit 🙂
    Erin – The Usual Mayhem’s latest post: Kid-sewn, kid-designed capelet

    • Just yesterday, I finally made the plunge to go through all those homeschool freebies that had been sitting in my garage for the past year. And while I was so thrilled to get textbooks and workbooks for every subject imaginable, the fact is, I never touched that stuff for more than a day. They just didn’t work for us, so why keep them around as a constant nag of what my school should look like? It wasn’t for us, so out it all went. After that, I went through the old school work like a mad woman, tossing out filled in spelling books and pages and pages of stuff I had printed out and had intended to use but didn’t (you know you have those, too). In the end, I had filled up the recycling bin to bursting but uncovered something I had not seen for a long while — the garage floor! It was a great feeling!
      Amida’s latest post: Study Like An Egyptian

  3. My secret for keeping clutter at bay? Moving! We move around more than the average family so we take advantage of each move by getting rid of clutter before the packers arrive. In fact, we’re in the middle of an international move right now! One thing moving has taught us- how to live with less and live more simply, which is very freeing. I love your touch and go method of decluttering. That’s how I declutter too. 🙂
    Camie’s latest post: What Will We Miss?

    • That is actually something I think about before a big purge. I think about the house right before I move in, in all its empty glory. I love love love a clean, empty room, with no piles all over. I also like to envision what I would take if we were to move. And while we never move, it’s a great way to see what’s important to you and what you really want to keep.
      Amida’s latest post: Study Like An Egyptian

  4. I usually ask myself – “Does this bring me joy?” If not, out it goes. I also take into account whether or not I can access it somewhere else. Most of the things I end up getting rid of can be replaced, if necessary, at very little cost.
    Jill Foley’s latest post: Black and White Wednesday ~ Seattle

  5. I’m doing this too. After a busy fall/winter, I got behind in so many projects and things just piled up. Time to clean up and out!!

    • You won’t regret it! It took me two weeks to do a thorough house clean out, and while you may feel overwhelmed in the beginning, half way through, you’ll want to throw away everything in sight, just to uncover more SPACE — or at least I did. 😀

      This time around, I didn’t stop at STUFF, I removed the excess furniture that allowed me to hide the STUFF. I think that was key. Any available surface ends up being a dumping ground as does every available shelf and cabinet. Remove that and you remove the clutter stop.
      Amida’s latest post: Study Like An Egyptian

      • I had a purge just before Christmas which emptied out furniture.. Desks .. Chairs as well… I could be a professional I enjoy it sooo much.

  6. I hate clutter–physical and mental! Thanks for these tips.
    Hannah’s latest post: In Search of the Flexible Life

  7. Even treasured items can be a burden, at least to me. Sometimes the very weight of memory is just too much. Or things that are “too valuable” to get rid of. The reality is I am probably never going to make a killing selling stuff on eBay and hanging onto things because they are “worth something” is just nonsense. To me, anyway. I tend to let things pile up and then go on a tear. The thought of what it would take to ready the house for a sale is frightening, but also very motivating…whether or not a sale is in the future.

  8. I really like giving away my stuff if I can find a good home for it. If there’s a friend who can use it, a specific charity, etc. I prefer to do that vs. just dropping off stuff at Goodwill.

    So this post got me to thinking. I’m going to try to organize a give-away day with my homeschool friends. We will bring our low-value unwanted items, folks can take what they would like, and the unclaimed items can either go home or be officially donated somewhere. Things of higher value can be sold at a used sale or something.

    But I just think, I would really love it if old puzzles, books, curricula etc. can go home with another homeschool mama.

    I just hope it doesn’t add unwanted clutter for them to deal with 🙂
    Kacie’s latest post: Some of what we’re actually doing right now

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Never miss a blog post,
PLUS get Jamie’s FREE ebook: