Ok, I’m feeling super frustrated this morning after a simple Google search on how to manage toy clutter. Parents of the world, when did we sign up to make our kid’s play room one more area of stress? Are we actually expected to run their toys like a 24 hour factory? I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time. I have this thing called a life that I want to lead. Call me crazy, but I don’t think obsessing over or managing toy clutter like a boss will ever be a top priority in my life. There, I said it. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me share my way easier solution to toy clutter that apparently no other mom blogs dare to attempt.
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Before we dive into the crazy easy solutions to toy clutter, let me start by saying, you have full reign of those kids toys for the first few years of life! If you toss out 18 toys grandma sent for Christmas your kid will never know. Granda might and if she’s got a problem with it, she can take the to her house.
Also, keep in mind that one reason we struggle to declutter is because we attach our items to people (and people’s pleasing). Click here to read more about why we do this.
As kids get older, as frustrating as it may be, I have found that allowing them control of what they eliminate is the most helpful method. This works for 2 reasons:
- They learn to take control of their own clutter and hopefully carry this skill into adulthood.
- If I chuck their toys behind their backs all the time, they’ll probably overcompensate and turn into hoarders. No one wants that.
If you are currently trying to juggle your 2 year olds toys, I think I can safely say, you have too many of them. Over and over again studies show that fewer options for kids are always better. (I mean, this is actually true for adults too.)
Try toy capsules
We have all heard of wardrobe capsules, well, maybe not all of us. Let me clear this up.
A capsule wardrobe is where you swap out your clothing with the seasons. That means in summer, all of your winter clothing gets put in a Rubbermaid and stored away until winter.
You can do this multiple times a year (every 3 months or so) or twice a year like I do.
The same goes for your kids toys. If the clutter is overwhelming and you are about to lose your ever-lovin’ mind, try boxing some stuff up, storing it away and then rotating every few months.
This is kind of what we did when I worked in a preschool. Every few months we brought in new toys for the kids to play with. There was a new theme in the play house, new costumes, the works.
Doing a Toy Capsule can be a great way to help your kids take advantage of a fewer amount of toys and really tap into their creative juices, while also giving them that little boost of newness throughout the year.
Do the hide and test
If you are so tempted to just chuck things into a black garbage bag and haul all of the miscellaneous toy clutter off to the Goodwill in the middle of the night like a crazy person, I have a better option.
When you are finding toys that your children genuinely aren’t playing with (to your knowledge), quietly store a few toys away for a while. Maybe you decide 2 months is a good time frame.
If in 2 months when the time frame has passed and your children haven’t even questioned the disappearance of said toys, maybe you’ll feel a little more confident in making a donation.
What if they notice?
If your kids notice, then they notice! This is probably a toy that means more to them than you might realize. You can simply say, “Oh yeah, I think I saw that…” Fetch the toy that was asked about and return it to your child.
This is similar to a method I teach in Rich Minimalist that works for us adult folk as well. Sometimes that fear of letting go can be so overwhelming that we refuse to let go of things even if we know we don’t need them deep down.
Eliminate with the seasons
Another great way to cycle through toys with your kids (especially if they are at a healthy age to do so), can be to make a habit of eliminating toys a few times a year. We usually stick with before birthdays and before the holidays.
I am a big believer in helping my kids through their own unique journey with clutter rather than imposing all of my views on them, so doing this has been an awesome teaching experience. It’s so satisfying to see them learn to let go of things on their own terms in order to create space for new things.
Doing this can help get ahead of the clutter before more comes in, while we do our best to avoid purchasing toys for our kids themselves, we all know grandparents can be a trickier thing to deal with.
Speaking of no longer buying our kids toys, let’s talk about that for a second.
Control what you can
As fun as it was to be in a constant battle with my children’s grandparents, I decided to let that go. I guess you could ultimately say at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that I don’t want stuff to rule my life in any way. That includes me not wanting to allow the Christmas gifts to put a cramp in my relationship with my mother-in-law. I value my family and the people in my life even if they prefer to give toys at Christmas and I don’t.
Some people love giving gifts, grandparents love gifting toys. It’s how they know how to show my children love. If someone wants to show love to my children the best way they know how, why would I stop that?
For myself, however I prefer giving experiences. I prefer spending time together. That means we don’t really buy our kids toys anymore.
Instead we spend money on things like:
- Vacations and time together
- Sports and music lessons
- Equipment that helps them with their hobbies and interests
- Books — we buy a lot of books
I choose not to battle family members over toys anymore, and instead focus on what I can control. Not adding to toy clutter is something I can control.
Eliminate the steps
I about had a heart attack when I Googled how to manage toy clutter. Most of the posts I came across gave (to me) extremely complicated, detailed steps for organizing and managing kids clutter.
Call me crazy but when I have a to do list filled with things to do, I don’t want to add juggling my children’s toys to the list.
- Go to the container store
- Buy several sizes of containers
- Purchase shelving to store toys
- Get a label maker
- Label all of the containers
- Sort the toys
- Hover over my children every time they play the toys to ensure they are put away properly
- Grab a giant container
- Chuck all the toys in it
- Call it a day
So often we feel like tackling a big problem needs to be a big solution. In reality, the best way to simplify any process is to remove as many steps as possible. This includes toy clutter, my friend.
Embrace the suck
My last tip that can help you fully embrace any variety of stages in life is to just embrace the mess that it comes with. Each stage of life will bring a certain amount of chaos or stress to it. You can spend all of your time fighting against it, or you can just embrace it.
Taking the time to accept the fact that sometimes there is going to be to be toys in my living room saved me insane amounts of stress.
Understanding that my kids only play with toys for a few years and then, it’s onward and upward to bigger problems allowed me to put into perspective just how much time I was spending on something that is a temporary problem.
Now, I slowly am finding that my kids play with toys less and less and while I won’t miss the clutter of it all, am I forever thankful that through the last few years I have been able to enjoy my children’s little years a whole lot more when I spend a lot less time stressing over their toys.