Tips for decluttering toys

 
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Even though there is very little in our house that we don't use or really love, there remains one type of possession that is always difficult to keep under control: toys.

If you're anything like me, this can feel like a really tricky thing to stay on top of or even to know where to start. Despite the fact that I still find this the hardest area to deal with I'm getting better, and I've taught myself some useful tricks along the way. I hope the following will prove useful to anyone else tackling a mountain of toys.

Why toys are so tricky

1. They are not my things

These are some of the only things in the house, that are of no use to me and were never intended for me in the first place. I'm a pro at getting rid of anything that is mine, but when it comes to other people's things, it's not as easy to determine what adds true value, and what doesn't.

2. Lack of knowledge

There are toys we have at the moment that I know never get played with but I wonder if either one of the kids will be really into in a couple of months. I don't know a huge amount about the future developmental stages that the kids will go through, but even if I did, it would be impossible to know what each of them will actually be interested in at different ages. With my own things the rule is: if I don't use it now it goes, but with the kids, they are growing and changing daily. This definitely makes me worry more about what I let go of.

3. Other people

Let's get real. This is the big one. I do ask the people in our lives to be minimal with toy giving, but no matter how much you ask and explain the reason, it never seems to be that simple. The approach I try and use is to ask for experiences and useful things. Our families pooled together for birthday's this year to get us a ZSL zoo membership, and we use it all the time. The kids love being able to go the the zoo whenever they want.

Tips for decluttering toys

1. Play with your children and watch them play

This is the main key for me. In order to be able to declutter confidently, you have to know what they love and what never gets played with. From time to time I will collect things that never get touched and decide if any of it is worth keeping.

2. Get the kids involved

Under the age of about 2 and half I didn't do this. At this age I don't think children can really understand, but recently I've started to explain things to Sophia. We'll sit and go through her toys and ask what she wants to keep and what she thinks other children might like to play with. As well as keeping toys under control, I hope this encourages her to think of others and also to start to become aware of how fortunate we are.

3. The Maybe Box

I've done this with my own stuff in the past, but the basic principle is that you box up anything you don't think you want or need anymore and put it away. If you don't reach for the box over a number of months, it's safe to assume you don't actually need or miss anything in the box.

4. Versatile toys

As far as what I do keep, I've always leaned towards really versatile toys and ones that require imagination. Things like wooden blocks, Duplo, our train set, craft supplies, playdoh, the play kitchen and toy food. These get played with time and time again. They can be played with in all sorts of ways and will keeps my children entertained for so much longer than any novelty toy.

5. Cycle toys

My final recommendation is more to do with how the toys are actually played with, and that is that I don't keep all the toys out all the time. I'll rotate which toys are out to be played with every few weeks, so my kids don't get bored with their toys or overwhelmed with too many toys. If I give them one toy, they will almost always play for hours and I spend almost no time tidying. If they have a whole box, all the toys will be dumped on the floor and they will be bored within minutes, plus I will spend ages tidying up.

I hope some these tips prove useful and I'd love to hear any ways you keep toys under control in your house. If you have seriously large quantities and are almost too overwhelmed to begin, just start small. One box at time you will get there. Sometimes you have to be a little ruthless and remember kids really don't need many toys. Mine tend to prefer finding a stick in the garden anyway!

Emily Rollings