How Does Your Clutter Affect Your Children?

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Growing up in a cluttered house can have a big effect on your kids.

When we tend to think about our clutter issues, we mostly think in terms of how it affects us or our spouse.  We don’t often think about how it might be affecting our children.  However, their home environment clearly has an affect on our children.  This can follow them throughout their lives.

We need to be aware how OUR clutter habits are affecting our CHILDREN. It can have a HUGE effect on their development. Click to Tweet

My Experience Growing up in a Messy Home

It’s interesting.  My mother kept our home pretty well cluttered up but it affected my sister and I completely differently.  I am definitely my mother’s daughter.  I’ve struggled my whole life with clutter issues.  My older sister, however, went into a completely different mode.  Her house is always clutter-free and gorgeous.

On the other hand, my husband was raised by the typical perfectionist mother. He isn’t any better off because she DID everything for him.  That way it would always be done to her standards.  So it’s just interesting what different effects our childhood environments had on us.

One thing is undeniable – our childhood environment DID have a very strong effect on us as adults.  So, the message is, what you do today in terms of your home environment with your children MATTERS!

Clutter Kid vs. Non-clutter Kid?

Imagine how your child might turn out differently in a very tidy and organized home?  Might they be more calm, more dependable, have fewer insecurities?  I definitely had some embarrassment about my home that led me to avoid bringing friends over, especially in Jr High and High School when you’re embarrassed about everything anyway!  And kids who have regular chores and good habits are going to have an easier time when it comes to having college roommates and eventually spouses.

True confessions time – I had a huge guilt trip when my extra smart middle son almost didn’t graduate High School.  They literally held his cap and gown HOSTAGE until the very morning of graduation due to some missing assignments.  He’s a great kid, but was always chronically disorganized.  At one point, he was missing 14 different assignments in just one class.  I felt like I had passed down a lot of my scatter-brained ways to him.

We had some friends who were super organized and their daughter of the same age was headed off to some fancy pants college, while our boy wouldn’t even attempt community college.  I have never felt like a worse parent.  I kept thinking if he had been raised by parents like that, his future could have been so different.  That is every parent’s nightmare, isn’t it?

PS:  He’s newly married and doing wonderfully, but at the time, the guilt really hit me hard and kept me from truly enjoying his graduation.

The Clutter in Your Home MATTERS!

The clutter can also affect your child’s mood and behavior.  I’ve often noticed that my youngest son is always much calmer and cooperative when he’s on restriction.  All of a sudden, he doesn’t have the distraction of TV, video games, and Facebook.  While he isn’t thrilled about it, after a while he seems perfectly happy to read books, play with Legos or puzzles, and just generally chill out.

After noticing that, I decided to remove all the toys from his room.  All the toys and games strewn all over everywhere was just overwhelming with him, and sending him in there with orders to “clean up that pigpen” would just push him into a meltdown.  See my post on making it EASY for your kid to keep their room clean and also organizing your ADHD kid.  I really helps these kids if you just SIMPLIFY things for them to allow them to focus on the important stuff.

Now that he only has clothes and books in there, it’s a much calmer situation for him and easier to keep clean.  Well, not actually “clean”, but it would be a lot WORSE if he had his toys and games in there also.

How are you Preparing your Kids for adulthood?

Here’s a scary thought – your kid could be married and/or living on their own in just a few short years.  Are they ready for those adult responsibilities?  A child who doesn’t have any regular chores is likely to be an adult who isn’t capable of doing the day-to-day tasks to maintain their home in a liveable condition.  If they are allowed to keep an excess of toys and clothes they are likely to not notice the clutter in their adult life – because that seems like a normal situation for them.  You don’t want your future son or daughter-in-law giving you the stink eye because you didn’t teach your kid how to do dishes or pick up after themselves!

So, if you are struggling to clear out your clutter and deal with your own clutter issues, maybe it will be a big motivator to know that change could be making life much BETTER for your kids.

Suggestions You Can Try to Bust the Clutter

Why not try making some simple changes over the next couple of weeks and notice how your child reacts?  Here are some ideas:

  • Remove about 50% of the toy clutter.  If you don’t want to give it away, at least box it up and put it in the basement or garage where they can’t see it.


  • Simplify wardrobe choices by removing any out of season or too-small clothes.  Consider laying out clothes for a week at a time for younger kids.


  • Set up a homework station for school-aged kids to keep books and schoolwork orderly and organized for a stress-free morning.  See Organizing Your Kids Homework.


  • If your kitchen table is a clutter magnet, work on keeping it clean so you can have dinner at the table as a family.


  • Work on getting together a chore routine that works for you and your family.

One resource that has been very helpful to me is a website called MyJobChart.com.  You can set up a custom list of chores, for each child and then set up rewards they can earn from Amazon and other stores or just cash.  It’s been quite helpful for my family.

What ideas do you have for helping to set the example for your children regarding their clutter habits? 

Here are some other posts you may find helpful:

Powerful Tips to Organize Your Kids Chores

Organizing the Disorganized or ADHD Child

Get Your Kids to Do Their Chores!


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    1. Yep it was one in the morning and he had been messing around with it for hours. I wouldn’t have done it for just a regular assignment, but missing his one and only shot to graduate with his class due to one stupid English assignment was a ridiculously harsh penalty.

        1. Yes, it made a surprising amount of difference. I think most kids feel calmer in a clutter-free space, I think they just don’t know how to get there.

  1. I especially love your perspective on keeping toys out of kids rooms. I agree that it should be a place to relax and keeping the toys out certainly helps. I think that basic chores are great for kid — even little ones!

    1. Yes, definitely. I just watched a documentary that showed Japanese school children who clean their classrooms and their school hallways on a daily basis. It’s such a normal, everyday thing for them and they seem to love it. It teaches them ownership of their space and gives them a great sense of responsibility. I think that is a fabulous way to teach children about the benefits of a routine.

  2. I like keeping toys in the bedroom to a minimum. We all sometimes benefit from a “forced” simplicity. It is similar to keeping unhealthy snacks out of the house – temptation removed!

  3. My cluttery chaos affected my 2 girls in opposite ways. My oldest became a clutter disaster, just like me. My youngest went the opposite way, and is almost anal about keeping a nice house. I’m sad that my mess rubbed off on the oldest.

    1. That’s totally my sister and I and to make it worse, she manages to marry the neat freaks. Me, not so much…. On the other hand, I’ve seen how finicky and nitpicky my brother-in-law is. He’s a great guy, but I’d probably murder him in a week!

  4. I’m on the same page with you about clutter. Too much makes them AND me feel overwhelmed. That’s not healthy for anyone. I’m really good about keeping only the current seasonal clothing in the closet. It’s so much easier. Thanks for sharing your tips and advice at Inspire Me Mondays!

    1. Me too. When I get the house all nice and clean and get the clutter out of the way, I like my house SO much better! And when Mama is happy, I think it helps the whole family.

  5. I can definitely tell what a difference clutter makes on kids. My daughter’s house is always cluttered and whenever my 6 yr. old granddaughter comes over she always talks about how she feels better over here. She likes it because my house is “cleaner” aka less cluttered.

    1. I think it definitely does make a difference and some children are more sensitive to clutter than others. Maybe you could help your daughter create a nice peaceful corner somewhere in her home with a nice rug, soft pillows, and a few books and then watch how much time the little girl spends there. Maybe that will help her to see the difference. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. The affect the clutter has on my son is why I started my organization mission. My daughter has my ability to know where things are in the clutter so she never really has any problems with it.

    My mother was a clean freak. Growing up, every room in our house was spotless except for mine! (I think she gave up on my room.) Books were strewn everywhere. People used to stop by all the time and my mother never had to run through the house like a crazy person to make it look presentable. I want to be at that point lol.

  7. I’m going to check out MyJobChart! Sounds like a winning tool! I also love the idea of laying out the clothes ahead of time. My daughter wears the same shirt twice a week because we do laundry on Wednesdays and she just grabs what’s on top! Great post!

  8. Great post and something I need to take to heart and work on! I am planning to try to get rid of a lot of stuff this summer. After school and the sports season ends, I should have a lot more free time to get it under control. All the clutter makes me a little anxious…I imagine it would be more calming for my kids too if we got rid of a lot of it.

  9. I think clutter makes everyone feel unsettled. It does the same for children. It’s so important to teach them to be organized and to model that for them also.

  10. I agree that clutter affects everyone in the home. When things get extra messy, we are all prone to bad moods and being short with each other. From that state, it is really hard to get things cleaned up because everyone fusses just out of habit! But once things get put away, there is a giant sigh of relief and we have a place to play and snuggle again. My kids are still so little and so we go through this upheaval weekly, sometimes daily. I look forward to them being a little older and calmer! Stopping by from the Mom It Forward community 🙂

  11. I really need to box up the winter clothes. My daughter keeps pulling out long sleeved tshirts to wear.

  12. Very interesting. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes down to the personality of the person. Take my family for instance. My mom is very neat, yet I’m not, and neither is one of my sisters. One of my others is almost obsessively clean. Yet, my three other siblings are in the middle.

  13. I think different kids respond differently to clutter. Our house is pretty uncluttered and my husband runs it pretty tightly. I think she actually likes going to her grandparents because there’s an endless supply of things to look at and explore.

    My son collects stuff and it’s a constant battle to get rid of things. However, his personality is one that does better with less. Now’s my chance to do better with a chore routine with him (summer!).

    Blog On

  14. I think I was middle of the road when it came to clutter when I was a raising the kids . now, at age 63 I am much neater and more organized . 1 of my grown sons is very neat and the other not so much . they are just very different but thank goodness they are compatible. I think if it gets to the point of chaos it really affects everybody. I do remember making sure the sink was clean. at night after dinner just as a visual lesson I wanted them to have. I’m actually okay with a few, just a few, dishes in the sink. haha .

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