Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff your kids have? Then comes Christmas and birthdays, and their stuff seems to be ever-multiplying!
In order to get ahead of the clutter, I've started a tactic in our home of doing a pre-holiday toy declutter. Since this has worked so well, we have also started doing this before birthdays. My kids are now 6 and 8 and as of a few years ago, I started including them in this process. They now know the routine and are great helpers!
We start by talking about how blessed they are that they have so many people who love them and who buy them such thoughtful gifts. We talk about how there are children out there who are not so lucky and who don't have near the amount that they have. We talk about how we don't need more "stuff" to feel happy and sometimes we can feel just as happy by donating some of our toys to others.
Below, I have given you categories to help you go through your child's things. It can feel daunting looking at everything all at once, but if you break it up into categories and take a category per day (or every few days), it can help you tackle this task. Also below are questions you'll ask yourself as you go through each category.
As you are going through your child's stuff, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it broken? If it's broken and you know you can't (or won't) fix it, it's time to let it go. You can post this on a free site for someone who'd want to fix it, or you can just trash or recycle it.
- Is it a duplicate? If you have more than one of the same thing and you don't have an actual need to have duplicates, it's time to donate the duplicate.
- Is it missing pieces that I know we don't have? Kids lose things. A lot. Don't keep the game that is unplayable because you are missing an important piece. Don't keep the cars without wheels. Don't keep the books that are missing pages.
- Has my child outgrown it? If your child is well beyond the age range for a toy or book, it's time to donate it so another child can enjoy it.
Here are 5 major categories to help you as you are going through your child's items.
Go through ALL of your child's books. You probably have several areas where you keep kid's books. Go through them all and ask yourself the above questions.
If you have younger children and the book can be passed to a younger sibling, move it now. If not, put it in your donation box.
Anything that is sentimental, move to your child's keepsake box. If you haven't started a keepsake box, start one! This where you would store anything that you'd be saving for your child to take when they move out or any possible future grandchildren. Be stingy with what you save and ask yourself if you would have wanted the same thing from your childhood for your children.
Stuffed animals can be hard to declutter because oftentimes they have sentimental meaning. Start by asking your self the above questions. If you have pulled one out based on the above criteria but you think your child will miss it, involve them in the process!
You can also move to some to a higher shelf in their closet, out of sight, and see if they ask for them. If not, you know they are not being missed. You can also get creative with storage: put them inside a bean bag chair cover or in a stuffed animal hammock.
If the stuffed animal holds a lot of sentimental value, put it with your child's permanent keepsakes.
Games are so easy to accumulate but we often have a select few that we actually play. Start by going through the above questions.
Have your child help you narrow down the games to the ones that they really love to play. Put the others in your donate box.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts can be tough because we often hold onto things that we think we will use someday. Your house is not a store! If you haven't used it in the last year and don't see yourself using it in the next year, it's time to let it go.
Those kits that are half done that no one will finish? Toss them.
Fully colored coloring books? Recycle them.
Activity books they've outgrown? Donate them.
A job that you can give your kids in this category is to test the writing utensils! (Unless you're like me and this is your favorite part!) Test the markers and toss or recycle the dried out ones. Same for broken crayons and colored pencils. Still have too many than can be used on a regular basis? Donate to your local school!
The big one: Toys
Again, you can weed out a lot based on the above questions. Give your child parameters for how much they can keep. For example, "you can keep as many dolls as will fit on this shelf." Or "you can keep as many cars as will fit in this bin."
This is not being mean! This is teaching your child how to visually discern what can fit in their living space. This is a valuable life skill! Help them make the decisions. Help them line up like items so they can see them all at once and decide what to keep and what can be donated.
Going through their toys with them every so often will remind them of the toys they may have forgotten and inspire new play!
Sometimes we hold onto toys because they were a gift or because we spent a lot of money on them. Be honest with yourself as you are weeding out toys. If there are expensive toys that your kids have outgrown, you can always sell them at a consignment sale or locally on Facebook marketplace if you need to recoup the money.
If you are having trouble getting rid of something because it was a gift, remind yourself that sometimes the purpose of a gift is the joy it brought to the giver. You are not required to keep it forever and ever. The gift giver got a lot of joy out of choosing that item and gifting it. Beyond that, it's not your obligation to hold onto it forever. If it no longer serves your household, donate it so another child can get enjoyment out of it instead of it collecting dust in your home.
This can be a tough task to take on, but decluttering BEFORE the holidays will make it that much easier to find homes for the new gifts your child will receive. It's also a good life lesson for your children to experience the joy that donating can bring and knowing that they are helping someone else.