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HOW TO: Declutter Children's Toys

The holiday season has come and gone; many parents now face an abundance of new toys that their children are ferociously now playing with. Older toys may soon be forgotten or aged out of. Getting rid of toys is one of the trickiest parts of my job and the most anxiety provoking for parents. Parents often feel guilty and kids have mixed reactions to editing their toys.

If you worried about getting rid of your child's toys, I definitely recommend reading this article. It so beautifully illustrates what happens when children have the appropriate numbers of toys and the right TYPE of toys. Here is the cliff notes version:


1) Remove the toys and kids play MORE.

2) On a study of childen with excessive toys, it was found that the children "get overwhelmed and over-stimulated and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it so they just shut down. Too many toys mean they are not learning to play imaginatively either.”

3) Play is in the CHILD, not in the toy.

4) Parents should aim to have 75% open play toys and 25% closed play. Closed toys serve ONE purpose; once they are completed, they are done. Open toys can be used for many different purposes, such a blocks.


Depending on the age of the child I approach the task of decluttering toys with a couple of a different strategies:

1) Parents declutter without the children's knowledge.

This is most appropriate with children who have a great abundance of toys without strong emotional attachments. Parents can get rid of the toys immediately or put them in boxes out of sight for a designated period of time (i.e. 1-3 months). Once that period of time had passed and the child hasn't asked about the toys in that period of time then they can feel confident about letting the toys go.

2) Parent and child team effort.

The parent(s) work with the child or children without the organizer present. The decluttering process occurs before the organizer arrives. This takes a child whom is capable and willing to let go of their toys with the parents guidance.

3) A team effort between the organizer, parent and child.

This the most common. We work together with the child helping the child determine what they want to keep and let go of. Just as if I were doing any other space in the home, I group all the items and categorize them in a way that makes sense to the child. Seeing their unique categories makes their realize how many they have and what toys have been forgotten about and they won't miss. I make special effort to communicate the term donation and what it means when they donate their toys. This can be very effective for kids with a generous heart.

4) One on one with the child, with the parent present but not participating.

This can be a surprisingly effective strategy. Sometimes a phenomenon happens where the child is more willing to part with items without the parent present. Many times I've had parents look the donation box and genuinely struggle with a few of the items the child has decided to part ways with. Parents can certainly have their own unique attachments to the toys as well!

It's impossible to predict what technique will be used for each family. Many different factors weigh into the process, but open and honest communication is what guides it. Sometimes the child surprises us, and we make a change on the fly!

Once the amount of toys is correct for the size of the space allotted, it's important to ensure the volume of toys does not exceed the space provided moving forward. That means the following, you must let go of other items when new ones are acquired. This "1 for 1 rule" is imperative to the new system staying maintained in the longterm.

If toys have taken over your house, I encourage you to try some of these techniques on your own. But of course, if you need help, I am here for you. You've got this!

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