With the rising sun of Christmas morning will come the excitement and sheer joy of sitting around the tree and unwrapping presents. When it’s all said and done, the kids will spend hours delighting themselves in their newly found treasures. Enjoy it, because the magic of Christmas is only temporary. By the time the kids go back to school you will be taking down the decorations, cleaning the house, and trying to find new storage spots for all those gifts.
It will then be time to practice the in-and-out rule for preventing clutter.
The in-and-out rule states that every new item coming into the house must be offset by old item going out. It is a rule often recommended to hoarders who have since cleaned out and want to avoid repeating past mistakes. The rule works well at Christmas time for teaching kids the value of possessions and the dangers of collecting a ton of stuff for which they have no use.
We recommend implementing the rule with the understanding that the old items going out be items in good condition that can be given to others or donated to thrift stores. In other words, what goes out is not junk destined for the trash – that stuff should go to the trash anyway. Rather, it is things that would otherwise be held on to if the Christmas gifts were never received.
Valuing Personal Possessions
There are a lot of benefits to the in-and-out rule above and beyond preventing clutter. Among them is the unique ability this rule has to teach children the value of their possessions. When kids have everything they want, they tend to place little value on what they have. On the other hand, when they have to choose between items to keep and those to donate, it forces them to really think about what is most important. This teaches them to value their possessions enough to take care of them.
Acknowledging Shared Space
Some parents implement the in-and-out rule by embracing it as an opportunity to teach the kids about shared space. In other words, the family is sharing a home together. As such, the home should not be dominated by the possessions of one or two family members at the expense of everyone else. The in-and-out rule helps reinforce this truth.
Why do we mention this? Because it is quite common for the family members of hoarders to be resentful over having been subjected to a home jam-packed with one family member’s personal possessions. Even people who live in cluttered homes that would not necessarily qualify as a hoarding scenario can be resentful. We don’t want that.
The in-and-out rule can help prevent such resentment by making everyone cognizant of the shared responsibility of keeping shared spaces free and open to all family members.
Learning How to Give
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the in-and-out rule is that it can teach children how to give. A giving spirit is something we could use a lot more of, wouldn’t you agree?
Implementing the in-and-out rule with the assumption that the items kids decide to let go of will be given away or donated to charity helps put kids in a giving frame of mind. And if the same in-and-out rule is followed throughout the year, kids will be prompted to give whenever they want to get something new. You can never go wrong prompting a decision to give. With that said, the in-and-out rule should apply equally to mom and dad.
Christmas is a magical time of year when we choose to display our love for one another through gift giving. Let’s not allow those gifts to become pieces of clutter that just wind up taking space without having any real value. Let us all implement the in-and-out rule instead. It does wonders for families and their possessions.