Photo by Stephanie Hofschlaeger
It all starts out so innocently. A couple fall in love and decide to get married. Soon enough, they decide to have children. At first, the children are precious, delicate beings, content to nurse and sleep and laugh and cry. Even when they are crying, though, they are precious. At some point, say around the time they start to walk and talk, they change. They can manipulate their environment.
In short, THEY LEARN TO TAKE OUT TOYS.
New parents often fall into the trap of buying all the latest toys for their precious creations. It’s one way of showing love. The grandparents, especially if they live out of town, often show their love this way, too. If you have more than one child, there are often multiples of favorite toys. For us, that meant three Bob the Builder dolls; three special, light up firetrucks; three identical sets of Legos; and three copies of Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection. The result is mountains and mountains of toys and books.
The problem is, clutter makes some kids edgy. Others may feel overwhelmed and not be able to clean up because they don’t know where to start. I always tell my children that if their rooms are too cluttered, then the firemen can’t get to them if the house catches on fire. Dramatic? Perhaps. But why not make it easier for them by setting a few simple rules.
Rule #1 When One Comes In, Two Go Out
This is one of the simplest methods I have found to declutter. When the grandparents send a new toy, encourage children to choose two to donate to those who are less fortunate. Forget about selling them on Ebay, Craigslist or at a children’s consignment store. Just let them go. It takes lots of time you probably don’t have to document, photograph, package, list and mail those toys. Send them to a local charity. Of course, don’t donate anything that is in poor condition. Only donate the quality you would wish to receive.
Rule #2 Have a Place for Everything
Seems simple enough, but how many things do the kids own that simply don’t have any place to go. There is only so much space in a house. At some point, there are no more bins, boxes, shelves or corners. Plus, the adults need and deserve their space, too. If there is no where to put a new toy, then get rid of an old one (Rule #1). Oh, and buying new containers just creates more clutter. Believe me, I’ve tried.
Rule #3 Throw Out Broken Toys or Ones That Are Missing Pieces
Many kids, mine included will figure out some reason why they should be allowed to keep a broken toy. My favorite is “He can just be a headless robot, like the Super Battle Droids on Star Wars!” Let’s get real, here. Broken toys are not worth the space they take up. You will most likely never send off for an extra game piece. (OK, maybe if it is a really important game that the entire family plays over and over and over again.) Out with broken toys or toys with missing pieces. Same with books. Unless it’s worth the time, effort and expense to repair or replace, toss it!
Rule #4 Mom and Dad Have Final Say
This is something crucial that parents often forget. You are the parent. You make the decisions. Children are not developmentally capable of parenting themselves. So hold firm. Stand your ground. Control the toy clutter. Your kids will be happier, and so will you.
How do you control the toy avalanche?