Clearing the Clutter: Purging Your Children’s Toybox

toy box

So, here you are again — another birthday, another load of toys to throw on the ever-increasing pile of toybox clutter in your child’s closet. Any parent knows how easily the amount of toys in their children’s room can get overwhelming and out of control. Between fast food restaurant kids’ meals, birthday parties, and the holidays, is there an easy way to clear out and stay on top of the toybox clutter? I’ve got a few suggestions that might just help you out.


The first thing is to go through the toys and determine what goes and what stays. I have found that the best time to do this is when my children aren’t around! Generally speaking, most kids carefully watch when their toys are being sorted through, and emphatically protest at the thought of one of those precious possessions being gotten rid of; like the action figure that is missing a leg, and all it’s accessories, because it is more cool now than when it was new; the puzzle that has more lost, bent, or broken pieces, and ends up looking more like a colorful picture of swiss cheese, may be more challenging to put together, but is still worth the effort; or the soft, nerf-like ball that looks like someone got hungry one day and took big bites out of it. Sometimes I wonder if the kids mess up some of their toys on purpose, because they certainly seem to like them better that way.

So, when the kids are at school or on a playdate, I take advantage of the “supervisor” free time and purge the toybox. I start by separating the toys into three piles: keep, possibly keep, and throw away. I do this step as quickly as I can, using my initial feelings as I pick up each toy. This way I avoid the sentimental connection I might make to anything, like my son’s first remote control car that has two bent wheels so it doesn’t roll straight anymore, the bumper has long since broken off, the antenna is so twisted it looks like a slinky, the batteries are dead, and the last time he played with it was at least six months ago! But if I allow myself to stop and think about it, I’ll remember how much it meant to his dad to buy it for him, and how cute they looked as they spent hours playing with it that first week. Snap out of it! Does it work or is it fixable? If it’s fixable, am I really going to take the time within the next week (or ever) to fix it? No? Then into the throw away pile it goes, and on to the next one. Once I’ve completed the initial sort, I put everything from the “throw away” pile into a garbage bag and take it out of the room.

The next step is to tackle the “possibly keep” pile. These are the toys that may not be in too bad shape, the kids might be outgrowing it, and/or they have at least most of their parts. I take a bit more time with this pile. I sort it into keep, throw away, and give away. I give away toys that are gently used but no longer hold my children’s interest. If there isn’t anyone I can think of whose children might get some enjoyment out of them, I donate them to charity. Churches, children’s charities, and family shelters generally accept donations of gently used toys, books, and clothes. Then, I bag up the throw away items from this pile and put them with the other bag, outside the room.

Thirdly, I go through the “keep” pile. I divide this pile into toys they can play with now and toys they will play with later. Essentially, the most popular or newer toys end up in the “play with now” pile. These toys go back into the toybox, which now is a much more acceptable and manageable amount. The “play with later” or “swap out” toys I put in a box or container, label it, and then put it in the top of their closet. You know when the kids get bored of playing with the same old toys, start whining about how they don’t have anything to play with, and there’s no holiday or birthday for a few months? That’s when I break out the “swap out” toys. I swap out a few of the “play now” with the “play later” and viola! This works almost as well as getting them brand new toys, and saves me money, too.

I try to do this kind of toy purge a few weeks before a major gift holiday like Christmas or birthdays. This way they don’t miss the purged items too much, not to mention the new gifts don’t make the toybox an overflowing, chaotic mess again.

Another way to keep it all manageable is after a major gift holiday, have the kids choose a few items they would like to give to those that are less fortunate. This teaches them the importance of sharing and charity, and also helps them to be thankful for what they have. As a parent, it’s definately a bonus when you can combine life lessons with necessary tasks.

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