Top 10 Tips to Declutter Toys
Give it up for all the moms and dads out there that are tired of picking up SO. MANY. TOYS! Gosh, we love our kids and we love sometimes spoiling them, or the grandparents spoiling them, but most of the time, sadly, it creates more work for mom and dad. And with careers, kids, kids activities, general home maintenance, family time, date time, friend time, social media time... you name it, life is busy-busy-busy! So how do we as parents get a handle on all those toys once and for all?
I wish I could say it's a "one and done" process but it's not. As the kids grow, some of the clutter lessons but there is still clutter, it just changes. Plus, it's our job to maintain a happy, healthy and safe environment while also getting a handle on all the toys and clothes so that we can spend more time with our kids, and less time picking up. I have 10 tips to get you started on decluttering toys. My hope is that these help you so much that it's just maintenance after this!
1. Have a family meeting.
It doesn't matter if your kids are two months, two year's old or 10. You and your spouse need to sit down and go over your goals for what you want out of this. Discuss decluttering, what you hope to get from it, how you will spend your newfound free time, and then make a plan of action. If the kids are old enough (ages 4+), include them in the discussion.
Btw, If you are single parent, you should still do this! Write down your goals so that you can refer back to them and hold yourself accountable.
2. You're hired! You are now what I call the "gatekeeper of all things entering the house."
This is a very important job and it does not mean you are doing it alone - that family meeting hopefully enlisted help among your family but ultimately, YOU (Moms and/or Dads) run the show. This means anytime something new enters the house, it's up to you to establish where it will go, how it benefits the family, and if any system needs to be put in place to maintain it.
A good example of this is if you have a birthday party. There most likely will be tons of new gifts coming in, so after saying over and over how wonderful it is and thankful your child(ren) is, then decide what to keep, regift, and really open all the way (sometimes all that plastic comes in handy). Have a game plan ahead of time with your family.
3. Get rid of all toys with small pieces.
Everyone pretty much just had a heart palpitation when they read that but here is what I mean. Legos - keep! But do you need so many? All other toys - if it is on google's list of top 10 toys for learning and development, keep. Otherwise - it's too much and retail marketing has gotten the best of you. Trust me, I worked in marketing for consumer product companies for many years. Unless it encourages pretend play, helps your children learn or develop a skill, it most likely isn't necessary.
4. Keep only their favorite toys.
If you narrow it down, most likely your kids are only playing with a select few things. And in some instances you may have toys that once were their favorites, but they've since moved on. If it's been more than 3 months, let it go. If it's a stuffed animal that just got buried in all the other toys, it's okay to keep that one. But overall, less is more here.
5. Set up a toy rotation.
I like to do a toy rotation by theme... so for example, my boys get trains & tracks (1), puzzles (2) and legos (3). Ahh, but my daughter also loves legos so they share this theme (1), plus extra craft supplies (2), and maybe I'll do games (3). Amongst 3 kids, that is 6 themes because I have twins and twins can share... but as they grow, they may have different interests or for you, they are not twins. In that case, 2 to 3 themes per kid are good and have some overlap when possible. If you have 3+ kids, it's time to get creative in how you combine themes and instill sharing.
The key here is that the toys that are out of rotation are not seen, visible, accessible or otherwise exist in the eyes of the child. Then when they start to get bored or you notice they are not playing with as much anymore, rotate.
6. Limit the kids clothes based on laundry days.
Okay, so clothes aren't toys but it is usually one of the top items I get asked about for kids. And what tiny human needs so many clothes? If you wash laundry two times per week, that's 3-4 days in between laundry day. So feasibly, each child needs 3-4 outfits, plus maybe 2 extra for spills and changes. That may seem extreme (hello capsule wardrobe for a kid), and it is honestly. So maybe your child is not the future Steve Jobs and you have 10 days worth of clothes, and for babies you have more because of the spit-up and constant changing. That's okay. But figure out how much is really what you need while planning for a few extras versus what you feel is expected.
For both myself and those that have followed this advise, they have noticed a significant reduction in the amount of laundry that needs to get done. Somehow having less choices has helped kids be more particular about how many times they change each day. And don't get me wrong, some kids truly need more clothes so think about your laundry days and go from there.
7. Declutter the collections.
As I mentioned before, I worked in consumer products so the idea is to get you to buy more and buy full collections. You need all the shopkins, Monster High dolls, Lego ninjago sets, matchbox cars etc... or do you? The answer is no, you don't! As a parent, my children fall victim to the advertising as well and want that next piece to the puzzle, but the trick is that they really don't need it. Ask why they want it, what they will use it for, and then ask yourself if they will really play with it for more than a few days.
A perfect example is matchbox cars. There are so many cool ones to choose from and my boys love them, but honestly do they play with more than 3 at a time? No, they don't. So we've kept 5 each. This way they have a limited choice but still several to choose from and if their friends come over, they have some to share.
8. Have a place for everything.
This is a common organizing tip and the key here is to label so the kids really know where things go. If they don't read yet, you can print out pictures of "trains" and have them color it and you or they help attach it to the bin. If they are readers, you can hand write or print a label. It does not have to be anything fancy (although fancy is really nice!) as the goal is for kids to know where to put things away.
9. Add clean-up time for the whole family as part of your evening routine.
Kids can help you too so having a daily clean-up time for the kids of 5 to 15 minutes each night will really help with the clutter that has been created. Generally I recommend that if it takes longer than this, you have too much stuff. Most moms I've worked with are overwhelmed by the toys, legos, dolls, etc. and for good reason. And if they are overwhelmed, imagine how the kids feel. Once you get through a lot of decluttering, and have a place for everything, pick-up time will be much easier.
10. Keep doing it.
With kids, the cycle of more things coming in is likely, so the key here is to keep decluttering and organizing when things start to get a little messy. It just means more has crept in than the kids can manage. So as the gatekeeper, you must take that extra step as soon as you see this happen again. It's okay, we're parents. We aren't perfect and we are doing our best!
This is by no means a conclusive list and it does not mean you have to follow it exactly. These tips come from my experience as a Declutter Coach and Professional Organizer but as in everything, especially when it comes to our children, figure out what works for your kids. These are some of my favorite tips for decluttering toys with kids and below are pictures of a fellow twin mom that took these tips and applied them right after I gave this topic as a guest speaker! Proof that you can do this! My goal is ultimately that your kids play more independently and give you some more time to breathe. Less clutter equals less stress for everyone.