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There are some things that we need more than one of.

Underwear. (For sure!) Favorite books. Clothes. Dishes.

But what do we REALLY need to keep around?

When it comes to the theory of “one in, one out” (this means to get rid of something every time that you buy something new) there are a couple things that occur to me as an adult.

I can get rid of more than one thing. Often, buying a new dress means taking a couple of minutes to really contemplate what dresses I really don’t wear anymore. I look at ones that don’t fit or that make me feel not very cute when I wear them now.

It feels good to have a solid space for my new items. Empty space can be satisfying. When I get rid of a few more things than I really need to, there is space for more things that I love to come in.

When it comes to teaching children about this, you have to start slow.

Many children are just not ready to get rid of something. Emotionally, they’re not really prepared to make a decision. As a parent, you have to decide when your child is ready to begin these teachable and somewhat uncomfortable moments.

When it comes to this rule with children, here are some things that I like to keep in mind:

Remind them of the rule in advance. If you’re going to the store and they’re hoping to get something new, remind them that they will have to find something at home to give away – don’t wait until you have already purchased the new item.

In fact, if the child can identify a few things at home that they are done with before the shopping trip, it will be a little easier to focus on the thing to let go of when they arrive back.

Try this:  Before embarking on a shopping trip, have your child choose three things that they no longer play with. Set the things on a table.

When you return from the shopping trip, tell them that one of these things needs to go – or, if they’d like, they can create more space by choosing to let all of the things go.

Whatever they choose to let go, place it in a clearly marked donation box that is in the back of your vehicle – it will be easier to let it go when it’s not in the house.

If they are unable to choose an item to get rid of, hold the new item until they decide. This doesn’t have to be done in a mean way – nor should it be. However, you should stick to your guns.

Here’s some language that might be helpful.

“When we went shopping, we talked about getting rid of one thing so that we have space in our home to play. I will hold onto this new toy while you choose something that should get donated. Once it is in the car in a donation spot, we will get your new toy out of its package to play with.”

Talk about how good it feels. Getting rid of stuff can feel yucky for a second, but in general, freeing yourself of clutter feels excellent. Try checking in a week or so later.

“A week ago you gave away a toy when you got a new one. How does that feel? Sometimes, when I decide to give something awya it feels weird at first, but a lot of the time, I never even think of that item again!”

Of course, there is an alternative to this – sometimes you regret giving something away! “You gave away that toy. How does that feel?”

If they respond negatively, acknowledge their feelings.


“There have been some things that I have donated that I didn’t feel good about later. That happens sometimes. Why do you think you made that decision at the time? How could you do it differently next time?”

Childhood is life – most of the time we can’t get back an item that we gave away, but we can acknowledge the feelings that it incites.

Share with us: have you worked with your child to have them let go of items? We’d love to hear more about your experiences and how they went down! Feel free to share your story via email or over on our Facebook page!



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