There’s nothing like tucking the kids in bed, quietly tiptoeing out of their room — and tripping over a toy. Pain aside, it’s just plain annoying that toys seem to take up so much space in your home. And that’s when you might decide that, once and for all, you need to know how to get rid of toy clutter.
But before you break out the garbage bags, you need to understand what clutter might be doing to your entire household without realizing it. “Clutter in the home is correlated with higher stress hormones among family members,” Jodi Aman LCSW, a psychotherapist tells Celebrity Parents. “Consistently clearing clutter is an important life skill because it helps you live happier.” Now you know why it’s important to declutter, it’s important to get your kid on board so that it’s an easier experience for everyone. Here’s how to get rid of toy clutter — once and for all.
Get The Kids Involved
Sure, you could always do a toy dump in the middle of the night, but it’s important for your child to be a part of the process. “I recommend getting the kids involved so that they learn the important skill of decision-making, and you can transfer your knowledge to them as you work,” advises Melissa Groff, a professional organizer. “Like anything, it might be hard to get your kids to cooperate at first but when you practice as a family, organizing and decluttering will become routine.”
Model Good Behavior
Tossing beloved toys can be a hard sell as it is, but when your own stuff is spread out all over the place, it’s going to be even trickier. That’s why you should strive to keep your own items organized. “Modeling for your kids is the most effective way to get buy in, so decluttering the things around your home is the best way to show them how to how to stay organized,” says Groff. You can start by clearing out a cabinet, for example, just so your child gets used to the idea of letting go of what’s no longer necessary.
Categorize The Toys
Looking at a big pile of toys can be overwhelming for anyone, especially kids. So help them practice their sorting skills by grouping like toys. “Once you have them grouped with your kids, look for toys that are damaged, missing pieces, or they haven’t played with for over a year,” says Groff. “If they show a particular hesitation to getting rid of something, but you really want it gone, set it aside in a large plastic bin.” You should put it somewhere your child won’t be able to see it (and subsequently want it). “If they don’t ask about it in the next month, you have permission to get rid of it,” says Groff.
Clean The Toys
Once you’ve cleared out the toys that your child no longer wants, give the ones that remain some TLC. Clean the toys by washing them or even tossing some into the washing machine. And wipe down the toy containers with a disinfectant so that everything is clean again.
Talk About The Benefits
Toy clutter can make everything in the house feel chaotic and cramped. So that’s when some serious adulting needs to happen by showing your child the benefits of clear, uncluttered spaces. “Children, like adults, crave balance, harmony, and routines in their day to day to feel joyful and at peace,” says Emilie Dulles, a protocol, organization, and event expert. “Whilst your little ones may not realize this or be able to communicate this clearly, if you show them the benefits of decluttering and organizing their toys they will be on board in no time.”
Do A Donation
Your child probably won’t like the idea of his toys going into the trash. But he might be okay with parting with some PAW Patrol mini figs if he knows they’re going to a good home. “Explain to your child that many families don’t have as many (or any) toys as yours and that, as a family, you can make a child very happy by simply giving them the extra toys,” says Dulles. While this strategy might work better with older kids than little ones, teaching your kiddo the importance of compassion is something that can be done at any age.
Be Careful With What You Say
What you say to your child about getting rid of their toys can help make getting rid of toys a little easier. “Language is an important element of the process,” says Lauren Williams, CPO, CVO, a professional organizer. “The kids aren’t ‘getting rid of things’; they’re ‘letting go’.” Watching your words can make a huge difference in how well decluttering goes.
Use The “When When” Strategy
Sure, your child isn’t going to eagerly embrace purging their precious toys. But if you schedule it right before something fun, it might make them more amenable to the process. “It sounds something like this: ‘When we are done filling up this bag or box with old items, then we will have a snack, or go play outside, or watch a show, or play a game,’” says Dr. Jennifer Barbera, PhD., a clinical psychologist in Ontario, Canada.
Make It Fun
Let’s face it: if throwing out their toys feels like a chore, your child is not going to want to do it. So make it fun instead, advises Dr. Barbera. “Make the task into a game or more playful if possible,” she says. “For example, put on music, compete to see who can put 5 or 10 items in the box first.” You should use a calm, and happy voice when you tell your kids it’s time to go through the toys.
Allow your child to make decisions regarding what stays and what goes. And when they add an additional item to the giveaway pile, pack on the praise. “Reinforcing any small steps your child makes towards helpful to help reinforce the behaviors you want more of,” says Dr. Barbera.
It can be a challenge to get your child to go through their toys. But once they see the benefits (i.e. more space, easier access to their favorite playthings), they’ll be glad that they did it — and so will you.