To Keep or To Toss? How to Cut Down On The Barrage Of Toys

One question that I have heard more than almost any other is, “How do we cut down on the toy clutter?” Toys enter our home in many ways – birthdays, holidays, souvenirs of trips and experiences, and more. Once the toy clutter takes up residence it can be difficult to get them out, even when the sheer volume becomes unmanageable. How do you decide which toys to keep and which toys to send packing? Rather than immediately setting a limit on the number of toys or the exact space allotted for toys, I encourage clients to think about the toys that serve them and their children well. Here are my top three reasons to KEEP toys:

  • Toys that encourage imaginative play: These would be things like dress up clothes, dolls and figures, materials for making forts and structures, and arts and crafts materials.
  • Toys that encourage community play: These are things that encourage your children to play well with each other and their friends. The toys already mentioned will likely fall into this category for most families. I would also add blocks, Legos, and many board games.
  • Toys that encourage your children to create: Again, most of the toys from the previous two categories also fit here. Consider adding a box of recyclables for building and constructing. As your children get older, invest in creative toys like Snap Circuits (for exploring electrical circuits), KEVA Planks or City Blocks (which even the adults will enjoy) and kits like Scientific Explorer’s Young Architect Building Set.

All of these types of toys are wonderful to have available. That does not mean that you need vast quantities of them. Now is the time to consider limits, based on numbers or space. You can involve your children in this phase of the organizing process by asking questions like, “Which two sets of blocks would you like to keep?” Extras can be boxed up and rotated out later, donated, or sold online or at a yard sale.

You have now thought through which toys work well and encourage your children to imagine, create, and work cooperatively. That has probably left a large pile (or several rooms) filled with toys that did not fit the bill. Some toys that should go immediately are toys that fall apart or break easily, that lead to frequent fighting or arguing, that offend the senses in some way (very loud, very bright, very frenetic), or that require little of your children. Toys should engage your child, not just entertain or distract them.

There is always room for your child to keep a few special and loved toys, regardless of the categories above. Empower them to make a few selections with parameters (perhaps filling one box, or keeping 8-10 items). Then let the other toys move on and enjoy the newly rediscovered space for creative and engaging play!

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Take the “Busy Boycott”

Recently, I was reading a blog post by Joshua Becker on his wonderful website He states that “busy has become the new fine.” What he means is this – when someone asks how we are, we used to say, “fine.” Now we say, “busy.” Why? Anecdotally, I would say that we all are, in fact, very busy. But it’s more than that. It’s also that “busy” has become something we celebrate, as though our busyness proves that we are accomplishing a lot, taking advantage of what’s available to us, and not being (heaven forbid) lazy.

As I was pondering this, I happened to read “Soulful Simplicity” by Courtney Carver. This lovely book chronicles Ms. Carver’s personal journey to declutter and simplify her home, time, and life following a medical crisis. She also notes our epidemic of busyness, and how much our constant and unrelenting busyness creates complications, clutter, and chaos in our lives.

Carver offers a 21-day challenge to slow down, her “Busy Boycott.” In the first week, commit to stop talking about your busyness. In the second week, commit to eliminating one thing per day from your commitments or to-do list. In the final week, commit to finding opportunities to slow down and linger.

I have worked with countless clients to reduce commitments and find more breathing room in their lives. These important ideas are not new to most of us, but, like weeds in a garden, our to-do lists continue to grow without vigilant and consistent pruning.

My favorite part of the “Busy Boycott” is the challenge to stop talking about our busyness. This task sounds simple but can yield profound results. At the very least, we take a break from glorifying the fast pace of life. Beyond that, it offers us an opportunity to describe our commitments in more thoughtful language. Perhaps your “busy” week is actually a week “rich with special family activities.” Now doesn’t that put a new spin on it? Alternately, your “busy” week might be a week “filled with activities and running around that I dread.” Hmm, perhaps this points the way toward some commitments that need pruning.

I hope you will consider taking the “Busy Boycott.” I wish you a week filled with consciously chosen and meaningful activities, plus a healthy dose of lingering.

Turn Decluttering into a Family Service Project

I am always looking for ways to engage our family in acts of service. Our children gain skills, empathy, and awareness from helping others. There are many ways that you can turn decluttering into a way to help others, involving your entire family.

The simplest way is to choose a charity or local organization to receive your donated items, and talk about it as a family. Toys could go to a family homeless shelter or community center, appliances and construction and home goods to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, clothes to a women’s shelter. Our community homeless shelter accepts donations of “bedtime bags” to give to resident children. These bags contain a book, a toy, a drink, and a snack, and are an ideal way to repurpose books your children have outgrown.

Spend a few minutes talking as a family about where these items will go, who they will help, and how we can use our abundance to serve someone who has less. Presto, decluttering has become a beautiful act of service and a family learning experience!

Contact me today to learn how I can help you achieve your goals!