Simple 3-Step Pre-Christmas Purge for Your Kids {and Your Sanity}

As a mom of two elementary-aged children, I am always looking for new ways to control the clutter in my home, and this Pre-Christmas Purge has been a real winner for our family! I choose to use the expectation of new things to motivate my children to do a pre-Christmas purge. Here is the simple 3-step plan we follow in our home.

Clutter is both my constant companion (I have 2 grade school kids!) and a threat to my peace of mind.

I am always looking for new ways to control the clutter in my home, and this Pre-Christmas Purge has been a real winner for our family!

I have read more blog posts than I can count about the holiday season and all of the gifts children receive.

There are endless debates about whether or not to request fewer gifts from grandparents, tell aunts and uncles to give our kids “experiences” rather than gifts, or give up on the idea of exchanging gifts all together.

My husband and I have always been frugal when it comes to holidays and birthdays.

Our kids don’t expect elaborate or expensive gifts. 

But because we choose not to dictate to our extended family what they can or cannot buy for our kids, by the end of December we are literally swimming in new stuff.

So, I choose to use the expectation of new things to motivate my children to do a pre-Christmas purge. 

I have been doing this for the past 3 years, and it has worked exceptionally well for my family.

Unfortunately, if you have young children, you will find that you are doing the majority of the purging.

But you are setting an excellent example for your kids, and you are teaching them a habit that will benefit them for the rest of their lives!

Here is the simple 3-step plan we follow in our home.

Pre-Christmas Purge for Kids 

As a mom of two elementary-aged children, I am always looking for new ways to control the clutter in my home, and this Pre-Christmas Purge has been a real winner for our family! I choose to use the expectation of new things to motivate my children to do a pre-Christmas purge. Here is the simple 3-step plan we follow in our home.

Step #1: Make a Plan

You know your kids the best.  You want to do this close enough to Christmas that they are super excited about it, but you don’t want to be thinking about this on Christmas Eve-Eve either!

I find that the ideal time to start is the second weekend of December.  We always start with the bedrooms, and then we move to the playroom.

We have a standing rule in our home: When we move something from the bedroom to the playroom, we must also move something from the playroom into storage (more about this later!). 

My kids are 7 & 9 and I have found that they can only work for about 1 hour at a time before I start losing them.

I have also discovered that I cannot expect them to do this task without parental guidance. 

So we usually pick 2 separate days to do the work (one day in their bedroom, and 1 day in the basement/playroom).  We set aside  2 or 3 one hour chunks of time and generally rent movies to watch in between.

Slow and steady wins the clutter clearing race!


Step #2: Keep, Trash, Move

The first thing we have them do when they go through a space is an initial keep/trash/move cycle.  I like to set up a keep laundry basket, a move laundry basket, and a trash can in their room and help them go through all of their toys and papers.

You will find that kids first instinct is to keep everything, it is important that as a parent you help them to make good decisions.

Once we have removed the trash, we take the move basket down to the basement, and find new homes for the keep items in their bedroom.  When we progress on to the basement playroom, the method is the same, except the items in the move basket get boxed up and put in storage.


As a mom of two elementary-aged children, I am always looking for new ways to control the clutter in my home, and this Pre-Christmas Purge has been a real winner for our family! I choose to use the expectation of new things to motivate my children to do a pre-Christmas purge. Here is the simple 3-step plan we follow in our home.

Step #3: Make This Promise

Promise to keep items in Storage for at least 3 months before selling/giving-away.

Notice how I have used the word “move” rather than give-away or sell when I am communicating with my children.

I have found that the fear of making a mistake or changing their mind about something is truly crippling to my kids.

I am a big fan of selling old stuff so we have room for the new stuff, but my children are in the process of learning this skill and I find that this middle step is crucial.

My kids know that mommy won’t get rid of any of the stuff in our “move” box for at least 3 months.  I promise them that if there is something they miss, we can take it back out during that time.

Once 3 months has passed (and they almost NEVER miss any of it), I either give it away, put it in my garage sale pile, or trash it.

ONE LAST THING:  When you do decide to go through these boxes a few months later, don’t you dare do it when your children are around!  They will want it all back if they see it, kids are funny like that.

As a mom of two elementary-aged children, I am always looking for new ways to control the clutter in my home, and this Pre-Christmas Purge has been a real winner for our family! I choose to use the expectation of new things to motivate my children to do a pre-Christmas purge. Here is the simple 3-step plan we follow in our home.

So that is our pre-Christmas purge!

My kids are so proud of themselves when they are done, and the whole process of receiving gifts is a lot less stressful for this clutter-hating mom.

What are your best tips for keeping the clutter under control through the holiday season? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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This article has been shared at my favorite Faith & Family Linkups.

Sarah Koontz

About Sarah Koontz

  Sarah Koontz invites Christians of all ages to explore the beauty of God’s design. She is a passionate storyteller who enjoys using illustrations to communicate deep spiritual truths. Sarah lives on 13-acres in South Dakota with her husband, two daughters and a rowdy flock of 30 chickens. She revels in their simple, uncluttered life. Follow Sarah on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Read Sarah's full Bio Here.

34 thoughts on “Simple 3-Step Pre-Christmas Purge for Your Kids {and Your Sanity}

  1. We’ve done this kind of purge a few times a year since our kids were little. Now they are about to turn 17 and 15 and they have learned to do this on their own. Keep at it – it’s totally worth it 🙂 Visiting from #mommymoments.

    1. That is exceedingly excellent news. I hope I’m able to help my kids grow out of their pac-rat tendencies and teach them the value of a de-cluttered life as you have taught your children. Oh, mama. Enjoy these last few years with your kiddos at home, it goes so quickly….

    1. The problem with the box method is that once the time has passed, you’ve got to deal with it again 😉 I’d rather one and done it, but my kids have so much fear of making the wrong decision that it cripples the process. Maybe as they get older…

  2. Very good suggestions here. We did something similar this year. Purged toys and clothing in the spring, then did a Memorial Day yard sale and another Labor Day yard sale. Then I sold the remainder at an annual consignment sale in October. For the yard sales, I rewarded my children for their efforts by splitting the proceeds four ways, between myself and the three of them. We went shopping the day after the yard sales, and they are still treasuring those items they worked hard to sell. Lots of effort but well worth the lessons they learned.

    1. Sarah, I love all the purging you’ve done this year. You go, girl! I often pay my kids for their donation pile so they can buy something they really want, and you are right…it means all the more when they had to sacrifice to get it.

  3. We used to do similar things before Christmas when our children were small. It really does make a difference! Perhaps even as adults we need to think about a pre-Christmas purge too….

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Lisa. I really believe that less is more when it comes to possessions cluttering our homes and our hearts. Adults and children alike benefit from regular purging, especially before the big holiday intake.

  4. So smart. We have a constant donation box in our garage so we can toss items in it as we decide they are no longer needed. I’m getting ready to do a huge toy purge. Even five kids don’t need 30 potato heads! And all the broken toys that “some day we will fix” need to go too. I’m tired of them taking up space! Thanks for sharing today 🙂

    1. Poor mom, hoping all those potato heads don’t get wind of your sinister plans, join forces and revolt! I have a donation “section” in the storage room too. I’ve found that having a place ready makes it easier to move the “extras” down to the basement throughout the year. I’ve been encouraging my kids to go through their toy collection as they have outgrown most of it, but they resist! Maybe next year….

  5. We purged every year before Christmas, too! Before my kids got to put up their Christmas decorations in their rooms, they had to “spring clean” and purge! When they were little, I helped, of course. I didn’t mind, though, since I LOVE to do that sort of thing. 🙂

    1. I love organizing and cleaning and purging too….that is if I’m in the right mood. Doing it with “little helpers” tends to wear on my nerves and patience though. Looking forward to the day that they are old enough to manage on their own…

  6. I have never thought of using the word “move!” Yes, kids (and my mother in law) don’t like the idea of giving some things away.
    There is nothing like the feeling of filling garbage bags to donate! 🙂

  7. Thanks for this! My youngest one desperately needs a purge and maybe telling her we are “moving” it (and going through with the 3 month waiting period) will help!

  8. This concept even works for teens! We’re post-Lego (sadly), and the mess and chaos of Christmas is different, but the mess and chaos of a teen bedroom is always a challenge — but at Christmas time they get to haul a tree and decorations into their room, so it’s amazing how quickly they clean up the dirty sock collection on the floor to make room for Christmas!

  9. We do this a few times a year with my boys. Last year I set 5 boxes of toys aside before Christmas and four months later when no one had even noticed I got rid of them all. We started going through all our books today.

  10. We have been selling some toys we had in a closet my kids never use. We use the save, spend, and give method with our kids allowance. So when we sold the toys we gave the kids the money we got and had them put it in their give jars to use to help someone else.

  11. This is great! My kids are older now (teens and one adult man child still at home), and it’s like pulling teeth to get them to get rid of anything! Thanks for sharing at Glimpses this week!

  12. Wish I’d had these tips when my kids were small. 🙂 I need to do a lot of purging even now so that we can live more simply and enjoy life!

    Blessings to you, Sarah! I’m your neighbor at #Faith’nFriends!

  13. Sarah- great tips! I’ve never done a purge before Christmas, I’ll have to try it. I loved the part about opening the toy box in storage without the kids (I thought my kids were the only ones that did this)

    Julie

    1. You are not alone, Julie! Kids tend to want what they “can’t” have and keep everything they “can” see. So this method of moving items and donating a few months later is a real winner for moms 😉

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