If your house looks like a used Toys’R Us and the kids flit from one thing to the next without even enjoying them, this is for you. Here are some tips and thoughts on how to toss, organize, and downsize toys. Post contains affiliate links.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Every once in a while I get an intense urge to purge. I’m married to a packrat and these times are very scary to him. I run around the house with a garbage bag or basket and start separating out things that I want to sell, donate or throw away.
For me, it’s honestly better than shopping. I’d much rather get rid of things than accumulate things. Call me crazy. The rest of my friends do.
But even if you aren’t like me I’d bet you still want to find a way to have toys without having the toys take over the house. I love seeing toys around the house here and there because I know this stage is fleeting. I like my children to feel that the house is a place to play and have fun, however, I don’t want the toys to be out of control and nearly impossible to tidy up. Am I the only one who minds toys everywhere? Does it bother you or your spouse?
I think you can organize and downsize toys in a way that there is plenty of stimulus for the children without excess. Here are some of the things I do around our house to strike this balance.
1. Keep toys out of easy reach.
I would never deprive my children of playing with their toys, however I’ve found that keeping all toys in reach actually backfires. Too many visible toys makes for toddlers flitting from one toy to the next without engaging. I keep all the toys that go in boxes – train set, duplo, wooden toy sets, etc. – in the bottom of a closet in the family room. If they request a toy or need something to do, I go to the closet and let them pick one out.
This prevents pieces from getting mixed up and lost as well as keeping the mess to a minimum. It isn’t about withholding the toys from your children. If my daughter opens the closet and points to a toy then we get it out. When she’s done we pack it up. The kids get to make a mess, but know they have to clean up what they take out.
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2. Don’t be sentimental about toys if the kids aren’t.
If you have truly sentimental toys, things people have made or brought from afar, I wholeheartedly think those should be kept. However, I don’t think we should be sentimental and attached to toys that our children never play with. Just because it was expensive doesn’t mean it’s valuable. If it’s a cheap plastic toy, doll, or stuffed animal they never play with don’t feel bad giving it away.
When I feel the urge to purge I ask myself a few questions.
- Did someone we love gift this and is it sentimental to the giver?
- Is this a toy that never gets played with?
- Would the kids even notice if it was gone?
If the answers are no, yes, yes then I put it in a donate pile.
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3. Think age appropriate-ness.
If your youngest child is 3 and you aren’t planning on having any others (the best laid plans…) then it’s a great time to get rid of toys for babies and young toddlers. You may be shocked to find how many toys are taking up residence in your toy room that never get played with and are for children years younger than your own. If you plan on adding to your brood then by all means keep the toys around, but if you have moved into a new phase then I say “out with the old make room for the new.”
4. Lay them all out and get a clear picture.
The last time I did a major purge I designated the upstairs landing as the toy sorting zone. This time, I sorted and purged toys as I did major room re-decorations. I spread out all the toys and separated them into developmental age. As I was sorting I felt mildly ill because we had so many toys. You probably have no idea how many toys you actually have! I sure didn’t.
Just think for a moment. Would they fill up an entire room ? Two? When I stood there and looked at all of them I knew that it wasn’t mean to get rid of some toys. I knew I wasn’t depriving my children of childhood fun. In fact, even getting rid of half the toys (which I didn’t do) would still have left them with more than they need.
5. Get your children involved in the purging.
Now, I realize that asking children to help you choose which toys to keep and which toys to get rid of sounds absurd. However, kids know which toys they want to play with and which ones they don’t. Depending on the ages of your children this may be a great opportunity to teach them about generosity. It feels good to give and bless others, and it’s never too early to start explaining that principle to your children.
If you know that the toy situation is out of control and you want to get a handle on it, now is the time! Don’t feel guilty or worry you are somehow depriving your children of fun. A child’s first and foremost need is for secure and stable love, after that the rest is just extra special.
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