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How to Easily Declutter Toys for a More Abundant Life

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Toy clutter is probably the most overwhelming pile of crap in your home for moms. At least, it was for me. 

They pile up so quickly and we aren’t sure what to do. There’s so much money wrapped up in them (despite the fact they break 10 minutes later). We think they need toys in order to have the proper development mile-stones. Consumerism that is engrained into us tells us the latest hit toy will make our children happy.

And that’s what we moms want, right? Happy, well-rounded kids. So, we buy them. Grandparents shower our kids with their love by buying them all kinds of stuff and then when all is said and done? 

We have an overwhelming pile of crap toys and cranky kids.

They fight over everything. They don’t want to clean anything up. It causes overwhelm and unhappiness throughout your entire home instead of the toys providing actual, constructive opportunities to play.

Toy clutter can suck the life out of you as a mother. 

But, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. We have whittled down the toy clutter to a large bin (that’s only about half-full), a bin of legos, and a few toys for our youngest (who is 6 years younger than our oldest). And it has been life-changing. 

Tossing the toys has completely transformed our lives.

Really. I’m being completely honest. But… there’s a right way and a wrong way to declutter the excess toys. You don’t want to do it in the heat of the moment because you’re mad. You don’t want to just start tossing toys without any thought about the children they belong to. So, how do you declutter toys?

Define Your Why

Why do you want to ditch the excess toys? For me it was because I was sick and tired of constantly having to pick up messes and break up arguments. But, you need to know why you want to do this. Otherwise, you’ll keep stuff for the sake of keeping it and that’s not productive. Some ideas:

  • I want to give my kids the gift of less.
  • I want to create a sense of peace and harmony in my home.
  • I want to be more present as a mother instead of just cleaning up everyone else’s messes all the time. 
  • I want my children to be children, be imaginative, and creative.
  • I want to be less overwhelmed by the overall clutter that is life with kids.

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Keep Calm

If you just nagged your kids for 20 minutes to clean up their crap and lost your cool… now is not the time mama. When I decided the toys had to go, I did nothing with them other than pick them up out of the middle of the floor. We all ignored the elephant in the room for the rest of the evening, switched on a movie, and relaxed.

The next day, we were all calm, rested, and nourished and that is when we tackled it. When everyone was calm and the moment that had prompted the great toy declutter was over. 

Waiting until everyone is calm and rested will help tremendously in tackling the toy clutter. I had tried in the past to do it right after we had had a spat over cleaning up their messes. I was met with tears and frustrated kids. So wait…. 

Let Your Kids Take Part

You know what happened when I told my kids they could have their bin of legos and whatever they could fit into the large bin they had stuffed full of crap in the closet?

Amazing things. They had no problems dumping everything out and filling that bin with meaningful stuff. They didn’t fight about it. They didn’t drag their feet. They simply went through and kept stuff I never even imagined they would keep. They were all simple toys that inspired creativity and their imaginations.

If your kids are old enough, involve them in it. I put very doable, yet gentle, limits on the amount of things they could keep. They had no problems staying within those guidelines and happily went through every toy and let it go. 

Set Limits

When we did the great toy purge, I set a limit. They were allowed to keep their legos and wooden building blocks, no questions asked. However, everything else had to fit in a large plastic tote. I also allowed them to keep 5 stuffed animals (plus their favorite, can’t live without it so I guess 6) that go in a net in their room. 

Amazingly, they didn’t even fill the bin. But, the point is to set limits so they know exactly how much they can keep. This keeps you from saying “Oh, well, I guess we can keep that”. Because if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t stay. 

Whether it’s a big bin like us, a shelf, a corner, a specific amount… whatever it is, set a limit and stick to it. 

Questions to Help Decide What Toys to Toss

Some things can obviously go. Anything that is broken, crappy kids meal toys, cheap stuff from the gum ball machine at the dentists office (why do they do this??). All of those things are definite goes. 

Some things are more difficult. The toy was expensive (even though they never play with it). It was gifted by a family member. Oftentimes, we as adults have a harder time letting go of toys that meet those criteria than kids do. I will say if your child puts a toy in the donation pile, leave it be and let them. They know what they love and play with much better than you, even if it cost $100.

  • Does my child play with this? If they do not play with it, let it bless another child. Something that hasn’t been out in months isn’t something that is likely to come out and be played with tomorrow. Let it bless someone else who will love it.
  • Does it inspire creativity and imagination? So many toys are electronic, cheap crap. They don’t inspire a kid to be creative at all. And creativity helps children in so many ways. We don’t have any electronic toys anymore. We have video games and tablets, but the hatchimals and other electronic gidgets and gadgets all got the boot. They simply never played with them.
  • Is this looked for when it is missing, do they play with it almost every day? Things that your child gets distraught over when they’re missing, things they play with just about every day, things that they ask “mom have you seen my ___” those are true keepers. I bet you’ll be amazed at what those toys actually are.
  • Is the toy well-built and will stand the test of time? Toys are made so cheaply anymore. Your kids will open them up and in 20 minutes they’ll either be broken or missing pieces by tomorrow. These toys aren’t honestly worth keeping. They’ll be broken and forgotten in a very short span of time. Now, if it’s something that is going to last their childhood and be able to bless another childhood… it’s probably worth keeping (if they love it).

How to Keep Toys from Overwhelming You Again

It can be hard to keep toy clutter under control. Even if you don’t purchase many, or any, toys for your children I bet you have other people in your lives that do. 

My dad is terrible at this. That’s just his love language. He likes to give things. And while that’s great, it’s just not the way we are. But, he’s their grandpa and I can’t just say “Hey, stop giving your grandchildren stuff”. 

He brings them stuff almost every single time he comes up, which isn’t super often, but often enough. Most of the time, it’s cheap junk that they are disinterested in by the end of the day and we let it go. Sometimes, though, they love it and they want to keep it. I generally stick with the one in one out rule for these instances. If they get a new toy they fall in love with, they have to part with another.

Other times I don’t do anything about it. It fits in their bin and it’s not overwhelming anyone or anything, so it gets to stay.

If you have a person in your life like my dad, that’s my best recommendation. For others, like my mother in law, you can just talk to them and explain to them you are all much, much happier without all the excess junk. She usually asks what they need and we go from there.

Another thing to keep the toy clutter at bay is to watch less TV. There are so many commercials on TV begging for us to buy things. Our kids see the latest, greatest toy and they think they need it. Watching less TV (or less cable with commercials anyway) helps keep that itch to have more at bay. 

And lastly, you’re going to have to occasionally go back through the toys and remove the excess. In order to keep it from getting out of hand, I do it before Christmas, before birthdays, and usually one random time in late summer. It doesn’t take long after the initial purge and helps keep it under manageable control.

Keeping fewer toys may not be the easiest thing to do, but it’s so worthwhile and the benefits to you and your child are amazing. 

How do you tame the toy clutter in your home?

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Friday 29th of March 2019

Hi, I loved your article. How do you encourage grandparents and other family members that you’d rather have them gift your kids experiences or useful items instead of more toys?

Danielle McCoy

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

Hi, Kristina. It can be difficult to get grandparents on board sometimes (a lot of times for us). And, I will preface this by saying, sometimes you just have to let it go and deal with it. You can always set your own one in- one out rules to keep the clutter under control if they insist. But, simply opening up the lines of communication by letting them know how you (and your children) feel about excess material gifts can go a long way.

Perhaps you can talk to them about going all in for a gift that involves the entire family (a trip, for instance) instead of buying toys that will be broken, unloved, and unused much quicker than the memories from an amazing trip will fade.

Another idea is to set rules. I know, who wants to follow rules about giving gifts. But, it can help. You can set a limit or follow the 4 gift rule (something to wear, something to read, something they want, something they need).

And lastly try using wishlists. I'm always amazed at what my kids actually want. Very rarely is it a toy. A lot of times it's a book, a trip somewhere, or even just a family day of fun and ice cream.

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Sunday 8th of April 2018

Appreciating the time and energy you put into your website and detailed information you offer. It's nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same old rehashed material. Excellent read! I've saved your site and I'm adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Danielle McCoy

Tuesday 10th of April 2018

Thank you!

Claire W

Friday 8th of September 2017

I flipped out the week before school started and bagged up ALL THE TOYS in my house and left them in the basement office. Kind of shot myself in the foot as 2 big kids left 2 little kids home, once school started, without any toys. But we've survived. The sad thing is that I don't even accumulate toys outside of the categories you've listed above and I still want to blow up our play room about once a year.

Danielle McCoy

Saturday 9th of September 2017

LOL I totally get it. I am the same way. Except I usually want to blow up our play room about once a month. It's hard to find a balance. So hard. I'm trying to find a way I can handle it, or downsize more and not go crazy or make my kids hate me. I guess setting limits on how many toys will be the next logical step for us.

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