One of my families’ favorite stories is David Shannon’s book, Too Many Toys. It’s the perfect depiction of the overabundance of toys that was beginning to take over my house. As most parents would agree, the struggle to control the toy chaos is real.
Until recently my house had a minefield of toys scattered in every room. Each visit from a grandparent, trip to the dentist and stroll past the dollar bin at Target resulted in an insurmountable pile of toys. Similar to my own daughters, the little boy in the story has a reason to keep each toy and offers lawyer level negotiations as to why he can’t get rid of any of them.
After too many days of being impaled by rogue Legos and spending too much of my time organizing toys, I made the decision to reduce the number of toys we had. The toughest part was getting my kids to buy into this idea and maintaining a less is more attitude after the purge.
Great Ways to Reduce the Toy Clutter
After we reduced our toy load by half, we had the new challenge of maintaining our pared-back toy box.
1. Sell, donate, and negotiate
Many tough decisions will be made and negotiations will ensue, but the end result will be a beautifully organized house. At least for a few days:)
Check out this awesome suggestion blog post How to Help Your Kids Willingly Get Rid of Toys from Tatertots & Jello. I followed her advice on how to get the kids on board. After donating a ton of stuff, I posted some of the nicer toys that the girls outgrew on our local Facebook rummage sale site. We talk about being mindful and having gratitude a lot. So instead of promising new toys with the money we made, I used it as an opportunity to teach the girls about giving to others. Then we headed to Target (managing to avoid the dollar spot) and the girls used their money to buy new toys to bring to our local community toy shelf.
2. Ask for experiences instead of toys.
A simple outing to mark a special occasion creates a memory that a child will hold on to forever.
Next time Grandma asks what she should buy for Christmas, remind her that spending time with her is a gift.
3. Have Friends Donate Gifts to Toy Shelf For Birthday Parties
Birthday parties are so much fun. Surrounding your child with friends and family to celebrate the day they were born is truly a special event. We wanted to have our girls focus on the fun day they were having with their friends and not the gifts that they would receive. The invitations explained that gifts were not necessary, but we were accepting donations to bring to the IOCP birthday shelf.
Don’t wait for Christmas to donate toys for kids in need! Many children in our community will not receive a new gift or have a party on their special day, but organizations like IOCP in Plymouth collect new toys for families in need. Other places to donate include Cheerful Givers, The Birthday Party Project,
4. Brainstorm Fun Non-toy Gifts Your Kids Will Love
Watching kids open gifts is a joyful experience, and I am certainly not opposed to my kids receiving gifts. I try my best to think about things my kids will love that are not going to get shoved to the bottom of the closet after a few months. Here are some of my favorite non-toy gift ideas:
- Sleeping bags
- Kid’s towels
- Art supplies
- Cool dishes or water bottles
- Kid’s cookbook and kitchen tools
- Magazine subscriptions
- Seasonal gifts – sleds, sand buckets, rain boots, umbrellas, roller-skates
- New bedroom decorations
5. Swap Toys instead of Buying New Gifts
My siblings and I made a deal this year that instead of buying new toys for all the nieces & nephews (who all have more than they need), we’d have the cousins select some of their own toys to gift to each other. Luckily they’re all similar ages so it worked out well. I talked to my kids about being thoughtful in choosing the perfect gift, and not simply choosing a toy they no longer used. This ended up being a wonderful exercise in the authentic act of giving. They took their time talking about each cousin and what they thought they would like before deciding on the gift.
To the cousin that loves books, we’ll give one of our chapter books along with a blank book we make out of construction paper so she could also write her own book. For another cousin that loves dress-up, we chose the dress she always wears when she plays dress-up at our house, and then paired it with some jewelry and a purse. For our Lego loving cousin, we built a special space ship and then took some photos while dismantling it and wrote instructions so the cousin could reconstruct our creation. Overall, I was overly impressed with the thoughtful gifts my children came up with – they were way more personalized than anything I could have bought in a store.
Getting Started – Even When it’s Hard
I’ll be honest, I come from a long line of collectors (AKA Hoarders) and none of this comes naturally. Making the change and learning to reduce the toy clutter, as well as the grown-up clutter, has been a slow and painful process. There have been tears (many of them my own) because often times there is a feeling that you are giving up something special that will truly be missed. I try to remember that I don’t need tangible things to have special memories. In the end, it feels amazing, and you and your family will most likely feel lighter and happier. This article by the New York Times goes into more detail about the benefits of having fewer toys.
Paring back toys can be hard. Start by simply rotating toys. Put some of your toys into bins and switch your toys each month. Chances are your kids won’t even miss those toys. Then you can see what they really enjoy playing with and donate them when you’re ready.