Decluttering the Toy Bin: Children Are the Worst Hoarders

Monday December 12, 2016

Our decluttering month has finally taken us to perhaps the worst culprit: children and their toy bins. There is no better time to declutter the toy bin than a couple weeks before an avalanche of new toys.

If your kids are anything like mine (and I’m guessing they are), every single cheap dentist’s office toy is still lurking somewhere, somehow beloved and HOW COULD YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT TOSSING IT??? Sweetheart, because it’s a piece of junk and it’s littering up our entire lives.

If you have kids younger than 4 or 5, this will likely be a lot easier. Parents of older kids, may the Lord be with you.

Alright, as before, we’ll be practicing the hands-off approach to decluttering. Think through all the bullet points below before you actually start touching stuff. We’re just tossing things into a Small Box and a Big Box.

Before, small box things went back to their proper places. This time? Small box things are going straight into the trash. You’ll put the Big Box away — out of sight, out of mind — for a couple weeks or months. In this instance, if your kid wants a toy back, you can fish it out and give it back. Otherwise, it all gets donated. Ready?

(Special note on kids artwork: I mentioned last time that we now put all of Bean’s artwork into a plastic tackle box for later sorting. You’re allowed to throw out the pieces of paper with like one line across them, but anything that you’re unsure of, find a craft box and toss it in.)


Let’s do this by bullet points.

Into the small box:

• Remnants of party bags, doctor’s office goodies, anything else that falls in the “absolute junk” category — UNLESS your kid actually loves it. Then you are stuck.
• Broken or stray pencils/crayons.
• Dried out markers.
• Paint containers with just a dredge of paint left on the bottom.
• Anything broken that a) you don’t want to fix and b) doesn’t work properly as-is
• Look on any horizontal surface of your kid’s room or living room, anything that strikes you as “literally junk” — there is no better feeling than putting it in the small box.
• Anything seasonal and disposable, that hasn’t been disposed of yet. (Window decals, sticker books, etc)

Into the big box:

• Toys that they’ve outgrown, with no younger kid around to grow into them
• Toys that you can’t stand (HEY, it’s fair, you can’t stand it for a reason!)
• Toys that your kid doesn’t really play appropriately with. Bean once got a very lovely building toy, but she had no interest in using the pieces to build and instead would pretend they were confetti. Every single time. After the 5th or 6th time picking up these darn pieces up from every corner of her room, the toy went into the donate bin. Ditto for any musical instrument she’s ever gotten. They get used as baskets or baseball bats, anything but for playing music. If your kid isn’t playing appropriately with a toy, there might be something wrong with the toy and how it was designed, or it may be developmentally inappropriate for your kid.
• Toys that are tricky to operate because of a design flaw, which frustrates your kid, which frustrates you and so your kid never plays with it. (I once got Bean a work bench that would have required her to hold down a bolt with a wrench with one hand while using a screwdriver with the other. That toy didn’t last long.)
• Toys that are just kind of boring and don’t hold your kid’s interest
• Related, toys they’ve never really played with
• For stuffed animals, you likely have way too many. Pick out your kid’s (and your) favorites and literally put the rest in the box. Yes, even if that means 10 animals end up in the box.

Into the big box they all go. Now, if you’ve actually been mostly ruthless, this will be an avalanche of toys. Don’t feel bad! You aren’t depriving your kid! I am sure (SURE) there are still a ton of toys left. A few months ago, I took three trips to Goodwill for toy donation, and didn’t even notice a dent in the toy storage after it all. This seems impossible, but also points to how overwhelmed our storage spaces are to begin with.

Good luck out there, parents!

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