Toys, toys, toys

“Toys are taking over my house!”

I hear that pretty frequently from moms. It’s amazing how quickly one little person’s stuff can suddenly be everywhere. And if you have more than one child, the problem just keeps growing.

Everybody will have different thoughts on how many toys to keep. I admit, I’m pretty strict about it keeping it fairly limited, and not everyone will be comfortable with that.

Even with regularly going through our toys, I still sometimes feel overwhelmed at the amount. And after Christmas I was in desperate need to find some more space for a few new things, and clear out some things that were no longer being played with.

As you sort through toys, it’s helpful to keep reminding yourself and your kids why you’re doing this. Saying things like, “this makes it easier to clean up,” or “we can have more fun doing other things if we don’t have to spend so much time cleaning” are good reminders. Remember why we simplify.

In case you haven’t read these yet you might find these posts helpful:

How limiting toys helps your kids and What toys should we keep?

Here are a few things to consider as you get declutter toys.

1. Define toy zones

Probably one of the most common problems with toys taking over the house is that toy zones are not clearly defined. This doesn’t mean they can only play in these areas, but you need to clearly identify where toys will be kept.

We keep our toy kitchen in the main part of the house. It’s fairly small, and gives the kids something to play with when we are in the living room as a family. Other than that, all toys are in their room. Everything. I also don’t like toys to be visible when my kids are sleeping so that limits me even more, but I find the payoff worth it.

Once you have defined where you will store toys, only keep what you have room for. I know how difficult this is. We often think of it backwards, we get toys and then try to find room for everything we have. Thus the problem of toys spilling out into every room of the house. I have found it extremely helpful (not only with toys, by the way) to define the space first, and then limit myself to that space.

2. Decide if kids are helping

Different personalities and ages call for different strategies. I like to involve my kids because I have found it helpful to teach them how to make decisions about things. Also, it is their stuff, so I like to ask them and guide them through the process rather than just have things disappear.

Other people prefer to do it without the kids. Whatever works for you, just figure it out and move forward.

If you are involving kids, helpful things to say:

I know you’re getting bigger now and you don’t play with this anymore, do you think we should get rid of it to make room for some of your favorite toys?”

“Thanks for telling me that you don’t really like to play with this, that helps me know what toys you like.”

Above all, keep it positive and remind them how easy it will be to clean up with fewer things.

3. Don’t overwhelm

I know you are probably all excited to dig in and get rid of stuff, but don’t overwhelm your kids. If you are including them, it’s probably better to do 15 minutes a day for a week, than try to get it all done in a day. They’ll have an easier time letting go of some things. Do the stuffed animals one day, the vehicles another, etc.

4. Determine why toys aren’t being played with

This. This. This. An incredibly helpful and important step to the declutter process. You might be surprised how easy this will make your job if you really identify the reason certain toys aren’t played with.

Possible reasons:

  • Not age appropriate. Your kids grow, and toy interests change. Or, maybe it is a little too hard for them so they really don’t love the toy because it is just outside their ability. If it is too young for them, get rid of it. If it is too old for them, pack it away (if you otherwise like the toy, that is) and pull it out in a few months. You might be surprised that when they are ready for it they’ll love it! It can be very frustrating to have something you aren’t quite developmentally ready to play with.
  • Poor quality. Kids are not ignorant about this. They know when a toy isn’t working properly and it is often reason for them to leave it aside.
  • Broken. Pretty obvious here, but pointing out to your child that it is broken makes it so much easier to get rid of.
  • Don’t know how to play with. Sometimes your kids need Mommy to play with them to really get how fun it could be. My daughter was given a doll house for Christmas, and I am finding that she needs me to “teach” her how to play. She liked it, but she needed some direction. I can start playing with her for a few minutes and then she’ll sit and play, but she is just young enough that if I don’t start her off, she doesn’t quite get into it.
  • Too many options. Having too many toys actually keeps your kids from playing well. They are simply overwhelmed at the options.

I have found that when I verbalize exactly why the toy isn’t played with, it makes the decision making so much easier. It’s pretty obvious whether it needs to go, or whether I need to interact with them and the toy together.

5. Think about cleanup

As you declutter and organize think about small children doing the cleanup. Don’t make the system too difficult. Containers or buckets for different types of toys work best, because the kids can just drop in the toys in the correct box. Vehicles here, stuffed animals here, blocks here, etc.

Make it easy for your kids to clean up.

6. Consider rotating

After you have done the purge and have made some tough decisions you probably will still have too many toys. They might be really good, interactive toys that you want to keep.

If you are at this point, consider rotating them. I recently pulled out a few key sets of toys and stuck them high in the closet. They just needed to be put away for a few months so that when they come back out they are fresh and “new” again. This will give your children opportunity to have “new” toys throughout the year without having to go purchase some!

Only keep the best, but once you have the best, a toy rotation can be really helpful for both you and your kids.

Everyone will do this differently, so please leave your ideas in the comments so we can share with each other what does and doesn’t work.

And remember let’s be:

Clutter free in 2013!

How do you handle going through your kids toys? Share some ideas!


  1. Anticipating the coming influx, I went through our toys right before Christmas. We rotate toys and it has made a huge difference in the quality of my daughter’s play. Plus, it allows me to keep all the quality toys without the long clean up time. I’ve also found some toys are more frustrating than fun. There are a few toys my daughter isn’t quite able to master on her own. While I think that allowing her to struggle some is good, there are a couple toys that are a little too far beyond her reach. I simply rotate those toys out and try again in a few months.

    • I agree…a little out of the reach is okay, but if it is too much saving it for even just a couple of months can make all the difference!

  2. What do you do when your children are grown and you STILL have their toys in YOUR house?
    Actually, we’re keeping them for their children. B had a little boy, so her doll collection won’t exactly work for him. We’ll see if she has a girl someday. D’s little guy is in luck with his dad’s extensive Playmobil collection and LEGOs.

    I really enjoy your decluttering ideas. I like the idea of rotating toys for kids to play with.

    • What I love about really good toys is that they never go out of style and they are great quality! That’s the kind of toys I try to stick to! Stefan LOVES both Playmobil and LEGO! Don’t get rid of those for sure—your grandbaby will love them!

  3. Great thoughts! I, too, like to define the space first (same thing with children’s clothing!). Currently about 10-15 shoe box size Sterilite containers hold most of our toys. We usually keep most of the containers in the closet, both as a way of rotating toys, and also to eliminate visual clutter and overwhelming my kids with too many options. I have a mental pictures of some nicer toy storage options for if/when I re-do the playroom, but for now this is working. :)

    (That made me think, we’ve chosen for now to have a “playroom” and a “sleeping room” rather than give my son and daughter separate bedrooms; I know we’re blessed to have enough rooms to have that option! It’s been nice to have a room that’s designated for quiet/calm activities like sleep/rest time/book time and another room for all the toys and play.)

    Another thing I stumbled across that’s worked great for us is putting an over-the-door shoe organizer on the inside of the closet door for individual toys that don’t belong in one of the toy bins (binoculars, telescope, magnifying glass, etc.) We actually keep the kids’ clothing in “shoe” pocket-organizers, too, and it’s allowed us to get by without a dresser so far. :)

    • I love the shoe pocket organizer idea! We do have most of our toys in the closet as well, except for a few buckets of things in the bottom of the kids “dresser.”
      I think it is great to have a sleeping room and play room. One reason I don’t let the toys be out (either in something or in the closet) is because I think they sleep better.

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