HOW (& WHY) TO DECLUTTER TOYS WITH KIDS
I swear I’m not crazy! I know decluttering toys with kids will (initially) take longer and result in fewer toys leaving your house than if you did it yourself. So why do it? Because kids learn by doing. Participating teaches them the valuable life skill of being responsible for their own “things”, the benefits of letting go of items that have served their purpose, and how to be charitable.
Getting Started: Decluttering Basics
If you’re ready to declutter with your kids, I’ve got 7 tips to make it a positive experience. But first, some decluttering basics. Start by sorting toys into categories, all dolls with dolls, cars with cars etc. You can do this initial sort yourself (I’m pro-teaching kids’ skills, but I know you don’t have all day!) Then, designate areas or boxes for toys to “Keep”, “Donate” “Recycle” and “Toss”. Click here here to download free sorting signs.
Now for the tips!
7 Tips For Decluttering Toys With Kids
1) Focus on the benefits.
Kids will ask “why do I have to get rid of my toys?”. It’s tempting to say because there are too many, but “too many toys” is a pretty hard sell to kids. Instead, focus on the benefits to your child of decluttering; clean up will be faster with fewer toys, it will be easier to find the toy they want, and my favourite, by donating toys they help other kids who don’t have a lot. Kids are kind and most jump at the chance to help another child.
2) Use Positive Language.
Don’t ask “What do you want to get rid of?”. Instead ask “What do you want to keep?”, “What are your 5 favourite toys?”, or “What toys do you play with the most?”. This keeps the focus on what they get to keep, not what they are letting go of.
3) Start with toys that are broken or missing pieces.
These are the easiest to let go of and are a great way to get the ball rolling.
4) Make it fun!
Ideas include playing their favourite music, making it into a game to see how many items they can find to let go of in 2 minutes or playing basketball and “shooting” the items into the appropriate piles/boxes.
5) Don’t pressure kids into decisions.
Asking when they last played with a toy or why they want to keep one is fine. But don’t pressure kids to getting rid of toys. It may create negative connections and resentment, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
6) Celebrate the smallest victories.
If kids only let go of 3 items, praise their decisions. You want them to feel good about the experience so they’re encouraged and let go of more items next time.
7) Remove toys that are leaving your house ASAP.
Don’t give kids a chance to second guess their decisions. For most, out of sight is out of mind. Get the toys out of your home as soon as you can.
BONUS TIP: Return to Santa bag.
With the holidays just around the corner, check out this clever idea from sunnnydayfamily.com to get the kids involved AND excited about a toy purge.
Decluttering With My Daughter
I’ve been decluttering toys with my daughter twice a year since she was 3 years old. I won’t lie, she didn’t want to let go of much the first few times. Toys she had not played with in ages were all of the sudden crucial to her continued happiness. Was it frustrating? A little. Did I want to get rid of more toys? Absolutely. But I knew I was just laying the groundwork during these first few sessions of establishing, what I hope will be, life-long habits surrounding her relationship with “things”, and the ability to let go.
I’m happy to say every decluttering session has seen an increase in the number of items leaving the house and in the enthusiasm for taking part in the process. This is a picture of the results from our latest toy decluttering session just a few weeks ago:
Not bad at all! But the best part? My 6-year-old did this all on her own, in about 45 minutes. I was with her, but didn’t have to prompt or encourage her. She was able to quickly recognize the toys she no longer played with and easily let them go. She was so proud of herself when she finished and I was too!
So, your first attempt at decluttering with your kids likely won’t result in a mass exodus of toys. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friends! Like any skill, the more kids practice it, the better they will get at it! In the process, you will teach your kids important skills that will serve them their entire lives: responsibility for their own things, the benefits of letting go of items that have served their purpose, and how to be charitable.
I’d love to hear if the tips helped you declutter toys with your kids. Let me know in the comments below.