How to declutter your children’s toys for good

One minute you have your home that you share with your other half. You know the one; your stuff, their stuff, your combined stuff. It’s pretty manageable. And just how you like it.

And then you have a baby.

Suddenly your house is out of control. Formula, bottles, teats, sterilisers, breast pumps, breast pads, breastfeeding pillows. Maternity clothes, feeding tops, nappies, baby wipes, bassinet, cot, linen, bouncer, rocker, mobile, board books, dummies or pacifiers. Baby clothes, pram, capsule, muslin wraps, blankets, sleeping suits, wraps and carriers. Baby toys, bath toys, teddy bears, pram toys, foot rattles. High chairs, baby spoons, bibs. Walkers, activity centres, ride on bikes.

You have a lot of stuff and then the kid gets Christmas presents or turns one. Throw in hand me downs, op shop bargains and well-meaning aunties and grandparents. More stuff. Colourful, noisy, plastic things everywhere and more clothes than days to wear them.

As they get older and more siblings come along, the clothes and gadgets and toys often get out of control. More toys than we can handle.

Don’t get me wrong. Most parents are so grateful for these things as it shows us that people care and it saves us money on buying it all ourselves.

However, this level of stuff is overwhelming. For many mothers, the clutter stresses them out and they aren’t able to manage it. We are already feeling behind with the washing piles and unwashed dishes, the what’s for dinner dilemma and what birthday cake to cook, the piles of paper on the bench, the unread emails and messages, the dirty shower we never get around to cleaning and the empty photo albums we need to one day fill.

There’s already so much going on in our brain, too many tabs open.  When we see toys spread over the floor and chaos surrounding the house, it can be the tipping point.

When there is mention of clutter and children, it is often an assumption that the two go together. It’s just how it is. Children come with stuff. You just have to learn to live with it.

I disagree. While of course you will have a certain amount of stuff when you have children, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Over the last four years, I have learnt that the less toys that are in sight, the calmer I feel and the less mess that is able to be unleashed. Too many toys equal a child being overwhelmed at the choices he is presented with. His brain cannot cope and too much is vying for attention. He will pull something out, play with it briefly, and then do the same with the next one.

My top tips for reducing the toys:

  • Give away all noisy, battery operated toys (unless your child truly loves and plays with it). Source open ended toys that encourage imaginative play. Your child should be the boss of the toy and tell it what it is and what it can do. This makes for a quieter environment for you and your children and less cost and hassle for you to replace dead batteries.
  • Less dress ups. Children love to dress up as their favourite characters and heroes. They don’t need actual dress ups to do this. Fill a box with various scarves, hats, jackets and fabric. Ones with different colours, textures and sizes. Sit back and watch your child use their imagination to become whoever they want to be.
  • Less plastic, more wood. These are more beautiful to touch, lovingly created and much better for the environment. Where possible, opt for high quality toys with good craftsmanship. They feel nicer and often get played with more because of how they grip to each other. These will last the test of time and a better investment for your money.
  • Model getting rid of your excess things. Regularly go through your clothes, shoes, jewellery, books, kitchenware, nick nacks and paperwork. Talk aloud about how you don’t need this anymore, you already have two, I don’t really like this now, I prefer the pink ones, etc. Children long to imitate us, so demonstrate how you like to keep your things to a minimum.
  • Toy rotation. Most likely, your children will have more toys than space to store them. They also get bored with the same things. Start by selecting a few key toys to display on your cubes or shelves, and make sure you have a few different types (ie. Blocks, magnetic tiles, scarves or dress ups, animals, cars, trucks, train tracks, dolls, puzzles). Put the rest away in a different room or hidden from view in a cupboard. Some favourite might always be out and that’s ok (for us, matchbox cars are always displayed and played with). Have a regular time every week or so to switch these around. I find it best to do this once my kids are in bed.
  • Get kids involved. Let them choose what to donate to the op shop and which ones they would like to sell. Teach children the value of money by asking them to choose a price (within reason!), take photos to upload, collect the money from the person, under the doormat or letterbox. My three year old loves this process and happily runs to put his earnings into his jars.
  • Make gift giving intentional. Part of decluttering toys is making a plan to avoid more coming back in to your home. Create a list of ideas for your son or daughter’s upcoming birthday or Christmas. This could include ideas of clothing pieces and their current size, toys that you have wishlisted or seen in a store, money towards a bigger item (such as a trampoline) or an experience (to the movies, zoo, drive in, waterpark, bowling, etc). This doesn’t mean people must get something off the list and it won’t work for all families. However, if you have taken the time to put ideas together, and people insist of buying annoying plastic toys, I give you permission not to keep it. Quietly exchange it or regift to someone else. You get to choose what comes into your house.
  • Fiver parties. If you are hosting a party and are freaking out about the huge amount of gifts about to come in, consider writing in the invite if they could bring $5 in lieu of a present. You could mention that your child is saving up for a bike or lego set, and would love if you wanted to contribute to this. Always stress that this is optional, but many parents jump at the chance to spend less on presents and not have to go shopping for another party.

I hope these give you a few starting ideas about how to declutter your children’s toys, and more importantly, stop more from coming in. Know that you are the keeper of your home. You have to clean, organize and maintain the house so you get to decide what and how much enters in.

Start with ten minutes a day, walking around with a box or bag and grab anything that you no longer love. Make regular trips to donate them or list them to sell.

You’ve got this, mamma x

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19 thoughts on “How to declutter your children’s toys for good

  1. I heard someone say curator of home! We design it… But have you got kids attached to things they bring home too? What about rocks, eggs flowers, leaves?!

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