Pre-Holiday Decluttering Tips: Children’s Toys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 12:04 am on Thursday, December 3, 2009
I’m so happy to share with you some inspiration from Set Me Free’s new organizer on staff, Jess Atkinson.  Jess is the mother of three young children and she has some great ideas about how to survive the holiday clutter!

As we move toward the many different holidays that occur this time of year, the reality is probably becoming very clear . . . more stuff is going to come into your home. If you are like me, you look at this with one part excitement and one part horror. Excitement because it’s fun to see your kids get new stuff and horror at the thought of where all this new stuff is going to go! In a hectic life with three kids, my house may not always be the neatest, but everything does have a place (whether everything is actually IN its place when its supposed to be is another story), and I purge quiet often. I know that there will be an influx of stuff over the next couple of months, and I typically use some time now to prepare for that by decluttering and making room for what’s to come.

How do I do this? Well, it’s not easy with the kids. Part of decluttering is purging, and if your kids are anything like mine, getting rid of anything in front of them is impossible. You may even have what I call a rememberer, the kid who hasn’t played with the Jeep that came with his Happy Meal two and a half years ago but suddenly HAS to have it as soon as you’ve thrown it out.. Here are some tips to get you started and help you along the process.

Decluttering and Purging

  • If possible, do the purge without your young children. If you can’t do this, pop in a movie, have some of their friends over for distraction, or simply work with them there. Older children may want to be able to help and ideally should. The older the child, the more likely he or she could be angered if your purge and organize his or her things without asking. However, they are also more likely to understand that toys need to go out to make room for toys coming in . . . and that there are other people in the world who would love their outgrown toys.
  • Gather a laundry basket, a garbage bag, and two boxes. The garbage bag is for, well, garbage. The laundry basket is for things that belong somewhere else in the house. The boxes are for items you will either sell, give away, or donate or want to keep as memorabilia.
  • Make sure you want to do this. Decluttering takes effort and resolve. You must be ruthless! Your child will not miss the one legged Lego dog (well, maybe he will, if it’s a prized possession, keep it). If it helps, have a friend come to help you.  They can help you be objective.
  • Set aside a chunk of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your child’s room or playroom won’t be cleaned in a day (well, it can be, but you might not have that much time or energy!). A good rule of thumb is that whatever amount of time you set aside to declutter, make sure to leave enough time to clean up and get the items that you’re getting rid of (I find putting them right into the car to be donated is a good idea . . . out of sight, out of mind).
  • Start in one corner of the room. Every time you pick up an object, decide if it’s trash, something that doesn’t belong in the room, something to be given away, or something special to be saved and put it in the appropriate bag or box. Work around the room in this fashion.
  • Toys that are broken, no longer played with, or outgrown should get the good old eviction notice. You know what your children play with. Keep only those things. This can be a hard step. Be very honest . . . even it was something that cost a lot of money, if your child doesn’t play with it, it’s taking up valuable space. The fewer toys children have, the more likely they are to play with and value them.
  • Do not worry about cleaning or organizing now. This stage is simply purging and decluttering.
  • Remove laundry and make sure clothes are put away. Make the bed, a clean surface is calming to the mind!
  • When you’re finished, take the laundry basket of stuff that belongs elsewhere in the house and return the items. On the way back, retrieve anything that belongs in the room you’re working on.
  • Have a rememberer like me? If you don’t want to take the ultimate plunge and throw away or give away outgrown or forgotten toys, box and banish them. Put them all in a box and store them in the attic or basement. If your child asks for them, you can always dig them out, but they won’t be cluttering up the room. After an amount of time, donate the contents of the box.
  • Enlist the help of a friend to keep you on task and help you evaluate all of the stuff.  Sometimes having an objective party there makes it easier!
  • Relax and prepare for the next step.


Once the decluttering and purging is done, you should be facing the toys that your children love and play with the most.

  • Some people store toys on a rotational basis. Basically, this means half the toys go into storage for a couple months, then they come out and the current go in. I don’t do this, but it can work well if your children have lots of toys that are played with individually. My children like to combine their toys (build LEGO houses for the toy animals and such) so rotating does not work. In that case, I purge to where I only have five or six categories of toys in our home (LEGOs, Playmobil, etc.). I make sure they are mostly opened ended toys.
  • Assess your situation. Look at storage. Storage for kids stuff should be easy for them to maintain if you want them to help keep their rooms decluttered. Keeping books in baskets or bins is easier than on a shelf. Children can flip through books to find what they want to read and clean up is simply returning the books to the basket. I swear I keep Rubbermaid in business. I’m a huge fan of tubs and totes for toys-each kind of toy gets a tub (Playmobil in one, LEGOs in another). Easy to clean up and stackable if you use the lids! I think the clear ones are great so kids know at a glance what goes in them. When storing kid toys, think containers.  Lots of toys have little pieces. Having them all in one place makes things easier.
  • Think in terms of room usage. Are you in your children’s bedroom or a playroom? Will most of the toy be kept there? Or are they spread throughout the house? Whatever room you use, set up areas in zones. Some possible zones are dress-up, building, reading, artwork, puzzles and games, etc. Grouping toys in areas of the room makes it easier to keep track of them and keep them organized. Store toys where they will be used–trains under the train table, books near a comfy spot, or toy food in the toy kitchen.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to have toys throughout the house so the children have something to do everywhere. The key to this is working the toys into the decor, keeping the limited and appropriate to the area. Books, puzzles, and games and good to keep in the living room. A cabinet in the dining room or kitchen can be designated for art supplies. Bigger toys can be kept in the bedroom and brought out for play.

Organizing for children can seem overwhelming, following the basic principles should make it easier:

    • Purge, purge, purge. Children often play with less than half of what they own. Be ruthless. Children do not need rooms of toys, and having them can lead to your children having problems with clutter as they age.
    • Toy storage should be child friendly. Form and function over appearance. Plastic bins aren’t the most stylish decor, but they keep everything together.
    • Regular maintenance. We do a big purge before birthdays, before the holidays, and at the end of the school year. I do little ones on a weekly basis.

Good luck and happy decluttering –Jess Atkinson