Close your eyes now and imagine how it would feel to reclaim your lounge for a glass of wine after bed time. You walk into a calm, peaceful space without a plastic dinosaur in sight… Would it feel good if the only toys our children had were the ones that they loved and which encouraged their imaginations?
Many of us are blessed to have lives full of family and friends who gift toys to our kids as a way to show love. In my experience of working as professional declutterer in Edinburgh I have seen family homes overrun with toys because of this. Busy parents often spend precious time tidying toys to try and create a sense of order. Far from more toys bringing more joy, our kids often feel overwhelmed and after the initial excitement of ripping off the wrapping paper, they actually only really play with a few of their favourite toys consistently.
I am on a mission and I’d love you to join me. Let’s free that ‘tidying’ time and create quality time with our kids. Let’s help our children be grateful for what they have and let them use their amazing imaginations more.
I want to help you give your kids the gift of less stuff and more time.
So, how do we do this?
1. Decide which Toys to Keep
Carve out a couple of hours to do this step on your own. Collect every toy in the house and put it in one place. In my experience you can do an initial purge that your kids won’t notice. Keep the reason why you are decluttering in the front of your mind. Use the vision above of quality play time and a clear lounge if that helps. Otherwise you will be distracted by the cost of the toy or some significance or memory it holds rather than whether your kids love or play with it.
You can ask yourself these questions when you are decluttering:
- Does this toy add to my child’s life and time in a positive way?
- Is this toy played with most days?
- Do my kids look for this toy when it is missing?
If you answer no to any of these, consider binning or donating the toy.
Once you’ve done this initial stage then get your kids involved. Give each of them a big box and say they can fill it with their favourite toys. You might be shocked at how easy your children find it to get rid of things. Give them options like ‘which toy would you rather keep, this one or this one?’ and work in small sections rather than the whole room.
Think about this exercise as giving them freedom to imagine. If you have a kitchen set that has around 100 pieces of fake food and dishes, they’re probably scattered all over the house and rarely played with. However, if you only have 2 plates and 2 forks the children are much more likely to play with it and pretend.
2. One Room
Once you have purged the toys, you should have a manageable amount that can live happily in your lounge, kitchen, playroom or their bedroom. The exception to this is messy crafts which you might prefer to do in another area of the home. I still recommend that the craft items are kept in the same room as the other toys when they aren’t being used. There is a huge psychological benefit of knowing that everything is in one place.
Create an area where the toys live. Kids are more likely to put things away if the box is a manageable size so make sure that any storage containers are easy for the children to take down and put away again on their own. The easier it is to accomplish the task, the more likely it is that it will get done.
3. Tackle the issue of gifts
Do you regularly buy your children toys? If you do, assess whether this is necessary. Is there another way you can show love or say well done? Could you read an extra book at bedtime instead?
To deal with the constant flow of toys from loving relatives, you will have to assess relationship with them.
You might feel able to explain your objective along the lines of “I read an article and I am excited to try decluttering – we just have too much stuff!”. I hope that most will understand and be supportive. Who knows, you might even convert them!
Reinforce that your children love spending time with their family as much as they like receiving gifts. You can remind your kids of this too.
Ask family to only buy gifts for Christmases and birthdays. I know some people find it uncomfortable to talk about gift giving but keep in mind the vision and consider how you would feel if someone explained the position to you? Consider giving a list which allows people to dote while allowing you to know that those toys will be used.
Inevitably there will be those who only speak the language of love through gift giving. If you assess that an honest conversation won’t be possible, let your kids get excited about the gifts. If they adopt something as a favourite, of course they should keep it but if not, you can collect these toys in the days following and not feel guilty about donating or getting rid of them.
If your kids really hold onto gifts, try the ‘one in one out policy’. When they are given something new and want to keep it, tell them that they need to choose one toy from their box they are happy to get rid of in order to keep the new toy.
Finally, limit your toys too. Kids will always learn more from example than words. If your life is caught up in needing to own the latest fashion, technology, or product, theirs will be too. It would be unreasonable to expect anything less.
Keeping fewer toys will never be easy but the aim is to allow our children to value who they are more than what they have. For me, that is always worth making the effort for.
Jane Pendry is a professional organiser and declutterer and founder of A Life Decluttered (www.
PS. You can schedule a free half hour consultation to see if she how Jane help you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jane has kindly offered to give all my readers £50 off a half day session if you book a session in April – all you need to do is mention Edinburgh Life with Kids.