How many parents out there are already feeling anxious about the fact that your kids will be brining even more toys into your already cluttered playroom after the holiday next week? Trust me, I feel the same. Nothing feels better than a toy purge and this is the perfect time of year to do it. If you need a little help to get you going in the right direction, then keep reading. Here are a few of my favorite tips for saying “out with the old, and in with the new!”
I should preface this by saying that I am in no way an expert at this, and I can’t even really say that I’m good at it. I have plenty of toy clutter at my house too. It’s one of those things that is so hard to get motivated to do. But what I do know is that getting rid of clutter when it comes to your kids’ toys makes you feel lighter, makes your home more livable, and the crazy part is that it makes your kids happier too. When they can actually see the things that they have to play with, it makes it easier for them to do what they are best at – to use their imaginations and to play!
Tip #1: Involve your kids, sort of.
Of course having your kids help with a toy clean-out is a great idea, to some extent. Teaching them the gift of giving and allowing them to make the decision to go through some toys and decide what they’d be willing to donate can be a positive learning experience and I’d say do it for sure. But the bulk of the work has to be done on your own. And I don’t just mean that your kids can be watching TV in the living room while you clean out their toy room. I mean that they need to be OUT OF THE HOUSE when you do a real toy purge. Little people form attachments to some interesting things… broken crayons, dried up Playdoh, toys that they haven’t played with in years… you know, real important stuff. If they see you walking through the living room to take something to the trash, there’s a 100% chance that their little eyes will lock on to their new favorite thing ever. So to avoid them feeling like you’re throwing away their most prized possessions, find some time when you can do this alone so that you don’t have to smuggle things out of your house and into the garbage. (Side note: Be mindful of things that are truly important to your little ones and be sure to think of their feelings before making decisions on these special items… more on this later.)
Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to use a trash bag for what is was meant for.
One thing that I’ve learned is that sometimes you need to accept the fact that toys have served their purpose and have reached the end. It’s okay to throw some things away. I sometimes let myself feel guilty about this too, because us parents spend some hard earned dollars on toys, so we think of them as being more valuable than they probably really are. That toy cash register that you spent almost $50 on and the buttons don’t work anymore? Throw it away. If you need to, hold it and think about all of the fun that they had playing with it a few years ago and file that memory away, then get rid of the material thing because that’s not what’s important anyway. Here’s a quick list below of a few items that I would consider to be on the throw-away list, just to give you an idea:
- broken toys that don’t function like they were meant to
- loose papers that have been used for art or writing, but never became a masterpiece
- dried-up playdoh, slime, putty, etc.
- dried up markers, broken crayons, used up paints
- pieces and parts to toys that you haven’t been able to make whole
- nerf darts that are bent and don’t work anyway
- miscellaneous trinkets (like from the quarter machines) that aren’t important keepsakes
- coloring books that have all or most pages already colored on
Tip #3: Donate when you can.
I think it goes without saying that getting to donate toys to kids who need them is one of the best feelings. Are you having flashbacks of the ending of Toy Story 3 right now? Remember how Andy donating his toys breathed new life into them they lived happily ever after… oh, you haven’t watched that movie 147 times like me? Anyway, make a special pile of the things that you know would make another kid happy. This is the part that your kids should help you with, and make a really big deal out of your kiddo’s kindness too. Let them see how proud you are of them.
Tip #4: Decide what’s truly important.
There will always be the special toys that you can’t imagine parting with – and that’s okay too, as long as those special ones don’t take up half of your storage area. Maybe it’s a special toy that they got for their first birthday, or that stuffed animal from your grandma – it’s okay to save some toys that hold memories for you. What I do is limit myself to one plastic bin, and make sure that anything in there is something that your kiddo might want someday when they’re grown up. That’s where I keep toys that have become mementos of their childhood and that someday I’ll give to them when they have their own house in case they want to keep them and pass them down.
The other side of this tip is to find out what’s truly important to your kids too. It’s obvious that the stuffed animal that they sleep with is a favorite, but spend some time asking them questions before your toy clean-out. Find out what items hold the most value to them so that when you purge some of their stuff, you’re still being respectful of their feelings too.
Tip #5: If you can’t decide, try a toy refresh.
A friend of mine told me that she read about this idea and I think it’s the perfect solution for those toys that you just can’t decide what to do with. Maybe you have a box of Legos that have been stashed away in the corner for a while, but you just don’t want to throw them yet because maybe they could still be a favorite? Clear them out of the play space and put them away in storage for a while. Kind of save them for a rainy day and when you do end up bringing them out, maybe they’ll light that spark that you hoped they would’ve before.
Tip #6: Make sure that everything has a home.
There might be science to back this up, but I’m going solely from experience here… when your kids’ toys all have a place, it allows their imagination the room to soar. It’s crazy. If you do this toy clean-out I am willing to bet that your kids will walk into their organized playroom or bedroom and feel like the possibilities are endless. It’s like their little minds just need room to think too (just like us big people) and giving them a clean slate like a sorted-through play area is just the ticket. So, invest in some storage bins. Like the good ones that are see-through, stackable, and have lids that stay on. You won’t regret it.
Tip #7: Make keeping the toys organized part of the fun.
I have found that me being excited about organizing the toys also makes the kids more excited about it. Be sure to comment on how great it is that they have room to sprawl out on the floor and do that puzzle because all of the toys are picked up. Or when you’re the customer at their pretend restaurant, comment on how much you love the open space and clean design of the place. Show them how much more fun it is to truly play when they have the room to do it. And when you’re reflecting on what a big job it was to get this organization done, don’t forget to realize that keeping your kids’ toys organized also allows YOU to play. Isn’t it better sitting down to play Barbies together when you’re not distracted by the fact that you had to find an open space to sit on the floor without being impaled by a Lego?
I hope this has inspired you to do the toy purge that you’ve been dreaming of! Here’s to making our homes our happiest place!