Have You Ever Wanted To Throw Away All The Toys?

Have you ever walked out of a room and walked in a minute later to find every toy in existence scattered across the living room floor? Have you wanted to take every toy ever made and put it out on the front lawn? Kids, toys, messes, they do come as a package. And they will most certainly exist no matter what you do.

What if I told you that you could get rid of enough toys and use a toy rotation schedule that could make clean-up time take only minutes?

childrens toys vs minimalism

What if I told you that you could hear less bickering over toys by having less toys available?

What if I told you that your child will play with a few toys longer then they ever played when they had toy chests full?

How?

Decluttering or minimizing the toys you have in your home is how you can get to a house that is faster to straighten up. It’s also how your kids can start to stretch their imaginations. Toys can sometimes be like answers – kids don’t need all of them to have a good time.

Starting The Great Toy Clean Out

You first have to decide how much input you are going to allow your children to have on this one. I would take age and understanding into consideration before you ask your kids for their help.

I believe children are completely capable of telling you what they like and dislike and I believe they have a right to make their own choices about certain things. But if I gave this power to my three year old I guarantee she would find things that weren’t even toys that she also LOVED so much. At this moment she is gripping a hair tie and a piece of bubble wrap.

What I did – take it in steps.

Start with a quick decluttering dash. Be sure to check every room.

  • get rid of the obvious – broken toys, missing parts, “happy meal” toys and party favors from past birthday parties.
  • Books that are beyond repair or missing pages
  • toys that do not work anymore

Next clean up the room, placing toys on shelves and in containers the kids can reach.

Now Observe

  • what toys get pulled out
  • what toys get played with – this is different then the toys that come out
  • how long do certain toys actually get played with
  • what toys never leave the shelf or containers

You’ll want to do this for a few days and see how consistent they are with which toys.

toys are like answers

Fun Part Begins – box up the toys

Once you’ve recognized the toys that don’t ever get used, you can remove them right away. If they are in good shape please donate them.

Now the tricky part. You’ll want to leave the toys you know they play with, the ones that you feel are always getting picked up at the end of the day. But what do you do with the others?

There are a few factors to consider

  • do you like them, the toys?
  • are they well made, if natural is important to you – should plastic toys be removed?
  • educational, open ended (wooden blocks, wooden train sets etc.) ?
  • do you have a place to store them?

Once you’ve decided which toys made the cut from this pile you are then going to put them away. Like really away. Labeled with a date, sorted by type if you like, but they are going to go out of sight for a while.

You should now consider two options:

  1.  hide them and if not asked for, then they go. (the way I went)
  2. toy rotation – once a week swap out the hidden toys for the play room toys. The “newness” of the toy swap can create a new excitement for the old toys.

If you choose #1 you are going to leave them hidden for at least 6 weeks. Six weeks might seem random but that was how long it took for the last toy from the hidden bunch to be requested. I retrieved four toys that would flash into my four year olds mind and one toy that my three year old was frantically looking for six weeks later.

For option #2 – organize toys by age, type, purpose and then pull them out once a week or when you find the other toys aren’t getting used as much. Pack away the other sets and toys and repeat a week later.

If you are feeling super ambitious, when the weather is warm, box up all the toys and get everyone outside. When you are home pull out the books, puzzles and board games.

I am excited to try a complete toy purge. But I think the kids are too young to understand that their favorite toys are no longer available. For now I’m on a mission to get rid of all tiny toys at my feet. Well until they discover legos.

So how did my kids react?

Did my children survive? Absolutely! Like I mentioned earlier there were a few toys that they asked for but after week six there were no more requests and those toys they didn’t miss, left our home.

The moment I knew I was on the right path was the afternoon they walked in from playing outside with their dad to a completely cleaned and minimalized bedroom and toy shelf.

They went straight for their favorites and spread out. Because I removed so many toys they had room to run, lay on the floor or build something new. They didn’t question anything in the room and they didn’t notice immediately that things were missing. Oh and they didn’t bicker about any toys.

 

Organizing Wasn’t Working. Minimalism Changed That.

organizing won't work alone

When I first started decluttering it felt great. I was getting things done. The rooms were looking great and I felt good. But within days or sometimes minutes the room would explode again. Toys, clothes, random projects, books. It would all be back out again.

I would end up defeated and still exhausted.

Then I realized. All I was doing was organizing the chaos. I wasn’t actually decluttering or minimizing my home.

I was still messy. My children were still fighting over toys and the rest of the house was suffering.

The solution? I had to get serious and not be lazy. I had to stop putting the same junk away to only have it pulled out so we could get to the good stuff. I needed to minimize and get things out of my home.

You see Decluttering started off to mean that I simply pick up the trash, obvious trash, and then put the clutter away. I tossed a lot of little things – broken toys, books, receipts. But it didn’t go any deeper. The rest of the room got a good straightening up. Not a clean out.

First: making a plan

For me, with four kids all under the age of 5, I had to visually plan out my minimizing strategy. Walking room to room, taking note of what toys actually got used for longer than three minutes.

Noticing where my husband was placing things out of habit, instead of in their “home”. And looking at myself, where I put my computer, my paper for drawing, the mail and so on.

Noticing what had a home and what was lost in the house. Why didn’t it have a home? Was it out because it was getting used or because it had no other place to be, so it just kept getting moved from room to room?

And our clothes. What was actually getting worn and washed vs what was taking up space? And if those clothes weren’t in the closet what could be?

The other major pain-point was the kitchen. With small children and us being home all the time the kitchen was always on the verge of imploding. Too many cups, plates, dirty dishes and cluttered cabinets.

Even the pantry was overwhelming, unorganized and full. Did we really need it all and if it was collecting dust (I’m looking at you black beans) then why was it in there?

Second: taking action

I first picked a spot that was quick and would give me instant feed back. I picked the kitchen. Might sound daunting at first but it was the room with the least sentiment and I loathed some of the things in it so much that I knew I wouldn’t have any hesitation getting rid of most of it.

The most fun I had was getting rid of toys. Not because I am the meanest mom in the whole world, but because I knew deep down my kids didn’t NEED any of it. I knew they would be ok with anything I decided to keep. My kids were to young to involve them completely in the decision making of what toys to keep. I know that may rub some people the wrong way, but it could have resulted in every toy being an “I love that one too” dilemma. This topic deserves a blog post of it’s own.

The real work came when I needed to tackle the clothes. I had to make a few concessions. The kids clothes and their ages meant they grow out of things fast (YAY!) but I would still need to hang on to them because baby brother and baby sister would be wearing them. So I picked the best articles. No stains or holes. And that it could be worn with multiple combinations of clothing. As the oldest Boy and Girl got new clothes I changed my strategy. Instead of buying the outfit combos – pants and tops – I started buying neutral bottoms. For the Girls – Black and gray leggings and blue jeans. For the Boys – Blue Jeans and black and gray athletic shorts. Now any top we grabbed would match. And the kids could dress themselves without having to help them pick out the right top/bottoms match up.

Our clothes – The grown ups – I had maternity mixed in with hopeful return to pre-maternity and things I loved the idea of yet I didn’t ever wear. And oh yeah, AND… The things I actually wore everyday.

My husband, like most men, had three “uniforms”. T-shirts, outdoors work wear, and dress up (work or date night). As we began shutting down the farm we lived on, the serious work clothes were easy to get rid of. The date night or meeting up with friends shirts, got paired down to absolute favorites and with a 3 year old fashion critic approved. And his T-shirts – oh the t-shirts – took me organizing them so that I could see what was getting worn and what wasn’t. After 2 months 30 shirts left our home.

Those huge clean outs, weekly donation drop offs and over stuffed trash cans made a huge difference. The laundry was taking a third of the time. Food shopping became easier and cheaper. Toy clean up was fast. And if anyone dropped by out of the blue, other than a few dishes from the last meal created, I was ready for guests.

Third: keeping up

This part has the added bonus of having your radar activated from the second stage. Now not only could I see what was out of place and easily fix it but I could also see how I could declutter, actually declutter, even more.

I set daily tasks, one task for each week. One day I would go through each room and get rid of anything that was broke or obvious trash. Just a walk through with a bag. The first time I did this the bag would end up almost full. By the 5th week I was hardly taking out any trash and only one or two destroyed toys from my crazy bunch.

And once a week I would go back through my closet and see if there was anything still perfectly folded that I hadn’t worn before putting clean clothes away. And the things I wasn’t willing to part with the week before found their way to the donation bag.

Each day had a way for me to stay on top of things. Keeping my home feeling clean and clear. Even my electronics and emails had a day for decluttering. Mind, body, home and social media all got a look over.

Fourth: being kind to yourself

Now for the other part. Your heart. Decluttering and minimizing the things you own and have in your home is not a fast process. There will be bumps. Things might even look worse before they start looking better. Trust yourself, trust the process and believe that you are doing the best that you can.

How drawing a tiny doodled chicken led to simplifying my home.

I began drawing The Silly Chickens in response to my children asking me to draw the things they saw on our farm. Soon The Silly Chickens started going on adventures and learning. The kids loved seeing and hearing what their chickens were up to each day. After pulling the last piece of paper from my printer tray, I noticed my doodles were starting to take on a life of their own and more importantly, I enjoyed drawing them. So I kept drawing. Within weeks of that realization I had sketched up the first book.

declutter journal chicken pen and yarn

Shortly after writing the first book and before I began working on this website, I dove head first into decluttering and minimizing the things we owned. Although when I started I didn’t realize I was heading down a path towards minimalism. I must have needed a change of scenery. It took me a week to get round one of minimizing the whole house done. It surprised me that it took that long to feel a little lighter. Looking back on most of my adult life I think I always had minimalist tendencies, spurred on by the fact that my husband was in the army and we moved a lot. Once you are forced to pack a house with only days notice and then live in a hotel for weeks after, you discover quickly what you are able to live without. Then he got out of the army, we had kids and life settled into a routine. A routine of filling our home and spaces. After a week of decluttering, things were going well, clothes were leaving, toys were going, even dishes were finding a new home. It was looking good and starting to feel good. But I was still holding onto some “what if” items.

The biggest “what if I need it later?” things I was holding onto were craft supplies. Specifically Yarn. I crocheted, even had an etsy shop and loved it.

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But as people started underselling their fiber work I realized that I wouldn’t be able to turn it into a full-time career that actually made a profit. So I closed my etsy shop and started to concentrate on graphic design for other bloggers. After my first was born I picked up my hook perhaps two more times in a ten month period. Then my second came along and I pulled my hook out to make her a headband. Soon my fourth child was born and I had not touched my hooks or any yarn, for any reason, in two years. But even after that amount of time I still had my stash. It had even been boxed up and moved with us to a tiny farm, into a tiny farm house and placed in a closet. Six more months would pass by before I started thinking about that box again.

Here I was, the house was feeling a little more clean, the first book was on its way to being published and I was drawing everyday. My need to draw grew and so did my need to have a space to work. I decided to carve out a creative corner for myself and I thought of that box of yarn. In the past I would have been so excited to break out that box, let the fibers breathe and plan out my next project. Instead, thinking of that box overwhelmed me. If I brought out that box, I would have to put up storage for the yarn. A space would have to be created for it, dust would collect on the surfaces and it still wouldn’t get used. What I truly wanted was a desk with space to work, paper and a pen.

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Without digging into it, I dumped the entire thing, over 50 skeins of yarn and some unsold finished projects, into a large clear plastic  bag and dropped it off at a local church during their craft hour.

That moment was huge. It was definitely the moment I needed to get the rest of my home to look and feel the way I wanted it to. The way our family needed it to be. I’m still simplifying and finding things we can do without and still coming across items that make me pause. The undecided box is going to be around for a bit longer. But it gets emptied without a second thought on the next pass through. That box of yarn with it’s history, the dream of a creative business, was bigger and heavier then I knew. The moment I was able to see that box differently, I was able to let it go. It certainly wasn’t bringing me joy.

original the silly chicken with flower tehlia

My creative corner now consists of a container of drawing paper, 3 binders and a container of pens. I have my favorite illustrations framed, I give me kids my rough draft doodles to color in and every night I clear my desk of everything. I’m far from perfect, my sink is constantly full of dishes and the shoes by the door pile up. But that box of yarn is happy and so am I. All because two kids asked me to draw a chicken smelling a flower.

Did you have a moment that helped you start the decluttering process? Did you have a box or item that was hard to move on from?

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