Decluttering . . . Genghis Khan Style

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to see the Genghis Khan exhibit at the Irving Arts Center in Irving, TX.

I’ll be honest.  I’ve never thought much about Genghis Khan other than some vague memories of him as a peripheral character in Mulan.

But I love to broaden my horizons, expand my understanding of the world, and expose my kids to the fact that people in history were real, and that not everyone lives/lived the way we do in our little town.

It was fun.  They got to try on armor, shoot trebuchets (catapults), dig for artifacts, and see a real live mummy.

Which was creepy.

But the thing I tried to point out over and over to them was that these people were nomads.  They lived in tents.  And moved . . . a lot.  Carrying all their stuff with them.

Which makes you think about which things are worth carrying.

So on Tuesday, I told them we were going to do a little experiment.  We again discussed which things these people likely had to carry from place to place.  Dishes, clothes, their tents, etc.  We talked about how if our family lived this way, Daddy would probably do a lot of the carrying.

But he would carry the stuff we needed.  Who would carry their toys?

Easy answer:  They would.

So, I gave each of the boys a small(ish) box that they could carry themselves, and told them to put into it their very favorite things.  The things they would be willing to carry.

One boy had a hard time filling his up.

The other . . . not so much.

I let him make a pile of stuffed animals that wouldn’t fit in the box.  The point wasn’t to limit them to one box of belongings.  It was to help them differentiate the things they really love from the things they just think are cool to have.

More than I expected, viewing their possessions from this perspective was extremely effective.  We started going through the room, putting most of the things that hadn’t made the cut into the trash or a Donate Bag.  Since they had already decided what was important, the little pieces of junk were easier to part with.  Only long-lost treasures were added to the soon-overflowing boxes.

And the best part?  They’re glad we worked in their room. As my 7yo said (several times), “I never thought I’d say this Mom, but I’m so glad you made us do that!”

It’s amazing how much more fun it is to play in a room where you can actually find things.



Through Business 2 Blogger and the Irving Arts Center, I was provided with tickets to this event and am being compensated for my time in writing this post.

I’m linking this up over at


  1. I love this post! I read an article this morning online about nomads and how much they carried. It’s very convicting to realize that our possessions ought to have a LIMIT. Whether it be limited by the amount we can carry on our backs or in a covered wagon, or by what fits comfortably into our toy boxes, we need limits for our baggage.

  2. Disclaimer: I don’t agree with all of the article. Just thought it was interesting. :)

  3. Wow, cool idea!

  4. This is an ingenious idea!!! I will have to try something to this effect with my 6-year-old girl. She is totally bordering on “pack rat” behavior. She has been able to part with some of her “treasures” but there are some that I can’t understand why she keeps them.

    I love reading your post by the way. I was normally a pretty neat person, until I had kids. Time is a big factor, or lack there of, in keeping up with their messes. Thanks for such great insight.

    Disclaimer: If none of this makes sense, I blame it on my almost 2-year-old for giving me his lovely head cold.

  5. Love how you connected the experience back to home. Great idea! I’m current;y reading a book called Simplicity Parenting that also suggests limiting toys and has a lot of great info.

  6. My 23 yr old is leaving in a few weeks to live on a 30 ft sailboat. He is my frugal/simple guy so he will take his clothes, bike and computer. He says he doesn’t need all the stuff of the world to survive. We shall see.
    Happy Organizing

  7. Brilliant idea! I love the education connection and the decluttering inspiration!

  8. oh shouldn’t we all just own what we can carry with us!

  9. Excellent idea!! (I will pass it on to my “project-collecting” husband!) 8)

  10. Karla Conner says:

    Enjoying your blog. I am a recovering slob and it is good to see I am not the only one like me. Would love the ebook!

  11. I love this idea, Nony! Not that I would be limiting the kids to only what fits, but to put perspective to what are the real treasures. They are starting to do this much more for their clothes. If they are having trouble getting their drawers closed (we are blessed with a lot of lovely hand-me-downs) they now tell me that they need to choose a few to give to someone else, so that it is easier to keep their room tidy. Progress!

    We have studied about Genghis Khan in our homeschool, and that exhibit sounds fabulous! We also lived in Central Asia for several years, and spent time with friends in their yurts (tents), so we can picture what living in a yurt is like. Thanks for the memory prod!

  12. What a great way to get kids to understand how to keep their things under control. My three are still too young to grasp the concept but I’m going to remember it for future decluttering with them :)

  13. This is excellent advice for kids AND adults! I don’t have kids at home any more, but this will help me with my mental process as I go through my home (slowly but slowly), and to help my grandgirl (and thus, her parents) get some control over her room. I think she’ll enjoy the “story” behind what we can turn into a “game”!

  14. I’m so grateful for finding your blog. I’m trying to read it backwards, but get tired of scrolling and clicking! lol Once again, I asked my dh
    to bring me boxes to sort. Went thru 2 boxes, and 2 plastic totes. The 2 totes are now empty, and I got 2 boxes to donate. Now he says there are no more boxes to go thru! Woo hoo! and yes, he already took the 3 boxes to Salvation Army. ( 1 from yesterday) Gone! Success! Now, to find room for all the stuff |I kept….

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