How to declutter toys without losing your mind

We’re officially past the holiday season. Yahoo. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. I love the lights and the magic, not to mention I live in an area of the country where the possibility of a white Christmas is high. All in all, it’s a beautiful time of year. But with great beauty, comes great responsibility, or something like that. Because when you have kids, the holidays also bring…

More. Toys. More stuff. More things that make noise. More things with small parts. More things that you’re going to step on in the middle of the night. And do you know what you didn’t get more of for Christmas? Space.

The question I get asked the most from moms when it comes to organization and clutter is “What the flip am I supposed to do with all of these toys!?

It’s a delicate question and situation because while we’d just as soon throw every single toy out the window most days, kids are emotionally attached to their belongings. To be honest, so do parent, more than they admit. Organization is also so much more than just getting rid of things, because “things” can just end up back in your home if you don’t deal with the emotional and mental attachment to clutter and set up great systems (See my free video “End the Boomerang Clutter” here.)

So when it comes to the toys, where do you start? What do you do with it all? Let’s take a look, girl.

1. Have a plan. Most decluttering projects come on a rainy day when mom trips over a Hot Wheels car and angrily decides she is getting rid of all the toys. While that sounds really amazing in theory, just chucking everything out the door won’t really fix the problem, and will probably leave your kids upset. Having a plan beforehand means that everyone knows what to expect and when.

2. Involve the kids, even if you don’t want to. There is a lot of controversy and discussion over whether you should involve your children in your decluttering and organizational efforts. While going it alone may be quicker and seem more efficient, it can also send the message that their input isn’t important. Especially for children who form strong emotional attachments to their toys, this can be pretty devastating and even cause them to tighten their grip on their personal belongings. My advice is always to do what you feel is best for your child. If you have the kind of kid that won’t even notice the difference, then by all means, go to town while they are at school, but if your child tends to lean toward attachment, involve them in the process. Discuss the importance of decluttering and allow them the opportunity to choose what goes and what stays (to a certain extent, obviously.)

3. Play on their empathy. By nature, kids tend to be super empathetic, far more than adults who have been tainted by the ways of the world. Children love to be giving, loving and nurturing, especially to other children. One way to help children to let go of their belongings is to reassure them that their toys will find a home with other children who can love those toys and give them the playtime they deserve. I should also mention that I don’t advocate playing on guilt and making them feel badly that they have so many toys while others go without, but instead assuring them that they toys they don’t play with could be loved so much by someone else, rather than sitting in a toy chest. Think Toy Story 3...I weep just thinking about the end of that movie.

4. Enact a “One-in, One-out” rule. I am a huge fan of this for every room in the house, not just for toys. You know how it is. You go to Target and buy yet another pair of boots, or a bra or a porcelain bird figurine for the desk and come home to realize you already have enough of all of those. Rather that keep everything around, treat yourself to new things by getting rid of the old. Toys can work the same way. Did you daughter get a new doll for Christmas? I bet there is one or more dolls that aren’t even being touched that you could get rid of now. New Play-Doh comes in, the old, hard Play-Doh goes it. It is a fantastic method and takes very little effort. One comes in, one goes out.

5. Get rid of broken toys and games immediately. You’re never going to fix them. Admit it. Throw them away. Good riddance. It feels so good, right?

6. Make it fun. Look, asking kids to get rid of toys or at the very least organize them sounds about as much fun to them as getting a filling, but if you can make it fun, they are far less likely to associate the whole experience with doom and gloom. Turn on some music, make it a game, see who can fill the “donate” bin fastest, see who can separate the toys by size/color/type the fastest, etc. Fun always rules the day with kids, even if it means they are getting rid of play things.

7. Avoid large toy chests. The big toy chests of the past are best to stay in the past. Kids now have more physical toys than they have in years past and the toy chests and bins meant to hold all the toys simply don’t work anymore. They often overflow and make it difficult for kids to find the toys they want and put their toys away. Rather, utilize smaller bins and spaces, such as a shelving unit or cubby system. Not only does this make it easier to separate like toys, but won’t deal with the heaps and overflow nearly as much as with one giant toy bin.


Ok, so we've got the toys under control, but what about the rest of the house? Is the clutter taking over and causing you to think "It would just be easier to move to a yurt." The problem is, you don't even know what a yurt is and you love your home, so let's find a better way. I've designed a checklist just for moms like you who are ready to take the junk by the proverbial horns and get uncluttered for good. Download your free copy of the Purge it Like It's Hot list. Room by room, you'll find out what to toss for good.