7 Ways to Declutter: A Decluttering Guide for Homeschoolers

a curly haired child, crawls out of a turned over laundry basket

In October my family intentionally downsized to a smaller home and minimized our belongings. Decluttering and purging is challenging, especially when you homeschool. Like many homeschool families, our home is filled with books, art supplies, science kits, math manipulatives, curriculum, games and more games, toys, and paper (so much paper). And we need all these things!

I remember standing in our homeschool room, trying to picture where these things would live in our new home and realizing they couldn’t all come with us. It was time to sort. As I went through each drawer and shelf, I put things in piles. My children came in regularly and offered their opinions. We boxed up items to move, give away, sell, and recycle.

While I am a constant declutterer, a large purge like this was just what our home needed. I wish we’d done it sooner. Even if you aren't planning a big move, going through your homeschool supplies can add new life to your homeschool days. 

1. Sort, Sort, Sort

Decluttering is all about sorting. All you need are a few boxes, trash bags, and a little time. Things to give away go in one box, items to sell in another, and trash and recycling go right into trash bags.

I try to move quickly. The more time I ponder something, the less likely I am to part with it. Go with your first instinct. You know what your kids use, love, and play with.

I try not to let the piles linger. If I don’t have a lot of time to declutter, I do one shelf or section of a room at a time.

Part of the joy of decluttering is seeing the new empty space. I put the donation box right in my car, take the trash and recycling outside, take pictures of my for sale items, and store out of sight the things I’m selling.

2. Decide If It Sparks Joy

Marie Kondo in her show Tidying Up, shows the correlation between decluttering and finding joy. She asks the people she’s helping to touch each item to determine if the object offers them joy. The same principle can be applied to our homeschooling supplies.

  • Do old math books bring you or your children joy?
  • Do broken crayons, art projects from years ago, games with pieces missing, and toys your kids have outgrown bring you happiness or frustration?
  • Are the things on your shelves being used? Are they loved?

3. Ask When It Was Last Used

While it can be easy to justify keeping things for one day, especially when we have multiple children, it can also be easy to end up with piles of things your children never use. Ask yourself how long the item has sat on the shelf, unused. Is it really going to be needed anytime soon? Weigh the perk of extra space (if you discard it) with the safety of keeping it just in case. Which feels better to you?

4. Use What You Have

If you really want your children to use or play with a certain toy or supply, use it. Put it somewhere your kids will discover it and make using the things you keep a priority.

5. Get Kids Involved

7 Ways to Declutter: A Decluttering Guide for HomeschoolersKids can make decluttering harder, but I think it’s important they learn the skill of decluttering and offer insight into what they love or really won’t ever use. The entire process of paring down is a learning process for them and lays the foundation for an important life skill of decision making.

6. Consider If It Can Be Borrowed

Some items like magazines, books, and one-time project supplies don’t have to be owned. Libraries, friends, and other homeschoolers are great resources. Right now your children may love learning about polar bears or be really into baking cakes, but next month their focus could shift. Instead of investing in every interest every time, see what you can borrow first.

7. Digitize

One of the hardest things to part with are the things our children make. I’m not sure what we’ll ever do with the first piece of paper my daughter wrote her name on or my son’s project on airplanes, but somethings we have to save. Saving everything will eventually mean boxes and boxes of momentos our kids will probably not ever want. I can assure you their future spouses won’t want them either. What can be done? Take pictures!

Easily sorted into folders for child, subject, and year or turned into a digital portfolio, you can keep everything virtually! The only thing you might need is a little more storage space in the cloud.

Make Decluttering an Ongoing Practice

Decluttering isn’t something to do once every few years unless, of course, we want to live with a lot of clutter. Every time I dust, whenever we pull out games, or when I buy new paint, I try to scan the shelves to see what can be given away or recycled.

Decluttering helps create a calm, enjoyable place for my children and family to learn and play. We know where things are and try hard to use what we have and surround ourselves with things that bring us joy. When it becomes hard to clean up or use a space, it usually means it’s time to sort or digitalize. Like a breath of fresh air, decluttering always helps our homeschool space and day feel lighter.

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About the Author

Kelly Sage of Curiosity Encouraged

Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.

Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.