We’ve all been there. Your kids are in their second week back at school, and you’re already suffocating under the clutter of school terms past. Pulling the millionth LEGO brick from your kids’ forgotten pile of dirty laundry, you ask yourself: “why didn’t we declutter when we had the time?”

That’s why Jacinta Richmond loves school holidays. Not only has she spent dozens of them decluttering her home with her daughter, but she is now booked out by other parents to help them get their kids organised. Not just for school, but for everyday life.

“Parents have a hard time getting their kids to part with clutter, and kids have a hard time getting their parents to let go of things causing clutter that the kids don’t really want,” says Jacinta. “I like to think of it as Organized Child Minding.”

Jacinta is no stranger to high-stress organisation – she started her career managing nightclubs and band venues in Melbourne (a long time ago, she insists!), then did fundraising and marketing for the Australian Ballet School, then ran a clothing label called Melon and a luggage manufacturer Coconut Brand, both her own businesses, and finally became the founder and director of the Sunshine Coast International Fashion Festival and the global PR and marketing manager for Hunter Model Management. To relax? She organises.

“When my daughter was six, I began doing these massive clean outs each year, straight after the fashion festival, and I’ve been doing them ever since,” says Jacinta. “My daughter has just graduated year 12 and we are getting set to go again – the end of her formal schooling means there is so much that’s no longer required, memories to be stored and her adult life on gap year and university interstate to prepare for.”

Through her side hustle Lifestyle Nation, Jacinta helps parents achieve a clear and clean space for their kids, too. In fact, the parents don’t even need to be there – Jacinta arrives, they head out for a few hours and come back to a de-cluttered home. Their kids, however, stay and help.

“My two nephews, age 13 and 10, and my six-year-old niece ask me to do the same thing with them every time I visit Melbourne. They love it, and get right into it,” says Jacinta. “I even use them to do my mum’s house when I visit! Like I said, this relaxes me. It’s how I de-stress.”

But Jacinta insists she doesn’t have any magical powers – she simply tackles clutter in a way that gets all hands on deck, and keeps kids accountable for the mess they create.

Jacinta recommends first deciding on the following rules with your kids:

  1. Will everything go to a garage sale?
  2. Will everything go to charity? (Showing evidence – like videos and photos – of kids in need can really help here)
  3. Will it be a combination of both?

If it’s a garage sale then, parents, you get to decide: will the kids get all of the money, or will half go into their pockets and half into their savings accounts?

The kids, in return, get to be in charge of what they do and don’t like. If they insist that they can’t be without that toy you haven’t seen them touch for three years, let them have it.

Here are your ground rules:

  1. Make it a challenge – the more rewarding the prizes, the better.
  2. Don’t let anyone stop halfway through, except for water and the toilet, until the de-clutter is done
  3. Pull everything out and give it a really good clean before putting anything back
  4. Put wanted items away in an organised manner, to ensure your kids will know where to find them

In summer, Jacinta says one of the best clean-outs you can do is a pool toy cull – your kids will have to inflate and try out every single toy, snorkels and goggles included, and decide if it has a hole (toss it), if it’s too babyish (garage sale) and if anyone likes it (donate, or garage sale).

“I have never met a kid or a teenager who doesn’t love Pool Toy test day!” Jacinta says.

Moving forward, make sure that all of your kids’ cleaning is done in the mornings. If there’s something they want to do that day, make sure their chores are done before they leave the house.

“A big day out and about only results in witching hour when you get home,” says Jacinta. “Even for 17-year-olds.”

Also, enforce a strict ‘out of place, in the bin’ rule like Jacinta does with her own clients.

“I message ahead and they tell the kids, ‘Jacinta is on her way – make it spotless, make it neat and make sure everything is away. You know she will throw it out if she finds it where it doesn’t belong’,” says Jacinta. “This helps them keep on top of things and the treat or surprise I bring with me, not to mention the positive feedback, always goes well.

But overall, the most rewarding part of a big clean-out is the feeling your kids have when everything is done and away – physically, metaphysically and emotionally.”

Anastasia White

Anastasia White

Anastasia (‘Anny’ to her friends and family, thanks to some nickname experimentation in year 4 that unfortunately stuck) is a born-and-bred Brisbanite with a love of coffee and her cat, Olive. Having recently finished a degree in journalism, Anastasia loves being able to learn and write about so many different topics for a variety of audiences.