It’s January and I’m not overwhelmed with toys.
Did you catch that?
Even in the after-Christmas haze, I’m NOT overwhelmed with toys!
This is a huge deal for me. Usually by this time of the year, I’m pulling my hair out and sick at my stomach about how much stuff my kids have. Not this year.
This past fall, we took on a project that got rid of the toy clutter for good!
We undertook an EPIC TOY CLEANOUT, getting rid of probably 75% of our kids’ junk.
And the kids are thrilled!
This wasn’t our first attempt at tidying the kids’ toys. We had tried many things before and failed. Read: Three Toy Declutter Attempts That Didn’t Work.
This wasn’t a spur of the moment, hasty decision, either. We thought a lot about why our kids needed fewer toys. We knew they would be happier owning less.
The next challenge was getting our kids to agree with our wisdom. Can you imagine how traumatic it would be for them if we got rid of 3/4ths of their stuff without their permission?! Would you want someone to do that to you?
We took the time to prepare our kids and help them decide for themselves that they needed fewer things. Read How to Convince Your Kids to Own Fewer Toys.
In order to get a tidy solution for your kids’ toys, you must discard a lot!
To begin our massive decluttering project, we set aside a Saturday and gathered all the toys in the living room. If you’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you’ll see some KonMari techniques here, but since Marie Kondo doesn’t specifically address kids’ stuff, this is how we applied her techniques and advice for kids. Read KonMari with Kids.
Get All the Toys in One Room
Once all the toys were in one space, we began to sort through them and eliminate things based on our guidelines (see below).
Choose What Stays
This is important: we didn’t begin by selecting what goes… we started by selecting what stays! Kids can feel overwhelmed as they see so many of their things going away. By starting with what stays, they knew their favorite stuff was safe!
Create a Toy Wardrobe
I didn’t just want my kids to have their favorite toys. We wanted to think about toys that would mix and match, interact together, like a wardrobe. Can you imagine if your closet was arranged in such a way that nothing went together except in sets you bought them in. I think I would get bored of my clothes very quickly!
The same is true for toys. Kids should be able to use their toys together. The red cylinder building block makes a great ketchup bottle. The playsilks are excellent as a scarf, or a cape, or a swaddle for the baby doll. Barbie needs an extra chair? Oh, I’ve got building blocks for that!
Play is a child’s work. This is the time when they develop creative thinking skills!
Once we had a plan, it was time to be
We wanted the kids to feel ownership of this undertaking, so with their input we set up our guidelines for discarding.
No Broken Toys
Pretty self-explanatory, but we just laid it out from the get-go that we weren’t keeping broken toys that were beyond repair or whose repair would be more of a hassel than the play-value of the toy. (Think of it as an ROI on toy repair.)
No Easily Broken Toys
Kids play. They should play. They should play creatively, freely, expressivley, without having to be too careful about their toys. If it’s too delicate, or falls apart all the time (I’m looking at you Barbie bicycle-built-for-two), then it’s just not kid-friendly. It’s gotta go.
Fans of the Food Network show Good Eats will be familiar with Alton Brown’s concept that your kitchen should not contain unitaskers–tools that can only do one task. We decided this was a great plan for our kids’ toys too! Think about it: a bowl can be a cooking dish, a serving dish, a dog dish, a roof for a house, a helmet or hat, a bed or bath for a small figure…
We were a little lenient in this. A cash register, for example, can be used in a restaurant, a grocery store, a salon, a hotel… and maybe it could be a computer if you’re really creative.
The cool thing about this guideline is it got our kids thinking outside the box! They were coming up with uses for toys that they hadn’t ever explored.
How many cell phones does a kid need? Really. A doctor’s kit and a veterinarian’s kit? Let’s just stick with one tool for both tasks. (Toys as tools for play…hmm, there’s a concept!)
And Finally, Does It Bring Joy?
Marie Kondo’s book famously suggests discarding anything that doesn’t spark joy. This concept can be hard to grasp even as an adult, but it really is abstract for kids. We used this as a last resort for them. After they’d considered the rest of the guidelines, if an item was acceptable, but didn’t make them happy, we didn’t need it!
After creating an excellent “wardrobe” of toys for our kiddos, we neatly displayed them on open shelves in their bedrooms. Those shelves used to be half-full of books, but we discarded excess books as well and made room for the toys.
Having their toys easily accessible means they get played with more and they are easier to put away!
(We use bins in a large storage closet for items that need supervised play such as play-doh, paint, and Legos.)
So, how did it work out?
Well…they’re playing outside a lot more! Finally! It used to be like pulling teeth to get my kids to play outside. Perhaps, the best illustration is what happened a little before Christmas.
My daughter took some things off her shelf (after the Epic Toy Cleanout) and said, “Mommy, I don’t really need these.” Then she went to the living room where her stocking was hung up, pulled out her letter to Santa and CROSSED ITEMS OFF THE LIST!
Less stuff, less consumerism, more satisfaction! Who would have thought?!
If you try your own Epic Toy Cleanout, come back and let me know how it goes! I love hearing from my readers. Comment below, email Christina@gathering-joy.com, or JOIN the CONVERSATION in our Facebook group.
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Playsilks and peppermints,
Enroll in my FREE COURSE: The Clutter to Cash Challenge! I will guide you through cleaning out your whole house and selling the stuff to make money fast!