Cutting through the Clutter of Toys

by Destri on January 29, 2010

image via Land of Nod

Shortly after Christmas I was walking through my house taking in what can only be summed up as a holy mess. The kids were not playing with their toys-they were swimming in them.  Just watching them I could tell they couldn’t focus on one activity for all the confusion that surrounded them.  In fact there was no quality play going on, no imagination development, no fine motor skill development, just the random launching of toys…literally.  They had resorted to just throwing them.

It was time to clean house.

I came up with a system that I have employed weekly ever since and found it to be useful in cutting down on the clutter of toys.  I will detail what I have done and then I want you to give me your input.

Check the Inventory

I started by going through every room, every nook, every drawer and put all the toys in one location (a heap on my living room floor).  I did this with a garbage sack in one hand, instantly throwing out the toys I knew were either broken or missing parts. Look under beds, pull out the couches and cushions…I was amazed with what I found, or embarrassed, one of the two.  Keep in mind that my oldest is three, so I chose to do this while my kids were asleep.  If you have older ones you may want to involve them in the process.  Or maybe not?  If you have older kids please leave your thoughts on that one in the comments.

Sort and Classify (divide and conquer)

Start this next step with a goal in mind.  Mine was to cut our toys by half; look at your situation and decide what will be a reasonable goal for you.  Sitting on the floor I began sorting-balls in one pile, cars and trucks in another, dolls, dishes-you get the idea.  I not only sorted them but classified them.  Which toys were of a higher quality; my son had two tractors, one very nice the other not so much.  I also thought of their preference did they prefer the red car over the blue?  Surely no boy needs twenty cars, and ten motorcycles.  That is where the donate pile comes in.  Really think about the toys and if your child has shown an interest in them for the last month. If the answer is no, it’s time to pass them on.   I found after I was done with this step some of the toys I saved were for my personal attachment, not my kids.  I bit my lip and added those to the donate pile too.  There were a few they had not played with that I knew if given a second chance and some assistance they would enjoy them, so I kept those.

Lose the Token ‘Happy Meal’ Toys

I don’t know about you but we had an insane amount of little toys.  None of which went with anything or served a purpose.  You know, the ones you get from a happy meal, out of the cereal box, or the ones grandma bought while standing in line at the grocery store just to make them happy.  I took every single one of them and put them in the trash bag…it felt great.  I can’t tell you how many times I picked them up on a daily basis.  Freedom….

Secure and Organize

Find a place where you can organize all the toys left.  I would go into depth on this but that is an entirely different post!  I used baskets with balls in one basket, cars in another and so on.  Just use a system that works best for you.  The important thing to remember is you want like toys together.  You may want to do this differently, but I had decided I wanted to control the ‘creative process’ in my home a little more.  So I have a little room at the top of our stairs (that happens to have a childproof gate) where I decided to store our toys.  My neighbor has a closet that she put a lock on, find a place that works for you.  I did leave the kitchen in my sons room with all the kitchen toys, but without the confusion of all the other toys it works great.  I left the books downstairs, and I have to tell you an amazing thing happened…they actually sit and look at them.  Without the distraction of all the other toys and the books being the only thing they have full access to I now will find them sitting and flipping through the pages.  Makes my heart swell.

Have a Plan

My plan will not work for everyone so you may need to adjust it to your needs. For us I found it best if I take one basket, fill it every morning with a variety of toys to take downstairs for them to play with.  At nap time I put those toys back and bring down a fresh set after they wake up.  It has worked great!  Just before my husband gets home, instead of having a whole house of toys to pick up, I only have a few to throw in a basket to take upstairs.  He comes home to a clean house, lovely.  Also the kids are actually playing with their toys, the wheels are turning in their little heads with each individual toy.

Every week I do a mini version of this process, somehow I always find a few toys we can lose, and we don’t miss them, not one bit.

I shared this over on Amy’s Anti-procrastination link party, this is going to be a fun one!

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