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“It looks like Babies-R-Us vomited in my living room.”
I can’t remember whether it was my husband or someone else who said it, but for some reason this sentiment has stuck with me: how you feel when your sweet and cuddly baby starts accumulating STUFF. It still amazes me how such a tiny being apparently requires more equipment to survive than someone twenty times his size.
You think that eventually you will reclaim your home, but of course…the baby grows and accumulates MORE STUFF. And then once you start adding siblings to the mix, you basically give up.
Earlier this year we started implementing the KonMari decluttering technique in our home. It worked wonders on our clothes (part 1) and our books (part 2), but the rest of the house—what Marie Kondo dubs “miscellany”—loomed in front of me like an unmovable mocking beast. In particular, the toy clutter. It was in every room. Over time I had distributed toy bins throughout the house in an attempt to make it easy to pick up by simply tossing whatever had scattered into the nearest receptacle. This helped some, but more and more it felt like our kids were the ones who owned our house.
My husband called it “the kid creep.” Like none of our space was really our own. What’s more, it was overwhelming for the kids when I said, “Time to clean up!” They didn’t know where to start or where to end.
When I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I, like many parents with this problem, was disappointed that there is no section explaining what to do with toys! Neither was there much help in the follow-up manual, Spark Joy. All Kondo really says is that you should teach your kids how to tidy for themselves. Good advice, but…how to even begin???
I’ll be honest: this process has taken a long time, and I could probably do even more. BUT I can say confidently say that over the past couple of months we have eliminated most of our toy clutter. I can breathe again; I feel like I have grown-up space; and my kids aren’t overwhelmed by their stuff. What’s more, they are equipped to clean it up themselves.
If you’re sick of toy clutter, you don’t have to put up with it. It will take some work, but trust me friend, it is soooooo worth the effort. Here’s what I’ve learned as we’ve taken back our house.
Make a pile. Throw stuff out that you don’t love. Rinse. Repeat.
That’s the method, simple as that. We were remodeling over a couple of months, so a lot of our stuff was floating around the house with no permanent home and giving me more anxiety than I like to deal with. I recall at least three separate occasions when I piled all of the toys from a particular location and “KonMaried” them. My kids helped quite a bit because I wanted them to learn how to choose to keep only what they truly like. But a couple of times I went solo…because the task was a little overwhelming for them.
We threw out A LOT: probably at least half. I only kept those toys which have resale/giveaway value, which are currently stockpiled with all of the other former clutter…in the garage.
Give the toys a home in one room.
Once we had sorted and discarded every plaything in the house, I wanted to simplify how we organized them. I moved the vast majority of the toys to our newly remodeled family room. It works to store them in small bins that are easy to access, which makes finding toys as well as cleaning them up simple. I don’t recommend “overorganizing” them because they will just get mixed up again anyway. If you have older kids who would like to keep a certain category separate, then do that (we do with LEGOS). Otherwise, don’t create more stress than necessary. Make your system simple!
We try to keep as many toys as possible out of the kids’ bedrooms. These are now quiet areas. We did keep a few toys that are easy to pick up in there—that fit in one small bin.
This has been a game-changer for me. For the most part, the toys are now downstairs and not scattered all over the rest of our living areas. While rogue toys occasionally sneak into other areas of the house, it’s simple to pick them up and return them to their homes. The kids are much less overwhelmed with cleanup time.
This past week my 18-month-old nephew stayed with us. Since toddlers notoriously scatter stuff everywhere, he put my new system to the test. If you have a toddler, here’s my advice: store their toys in small bins that are easy to carry. Take one bin out during playtime; then put toys back in the bin and put the bin away.
Continue to discard…constantly.
The reason that the title of this post is in the present tense and not the past is that the tidying process with the toys is ongoing. As we’ve reduced the size of our toy collection, I’ve learned that we could do even more. So I’ve discovered the practice of throwing clutter out as I see it. The kids are constantly bringing little knickknacks into the home that they play with for one day and then ignore: things like party favors and fast food restaurant toys. If I find one that isn’t being played with or is broken, I pitch it. No one notices.
Birthdays are also a good time to assess, with the kids, which toys are no longer sparking joy. Plus it’s fun to make room for new stuff that they do love!
I’ve learned a lot through this process and am continuing to learn. While Marie Kondo doesn’t give any specific advice for toys, I think her “spark joy” method has been extremely helpful as we’ve decluttered our toys.
I believe that there is a separate category of kids’ stuff that I didn’t address here, major clutter-causers: crafts, puzzles, games and building sets. I am not yet on top of these beasts but I hope to be soon.
Finally, if you’ve been following this journey you might notice that quite a lot of time has elapsed since I first started (about six months ago). I feel like I have a long way to go…but I believe in the system and I am going to press on with the rest of my house!
(Please pray for me, haha!)
What’s your biggest obstacle when it comes to decluttering toys? Please leave a comment here or on social media.
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