Cutting Through The Clutter of Toys


A couple of years ago I was a mom sitting in a house overfilled with toys. They were everywhere. My kids weren't enjoying them, they were just too overwhelmed by the volume and chaos. I finally took action and came up with a process that has kept my home free of toy clutter since. Curious? Oh good, let's get started!

Check the Inventory (raid the house)

I started by going through my entire house. I checked every room; it's drawers, closets, under beds, behind couches, and under cushions – everything. I did this with a garbage sack in one hand, instantly throwing out the toys I knew were either broken or missing parts. I was amazed with what I found (or embarrassed, one of the two). At the time my oldest was three, so I chose to do this while my kids were asleep. If you have older ones you may want to involve them in the process. After I gathered up all the toys I put them in one place; a heap on my living room floor.

Sort and Classify (divide and conquer)

Start this next step with a goal in mind. Mine was to cut our toys by half. Look at your situation and decide what will be a reasonable goal for you. Sitting on the floor I began sorting; balls in one pile, cars and trucks in another, dolls, dishes, and so on. I not only sorted them but classified them. Which toys were of a higher quality; my son had two tractors, one very nice the other not so much. I also thought of their preference did they prefer the red car over the blue? Surely no boy needs twenty cars, and ten motorcycles. That is where the donate pile comes in. Really think about the toys and if your child has shown an interest in them for the last month. If the answer is no, it’s time to pass them on. I found that after I was done with this step some of the toys I saved were for my personal attachment, not my kids. I bit my lip and added those to the donate pile too. There were a few they had not played with that I knew if given a second chance and some assistance they would enjoy them, so I kept those.

Lose the Token ‘Happy Meal’ Toys

I don’t know about you but we had an insane amount of little toys. None of which went with anything or served a purpose. You know, the ones you get from a happy meal, out of the cereal box, or the ones grandma bought while standing in line at the grocery store just to make them happy. I took every single one of them and put them in the trash bag. I can’t tell you how many times I picked them up on a daily basis. Freedom….

Secure and Organize

Find a place where you can organize all the toys you decided to keep. If everything has a place, it is much easier to clean up. I used baskets and buckets; with balls in one basket, cars in another and so on. Just use a system that works best for you. The important thing to remember is to keep like toys together. After I had finished, I showed my kids where everything went. How dragons had a bucket all their own, cars needed to go in the red basket, and books go on this shelf. After a few days of reminding them, they were able to pick up all their toys on their own, and they had a sense of pride in that.

Have a Plan

Depending on the age of your kids, you may decide to do things differently. When my kids were younger (2 and 1) I found it best to keep the toys they played with to one basket. I would fill it every morning with a variety of toys to take out for them to play with. At nap time I would put those toys back and bring out a fresh set when they woke up. Then we only had a few toys to throw in a basket and put away. Now that they are 4 and 3 I let them have free rein, but that never seems too overwhelming because I continue to edit the toys we keep. Clean up time never takes more than 15 minutes. Make sure to continue the editing process. I try to go through all of our toys on a monthly basis. I am always amazed that every time there is something to get rid of. They grow out of something, parts get lost or broken. Tossing those toys continually makes room for the new ones that make it into my house. I have to say that my kids have yet to miss a toy I have donated or tossed. On the contrary, they seem to just enjoy the ones they have without the over-stimulation of too many. So don't feel guilty!

I would love to know what tips and tricks you have for staying on top of toy clutter, please share!

Post by Destri :

  • Caron Reeder

    Your post has given me confidence! I have a 1 year old and a 3 year old and oh boy, talk about toys! I’ve been meaning to do a heavy handed edit while they are sleeping but I keep worrying about whether I will throw out the wrong one and they would miss it terribly. I’m loving that your kids have never noticed. On a side note, those fun alphabet letters are such a cute idea.

  • Anna

    Good post!
    When my two boys were little, they used to have lot of toys, being the only babies in both families. The more they had, the more they got bored.
    So one day when they were sleeping I did that same thing: toss away broken toys (those beyond repair, give unwanted ones to their school (not to their very same class), and keep away most of the items (out of sight and out of reach).
    At the end they only had three or four for each child, different kind (car, doll, box of legos and/or something else).
    If during a whole year they forgot about the other toys, I also gave them. If they asked for them we did an exchange.
    I didn´t want them to be angry all their life, like some adults I know, for been taken their favourite book or toy, without asking.
    They are now 23 and 24 and they only keep their legos!! :-)).

  • Lauren

    I just did this at our house. The system I have used is I divided all the toys into 5 catergories. Cars, Animals, Tools, Babies and blocks. (Everything else I wanted to keep went into a rainy day box.) Each group was put in a seperate box and only two are avalible at any time. This way they have to tidy up one mess before they can start another. It has been great and they have never asked for one of the toys I gave away (which there were heaps)

  • toy shops

    Organized toys are much better to sort out. This also helps the kids be more mindful of their toys.

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