Children’s toys can be one of the most daunting areas of simplifying life.

Our kids love each and every one (just ask them!), we’ve invested good money into them, and almost certainly, as soon as we get rid of any they ask where it is and break down because it was their favorite.

Sigh.

But…it has to be done, because we all know that they don’t actually need as many toys as they have and the clutter is causing stress in our homes.

Here is a great article by Becoming Minimalist if you still need help gaining perspective on toy clutter:  A Helpful Guide for Decluttering Toys

Over the past year we have gotten rid of about 90% of the toys in our house. It was a little bit of a process, but in the end it was very (very, very) worth it.

Here is what we have decided to keep for our kids (girls age 4 and 6, boys age 1 and 3). You’ll see that we have a wide variety of toys, but they all fit in these bins (except for a Little People car ramp and princess castle):

We got rid of 90% of our toys, but here are the ones we still keep! (And the kids don't miss ANY that we donated :)

You can read more about my LOVE for this Ikea toy storage system HERE :)

In the shelves we have one or two bins of each of the following types of toys:

 

We got rid of 90% of our toys, but here are the ones we still keep! (And the kids don't miss ANY that we donated :)

Legos

No explanation needed!

We got rid of 90% of our toys, but here are the ones we still keep! (And the kids don't miss ANY that we donated :)

Blocks

Good old fashioned blocks…the kids love them.

We got rid of 90% of our toys, but here are the ones we still keep! (And the kids don't miss ANY that we donated :)

Baby Dolls

While we have a few dolls, and clothes and accessories to go with them, what we no longer have are cradles, strollers, doll pack ‘n plays, shopping carts or any of the other larger items. But they don’t care, they still play with them just the same and put them to sleep on the couch, or make little beds with pillows.

Simplify-Kids-Toys-Little-People

Little People

What I really like about Little People is the WIDE variety of items for boys and girls, how easy they are to find at garage sales, and how they all work together.

Simplify-Kids-Toys-Play-Food

Play Food

Even though we got rid of the play kitchen quite awhile ago (because they rarely played with it, and anything that takes up that much space needs to be used often!), the kids still LOVE to play restaurant and serve me food while I am at my computer (if only it were real! :)

We got rid of 90% of our toys, but here are the ones we still keep! (And the kids don't miss ANY that we donated :)

Trucks & Tractors

A few trucks and tractors and our three year old is happy for hours. We also built a sand box this past summer and he LIVED in it!

Art Supplies, Books & Puzzles

I find that art and craft supplies, books and puzzles still need to be mostly monitored, so I keep them in my office and in the kitchen.

// HOW I DECIDED WHAT TO KEEP //

When I began simplifying I decided to only keep toys that:

  • They played with at least once per week, but preferably more often
  • Were gender neutral (even our little boys like to play house from time to time :)
  • Had a wide age range of interest (I got rid of all of the “baby toys”, our infant was happy to chew on play food, legos and doll accessories :)
  • Didn’t take up a lot of space (like the kitchen they never played with or large doll house)

 

// THE BENEFITS OF LESS //

  • Our kids are WAY more creative now that they have fewer times. They use toys in different ways than what they were intended for variety (my daughter was playing house with her crayons the other day, each was a different person), and love to build forts with furniture and blankets, take flash lights to explore around the house, or put on their swimsuits and practice gymnastics. You’ve probably noticed it with your kids, too, why can they play with a cardboard box for five hours but not their brand new toy??? :)
  • They treat their toys better. They take better care of their toys knowing that this is all they have.
  • They share better. This was one of the best unexpected benefits of purging the toys. In the past, one child would dig down to the bottom of the toy bin and find a toy they hadn’t played with in weeks exclaiming “look what I found!” Then, the owner of the toy would say “that’s mine and I want it!!!” And proceed to rip it from the hands of the first. This seemed to happen hourly! Fortunately, we don’t have this problem anymore :)
  • I can pick up everything in five minutes. Our three year loves to dump out the bins, I think he likes the noise it makes as they all crash to the floor. But even if he dumps out every single one, I can have everything picked up again (and sorted) in five minutes.
  • They can pick up everything in ten minutes. It used to be unfair for me to threaten the kids “clean up all of your toys or you don’t get to _______.” It was an overwhelming disaster zone and even though they had made the mess, they didn’t even know where to begin to clean it up. Most often I would just end up doing it myself to save time. But now, I really can tell them “clean up all of your toys or you don’t get to ______” because it is a manageable task.
  • Our house feels calmer. Having toys in bins and baskets and totes and in piles all around the house is stressful…it feels chaotic. Now that we have fewer toys our family room feels like a relaxing place to be.
  • They really, honestly, seriously don’t care. They really don’t miss them. At all. Really! Sometimes they will go to a friend’s house and comment about all of the toys they have or can you believe they have ____! And for a split second I wonder if I have gone too far. Then I snap out of it ;)
  • In fact, they prefer it: When we first purged the toys my oldest daughter would walk around our family room and say “mama, I love how clean it is in here!”

// BUT WHAT IF… //

I know, but what if you get rid of it and your child decided that that was their favorite toy in the whole world and doesn’t sleep for a week straight?

As with all purging, if you just aren’t sure: Pack the toys you are unsure about away in a box and store it in the garage. If you need something, you can grab it out (but you won’t!). Label the box “DONATE IN _____” and put the month three months from now.

And then in three months, FOLLOW THROUGH and donate those suckers! Don’t open them. Don’t sort them or go through them again, just load it in the back of your van and go straight to Goodwill! :)

What hesitations do you have with toys? How have you simplified? I’d love to learn more (especially if your kids are older!)

 

Dawn

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And if you are on Pinterest, here is a graphic for that, THANK YOU (thank you, thank you) for sharing!

We got rid of 90% of our toys, but here are the ones we still keep! (And the kids don't miss ANY that we donated :)

 

4 comments

Reply

I was wondering if you can do a post on books, books are so wonderful for children but they can become clutter too sometimes how do you decide which to keep & which ones to get ride of? :)

Reply

Thanks Steph, I’ll definitely write more about this in the future, but the abbreviated version: Because we have extra cabinet space in our kitchen, we have a “library cabinet” that holds the kids’ books and any we get from the library. I felt that when the books were stored in the family room with the toys that they weren’t being treated well (colored in and pages ripped). So I pared them down to the twenty or so that the kids like best and moved them up to the kitchen. Now whenever we need some quiet time (often while I’m making lunch or dinner or before bed), they “check-out” a book from me (they think it is so fun and the books are in much better shape :).

Reply

I have a 10 year old boy (and two daughters 7&3), they all love lego but my son especially loves making creations which he then wants to keep safe and displayed in his room. When he takes them down to play (almost daily) his room is a mess at bedtime. It’s hard to purge something he loves but I can see its hard for him to keep it all tidy!
The other issue I have had with downsizing our toy stash, is purging good quality wooden toys that have been (or still are) real winners with all my kids and children who come to my playgroup. It’s tough to part with beautiful and sometime handcrafted toys!
We currently have our own toy library. I rotate toys every now and then. One toy in, one toy out. The kids can help me choose.
Thanks for the post. I can see a version of this system working for us to better organize the play area.

Reply

I think you are exactly right: finding what works for your family :) I have been fortunate that my children have been relatively young through this whole process so they are less attached to toys than older kids. And, it depends a lot on space, if there is plenty of space to store the toys and the kids love them, then why not! :)

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