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How To Declutter Toys in Your Home

The collection of your child's toys starts innocently enough—usually a stuffed animal received as a gift at a baby shower—but then the collection grows over the years into a mountain range of buzzing, beeping, twirling gizmos taking up residence in multiple rooms of your home. Each parent has different limits as to how much stuff is too much, and often that limit is identified right after stepping on an errant Lego brick or Hot Wheels' car or dollhouse chair in the middle of the night in bare feet. Something has to go. Order must be re-established. Your sanity should stay intact. Here's how to de-clutter the toys.

  1. Toss (or Donate or Sell) the Old

  2. a selection of babys toys in a basket

    If a toy hasn't been played with in a year, it's time to get rid of it. Tossing neglected toys is a great way to teach children about decision-making, attachment to physical things, charitable giving, and even finance and economics. If your child is over the age of two, have her help you go through the toys and identify which ones should go. If the toys are in good condition, she can then help choose the charity she wishes to donate to. Or, you can put on a garage sale together—price the toys, advertise and run the sale, and find a purpose for the earnings. Books in good shape can go to a library's annual sale. Use this purge as an opportunity to talk about how you make tough decisions about what to get rid of each year.

  3. Identify the Toys' Space

  4. a baby's nursery

    Where will the toys in your house be stored? Do they all need to fit in your child's bedroom? Will you have a toy box in the family room and another in the recreation room, in addition to your child's bedroom? How much space in the garage will be dedicated to toy storage? Will the backyard be used to store toys, too? Decide how much and where your child's toys will be stored, and then don't allow your child's toys to go beyond these areas. If the toys can't all fit into these areas, you'll need to get rid of more toys before moving forward with the toy-organizing project.

  5. Make a Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

  6. a range of dolls

    If a toy doesn't have a place to be stored, it will always be out of place. Every toy your child has should have a location where it can be put away after it's played with. Doll clothes should be stored in a mini wardrobe of some kind. Lego bricks should be stored in a container with other Lego bricks. Etc.

  7. Have an organizer

  8. Delta Children Multi-Color Deluxe Toy Organizer with Storage Bins

    All toy storage options should be easily accessible to your child. You need to be sure the toys can be put away without your help. Words and pictures should appear on all bins, starting before your child can read. You can take pictures of what's inside or Microsoft Word has lots of clipart options that work well for toy-box labeling. Print and laminate the tags at a local Kinko's, then attach Velcro dots to the storage container and tag so you can switch out the tags as necessary. Storage containers should also be placed at appropriate heights for your child to reach. The heaviest items should be stored closest to the floor so your child isn't injured when retrieving or returning toys. You can find this great one in the picture at Amazon.com

  9. Rotate the Toys

  10. a selection of kids toys

    Keep the most favorite toys accessible all the time, but every two weeks switch the toys around so they will all get attention. If you store toys on a bookshelf, move the toys on the top shelves to the lower shelves and vice versa. If you have some toys stored in a closet and some out in the child's room, move some out and some back to the closet. Children often can feel overwhelmed if they have too many options of toys to use, so limiting their exposure and regularly switching them out can help your child engage with them all.

  11. Give a Toy Time-Out

  12. a plush bear toy

    Any toy left out after playtime can be put into time out. To get the toy back, the child has to remember to put all her toys away for 24 or 48 hours (depending on the age of the child). An empty shelf of a bookcase or a shelf in a closet is a good place for toy time-outs. If something is in time out for a month without being earned back, get rid of it.

  13. Enact One In, One Out

  14. a woman holding three letter blocks

    Homes can only hold a limited amount of toys. If your place is at capacity, it can be a good idea to have the policy that for every new toy that comes into the house, an old toy has to be donated to charity or put into a garage sale. If your child is over age two, have her decide what toy will go. Many times, especially with cheap birthday party favors and school carnival prizes, your child will choose not to bring the new toy into the house at all if it means having to give up a more valuable toy.

  15. Model Uncluttered and Organized Behavior

  16. a pile of storage boxes

    Children are keen observers, and they notice how you interact with your things. If you want your child to keep his toy collection organized and not bulging at the seams, you should make an effort to keep your possessions uncluttered and organized. Also, be mindful of what you and your child select to give as gifts to other children. Talk with your child as you are shopping about what types of toys tend to make big messes, if a toy requires batteries or regular maintenance, and what toys are most likely to be played with regularly.

  17. Define Playtime

  18. a set of building blocks

    Be clear with your child that playtime isn't over when he stops playing with the toys. Rather, playtime is over when all the toys are put away. One strategy for getting your child to put away toys without complaining is to make a game of it—set a timer and have your child race to finish before the bell rings. It can be so easy to say, "Come on, let's go, leave the toys out and we'll put them away when we get home," instead of approaching your child 10 minutes before it's time to leave and reminding him to stop playing and put toys away. Make a dedicated effort to always give your child a 10-minute warning so toys are always put away after being used.

  19. Request Uncluttered Gifts

  20. a young boy looking at decorations

    As nicely and appropriate as possible, try to encourage others to give experiences to your children instead of things. Memberships to favorite museums, zoos, movie passes, local swimming pools, etc. all make wonderful, appreciated gifts that don't take up any room in your home. You know the temperaments of people who give your child gifts, so only make these types of suggestions to those who are open to gift ideas.

All toy storage options should be easily accessible to your child. You need to be sure the toys can be put away without your help. Words and pictures should appear on all bins, starting before your child can read. You can take pictures of what's inside or Microsoft Word has lots of clipart options that work well for toy-box labeling. Print and laminate the tags at a local Kinko's, then attach Velcro dots to the storage container and tag so you can switch out the tags as necessary. Storage containers should also be placed at appropriate heights for your child to reach. The heaviest items should be stored closest to the floor so your child isn't injured when retrieving or returning toys. (This pic is a great example from OrgJunkie.com).
Be clear with your child that playtime isn't over when he stops playing with the toys. Rather, playtime is over when all the toys are put away. One strategy for getting your child to put away toys without complaining is to make a game of it—set a timer and have your child race to finish before the bell rings. It can be so easy to say, "Come on, let's go, leave the toys out and we'll put them away when we get home," instead of approaching your child 10 minutes before it's time to leave and reminding him to stop playing and put toys away. Make a dedicated effort to always give your child a 10-minute warning so toys are always put away after being used.
Be clear with your child that playtime isn't over when he stops playing with the toys. Rather, playtime is over when all the toys are put away. One strategy for getting your child to put away toys without complaining is to make a game of it—set a timer and have your child race to finish before the bell rings. It can be so easy to say, "Come on, let's go, leave the toys out and we'll put them away when we get home," instead of approaching your child 10 minutes before it's time to leave and reminding him to stop playing and put toys away. Make a dedicated effort to always give your child a 10-minute warning so toys are always put away after being used.
As nicely and appropriate as possible, try to encourage others to give experiences to your children instead of things. Memberships to favorite museums, zoos, movie passes, local swimming pools, etc. all make wonderful, appreciated gifts that don't take up any room in your home. You know the temperaments of people who give your child gifts, so only make these types of suggestions to those who are open to gift ideas.
 
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