Having children is wonderful, but also brings challenges. One of them is trying to keep all of their toys from making the house a mess. If you’ve got a cluttered playroom or family room, here are a few ideas for clearing it out and turning it into a functional space.
FIRST. . .
Don’t start by telling your children, “We need to get rid of a lot of this stuff!” A phrase like this strikes fear and panic in the heart of children. Thinking that you are going to throw their precious belongings away makes them hold on tighter and fight the process.
Instead, say something like “Let’s find a way to better organize everything that is out on the floor and the tables because your favorite toys deserve a better home.” Group the items by category (e.g. “cars,” “musical instruments,” “legos,” or “dolls”) and then put the loose items into labeled boxes or bins. Anything which has a box of its own – like board games or puzzles – can be grouped and stacked on a shelf.
SECOND. . .
Now it’s time to look at those items that aren’t being regularly played with (i.e. those that are in the back of the cabinet, stuffed at the bottom of a bin, or behind the couch…) Remember, whenever you pull out a toy that a child hasn’t seen in awhile, he will naturally be attracted to it. This doesn’t mean he necessarily loves it, only that it feels “new.”
When sorting potential giveaway items, you have two options:
OPTION #1: Involve the children
This is good for older children who are willing to participate in the process of de-cluttering. You can help this along by offering an incentive to donate items. For example, offer a nickel in a jar for each toy or book they donate. Tell the children you will count the money when you are finished, and if there is enough, everyone gets to go out for ice cream.
- Not all toys are equally deserving of a reward. Things that are broken or are missing pieces are simply trash… a Polly pocket shoe or a broken car wheel doesn’t earn a nickel…).
- Don’t second guess or undermine your child’s decision. If she is ready to give up a toy, accept this choice. Don’t express that you think she is making a mistake. If you want to keep the item for sentimental or financial reasons, quietly remove it to a storage location when she is not looking.
- Don’t emphasize that you are making room for new toys. This sets up an expectation that every time he gets rid of something, he gets something new. Shedding shouldn’t be linked to acquisition, but rather is a healthy habit.
If, while sorting, you come across some toys you aren’t sure about, put them in a “maybe” bin for a couple of months. Move the bin out of sight, and if the child doesn’t ask for it during this time, it is probably safe to go.
OPTION #2: Sort through the items when the children aren’t around
Some children are either too young or struggle with letting go. While this can be worked on, you shouldn’t let this keep your home from being in order. Instead, while they are napping or out of the house, go through the items that they are not playing with and clear out. Pitch whatever is broken, sharp or missing pieces. Then, make a pile of items to give away that your children no longer use. Most parents know their children, and won’t accidentally get rid of anything that is a favorite toy. When in doubt, keep it… or, trying using the “maybe” bin.
Items that are leftover after the sort need to be given a “home” in your toy storage.
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Sorting through toys is not a “one time” proposition. New items are steadily coming in, so it is wise to regularly clear out. Teaching children to regularly sort their belongings, prioritize their possessions to meet current needs, and either donate or trash unwanted items enables is a life skill they will use all their lives.
How do you encourage your children to let go of old toys?