Whether good or bad, playrooms can get messy quickly! Have you ever gotten so fed up with the mess of toys that you grab a garbage bag in frustration, and stuff any and all toys in your path in the bag–because you just need to get them out of your life right now? Rage purging until you’ve sufficiently worn yourself out, while effective, may not be the best way to go about winning the delicate trust of your littles.
Toy manufacturers spend big money to convince us and our kids that they need the latest toy to be happy and entertained. However, research shows that children are happier, more creative, and play better with less toys. If you look at your kids’ toys and get overwhelmed, it’s not surprising that your kids are overwhelmed too!
I have always created simple organizing solutions for my kids’ toys and trained them to clean up after themselves. Even still, the volume of toys can get overwhelming. One day, feeling particularly overwhelmed, I asked them to pick out five toys they were no longer playing with to give to children who didn’t have many toys. This was an interesting exercise. Their little personalities were displayed through their responses.
It was also a good opportunity to remind them that not every child has toys and to teach them how we can share with others that don’t have as much. It was not only a sweet learning moment, but also led to a regular exercise of picking out items to donate. My daughter is now in the habit of editing her own toys, books, and clothes to give away.
These days, I personally don’t purchase many toys for my kids. Even so, between Christmas and birthdays for three children, the toys still continue to multiply!
If you find yourself overwhelmed with toys, these 4 steps will help you:
1. Delete broken, incomplete, and inexpensive toys that are low quality.
Ever wonder why you’re hanging on to those free fast food and doctor’s office toys? Wonder no more. Your kids enjoyed them for the day and now it’s okay to toss them.
Bonus tip: If you feel guilty about throwing out toys while you can’t even see the bottom of the toy bin, remember, kids have great imaginations . . . a simple box can become a rocket ship!
2. Create boundaries.
My theory about possessions is that like goldfish, they will expand to fill their spaces. Therefore, make a space for every toy using bins, boxes, or cube shelves. Ikea has great storage solutions for kids. Creating a contained spot for toys also keeps the number of toys in check.
Bonus tip: Nothing should be stored on the floor. Keeping your playroom organized and contained helps it to feel less cluttered!
3. Decide what toys to keep.
Think about what your kids enjoy playing with regularly, and observe what they are drawn towards and what they will dedicate their time to the most. Come up with a few categories. We select toys that encourage imaginative and creative play, plus toys that are versatile and non-age- or gender-specific. We settled on Legos, magna-tiles, cars, dress-up clothes, and a collection of soft toys.
Create a game that helps them identify their favorite toys. I like to use the strategy of holding up two toys and having them choose their favorite of the two (This or That). Another successful game I’ve heard is to have them put their toys in a box and then only take out the ones that they can name after a few minutes (Toy Memory).
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to change up your containers, or add color, labeling, and zones– this helps to promote creativity and responsibility.
4. Box up all other toys.
Once you have decided the categories, gather everything that doesn’t fit in the categories or boundaries and donate it. If you are nervous to pitch the toys all at once, you can put the box in storage for six months. If they haven’t missed the toys by then, you can assure them that another child will enjoy them by dropping off donated items at a local charity.
Bonus tip: It can be easier for them to give something away to someone they know, so let them pick a friend who may share the same interest in dinosaurs, or a smaller cousin to pass their clothes down to.
Get the kids involved in this process! For the little ones, you might want to take care of this for them. You know your kids best, but you may be surprised how early they can get involved and actually contribute! I get all of my kids involved but have different expectations and help the littlest one with questions more.
This is a great opportunity to teach them life skills like evaluating their possessions and being intentional about what they choose to keep. You can also give additional motivation like “swapping,” offering to swap a box of books for a new one they want.
If you’re having reservations, remember these truths:
Gifts are meant to be enjoyed.
If the toys were gifts, remember that gifts are given for the purpose of bringing happiness and entertainment. If it is not doing that, it’s time to let it go. Perhaps you are concerned the givers will notice the absence of their gift. This is very rare, but if they do notice, you can explain your processes. Hopefully they understand; if not, make your family a priority over the feelings of others.
Less is more.
Concerned they will miss their toys or be bored without a large variety? Let me remind you what I started with: research has shown that children are happier, more creative, and play better with less toys. You always have the option of boxing it up and storing it for later; pick an amount of time appropriate to your child. If all else fails, redirect . . . kids love ice cream!
This is just a season of clutter.
Remember, you are not alone in this stage of life. This is just a phase and your kids will move on to different toys sooner than you realize. You won’t regret looking back on the memories you made in your home, spending quality time with your kids enjoying these toys.
Follow these steps to create a happy, creative, and decluttered playroom!