Kid’s toys seem to always be one of the biggest clutter issues for busy mamas. I’ve made it a goal to keep my boys’ toys under control, and keep them in the mindset of decluttering, and knowing that it is okay to donate toys or throw away ones that are broken (or, you know, Happy Meal toys). I started this when my oldest son was about 2 years old, and now rotating toys, donating toys, and decluttering is no big deal for him. I also find that by having a kid-friendly system for toys and keeping them to a minimum, clean up times are less stressful for me and less dramatic on their end. Here’s our take on how to sort toys + tips for decluttering with kids.
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Toy Storage & Cleanup
I shared a few years ago my system for labeling toy bins, which I still love. This is so helpful for encouraging them to clean up their toys on their own. We’ve gotten a lot of new bins lately, and I am in the process of relabeling them. This post is older, but still a great post on toy organization. The labels are really helpful for my 3-year-old, and my 6-year-old when he needs a reminder of what goes where.
After Christmas, we always have a surplus of new things to play with, so what I like to do is keep half of the bins down at a time, and rotate them every few months. This gives my boys “fresh” toys to play with that they are more interested in. Sometimes when they have the same toys in front of them for too long they forget what they have to play with. This is a great idea if you have a whole lot of toys.
Another example of this is that the Smart Wheels toys featured in my toy labeling post are now at their grandparents’ house. They weren’t playing with them here, so we took those bins over there and now whenever they visit they are so excited to get to play with those Smart Wheels because they are “new”.
We’ve got several bins of toys now, and they are pretty much divided up like this-
- play food for the pretend play kitchen
- duplo blocks
- mega bloks
- “vet” toys that came with this Melissa and Doug vet play set
- this Melissa and Doug magnetic fishing set
If we had all of these out at once, it would end up being a huge mess every day, so I keep 1-2 bins down at a time, and to get another out they have to clean one up.
We also have a medium sized bin for random toys. I try to keep the bin on the smaller side and to tell them it has to fit or we need to donate something, just to keep the random “toy box” toys under control.
Also, I obviously love Sterlite bins, but I’ve also found great bins at Target, and even in the Target Dollar Spot around back to school time. They’re really for teachers to organize their classrooms, but they’re great quality and usually come out in some bright and fun colors that time of year.
You’ll find a lot of advice out there about only having developmental toys and things like that out, or having toys that offer different developmental learning and things like that. I don’t really go that in-depth with their toys, I just want them to have things that they’ll play with and a simple system for cleaning it up that teaches them responsibility, and doesn’t leave me cleaning their room all of the time.
Decluttering and Donating
Now, when it comes to getting rid of kid’s toys, that’s where the real battle begins. We started this so early, and I think that has really helped. When my son was first old enough to understand, we went through his toys and I talked to him about how there are some boys and girls out there who don’t have as many toys to play with, also that when things happen like the recent hurricanes in Florida or even tornadoes here in Alabama, sometimes families lose their things, including toys, and that by donating we can help those kids have some more things to play with, and that when toys are broken, it is time to throw them away. He gets really motivated about helping others and donating toys that way.
The first time we did this, I really had to help him think about the toys and decide if it was something he really loved and wanted to keep, or if it was a toy he maybe didn’t play with as much that wouldn’t be missed if we donated it. Sometimes I would veto his decision if he wasn’t fully understanding and he was trying to donate something that I know he really loved and would miss. Honestly, we’ve never had an issue of him looking for anything after it was gone.
Just a note, I’d also recommend doing a little research on donation places if that’s something that matters to you. For example, Goodwill often sells things for a profit, while there are other programs who actually pass the items onto families that need them. Just something to think about when you are donating.
For us, the best time to declutter toys is in November. We’re already thinking about being grateful for things, my sons both have December birthdays, plus Christmas, so we get an influx of toys that time of year. You can pick whatever time of year works best for you, but we love doing this in November.
Just like anything else you can make them a “donate box” and a “throw away box”, maybe even label them, and take an afternoon to help your kiddos sort through what they have and decide what to keep, donate, or throw away. Once they get in the habit, you can do this each year pretty easily to keep toy clutter under control.
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