Purge The Toys

image Cyndy Ratcliffe certified organizer

Just like grownups, children can actually be overwhelmed by too much of a good thing. Favorite toys get lost in all the excess; decisions are harder to make with so many choices.

Cyndy Ratcliffe, Certified Professional Organizer and Time Expert says to purge toys at least twice a year. Get rid of those they have outgrown, those missing pieces, those with too many pieces (that drive you crazy), the bad purchases and those toys that have been abandoned. Teaching your children to make decisions and let go of old toys is a good life-long lesson.

Children 7 years and older can be taught the process and can make the decisions with you. Younger children need mom or dad to make the decisions for them. Parents usually know the favorites that would be missed.

Teach your children about charity and how letting go is also giving to others. When I do this with children I often hear them say “I think someone else can have this one” as they decide to donate a toy. It makes it a positive experience and I have to admit, brings a smile to my face.

Another way to make it a positive experience is to let them choose what they want to keep. Make it a game for them. I’ll use stuffed animals as my example here.

1. With your child establish a fair number of stuffed animals that will be kept (In my head I cushion that number, because they always want a couple more at the end).
2. Put on their favorite music (yes, many a session I am listening to Hannah Montana or High School Musical) and toss all the stuffed animals out on the floor.
3. Make it fun; there should be laughter and silliness in it!
4. Ask them to show you their absolute favorite and tell you why it is their favorite. Listen to their stories. Continue with their next 3 favorites and so on until you get to the number you decided on. You can do the same thing with games, matchbox cars, books, etc.
5. The remaining items can more easily be donated now. At this point they want the additional 1 or 2 more so we let that slide. Remember, we left a cushion.

Playing this game with a child under 7 reconfirms their favorites for your decision making and for a child 7 or older it is a great way to turn letting go into a keeping experience. The chilren are choosing the ones that they want to keep and are less nervous about the process; they know they have their favorites! Be sure you don’t second guess their decisions, allow them their success. Often I discover that moms and dads are more attached to things than the children are!

If as a parent of a child less than 7 you are concerned about what you have chosen to donate, store the toys in the attic for a while and see if anything is missed that you can then recover. Give those toys a date to be donated or the attic will soon be your next project! You will be surprised how often kids miss nothing from the clean out. Keep in mind, as you mentioned Nicole, new toys are coming in often especially with the holidays around the corner! And hey, who needs a store bought toy? In this case a rock served as a toy and I personally remember making mud pies for hours. Ok, and I will shyly add that I used to cut pickles in half the long way and pretend the pickle half was my pet frog! Oh, yes I did!

Set Boundaries in Saving for Younger Siblings

To save money and share the joy of toys our children own we often want to hand down toys to younger siblings. Save only the treasured items that will regularly be used by younger siblings – When I say “treasured items” in this example I mean items that kept your child entertained for hours (a treasure for you and the child). Those are the ones worth keeping. The Operation and Candy Land games, Dr. Seuss books, and Legos® seem to be the items kept time and time again. Label those boxed up treasures that you save with the age of use. Set boundaries, be very restrictive.

Successful Toy Storage – Watch your Expectations

If you are expecting children to sort and organize by type of toy, you may have set your expectations too high. Keep toy storage simple. Toys should require only one step to be put away. Toy containers should be open without lids. For instance, crayons are more easily put away in an open bucket than placed in slots in a lidded crayon box. Children rarely put their matchbox cars in the slots of a carrying case – too many steps! Baskets and tubs are great solutions. If the appearance in a room is important to you pick attractive baskets or colored organizers that coordinate with the space. Look for a space in the rooms where you can tuck the baskets when not in use; behind a couch, under a side table or under the crib. Keep the container reasonably sized, a large deep toy box is big trouble when the toy that is wanted is on the bottom! Think kindergarten room where they use cubbies and hooks for successful one-step storage!

Check out for great storage containers.

Baskets and books can go on bookshelves which can be another fine example of the one-step for toys and books. Larger toys often work well stored on a deep bookshelf. If you are using a bookshelf, be sure to have it bolted to the wall to avoid it toppling over. Keep older children’s toys and crafts at a higher level where young inexperienced sibling’s hands can’t reach them.

Small Trinket and Trophies and Treasures

Create a “treasure box” as organization for each family member to keep their small treasures like ribbons, favorite greeting cards, small gift tokens and certificates. That’s right, most adults need this too! I have one! The box does not need to be more than 19″ X 19″ and children can decorate it with stickers, crayons or markers to make it their own. This is a good answer for all the small scattered “treasures” that children accumulate.

So, to save being overwhemed by toys, purge those that are crowding the rest, set boundaries on what you do save, and store toys in a one-step containers. And remember, if your child had no toys they would use their imagination to create them! RRRiiiibbbit!

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.