Question:  I’m a mom of 4 and we are far from minimalists, though it would be a dream to make a move in that direction.  We have a ton of family, and they all love to lavish my children with gifts: Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving they find any reason to buy my kids MORE.  I’ve politely asked them not to, I’ve moaned and groaned behind their backs and even tossed and donated much of it.  But I feel guilty, because family comes over a lot and my children tell on me, and family notices some how in our sea of toys that their most recent gift cannot be located.  How can I put a stop to this?  I need a creative idea here.


I totally get it. We have four kids age 7 and under and they are the only kids on my side. Their grandparents and aunts and uncles LOVE to spoil them and seem to bring them something almost every time we see them.

Something from the Dollar Store, another thing from a garage sale, this thing they couldn’t pass up at Target, a souvenir from the trip they took and oh look! We just found this when we were cleaning the basement! ;)

It is overwhelming for my husband and I at times, but it can be overwhelming to the kids, too.


Here is what I have learned over the years:

  1. Balance my own expectations (and reactions). They all mean well. They love our kids exponentially and would never intentionally cause tension in our home. AND, they don’t know how intentionally I have pared down our kids’ toys, how thoughtfully I have organized them AND HOW WELL this has been working in our home. They just don’t know. So, I have to extend grace.
  2. Creatively offer alternatives. When one of the kid’s birthday is approaching I’ll offer ideas for things to do like: “Maggie has been having fun learning about giraffes, a trip to the zoo would be a fun gift for her” or “Adeline has a friend who had her birthday party at the Children’s Museum, she’d love to go again.” Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
  3. Give gift ideas that you would like them to have. Blocks, legos, dolls and little people are a few of the toys that have become staples at our house, I try and sneak in suggestions for these whenever possible.
  4. Create a “Trade out Box”: It isn’t uncommon for my mom to take our girls to the Dollar Store when she is spending time with them (thank you mom, you are a GREAT Nana and our kids cherish their time with you!). However, we all know that the enjoyment from the things that they acquire there can be short lived.When the kids were smaller I could toss these things out without the kids noticing, now that they are older, it isn’t that simple.So I created a “trade out box.” When it seems that they are done with a new toy I put it into a plastic tote that I have in the basement. Most of the time this is the end of it and they forget about it.But if they ask where it went I say that I put it in the trade out box. They know that if they want it back, they have to give me a toy and trade for it. This helps to keep our inventory down and nine times out of ten they don’t want to go through the effort of trading and just go and play with something else.When the box starts to get full I discard or donate items from the bottom, these have been long forgotten about ;)
  5. Tell your relatives you’re “rotating” toys now. When we first started on this journey I thought that I would try rotating the kids’ toys. Winters can get long here in Minnesota so I thought having new toys to bring out in February would help keep the kids occupied.So I bought some big totes from Walmart, filled them up and stuck them in the garage. What happened? I never opened them again!This miraculous thing happened when I got rid of 90% of their toys: they started playing really well with what was left! I think they were overwhelmed by digging through everything before to find what they were looking for. You can read more about which toys made the cut HERE.So, it might be worth a try to pack up a bunch of the toys. Then your kids can just inform your family that the toys are being rotated and are stored safely in the garage :)
  6. Recognize this is a relatively short season that we are in. While it feels like this influx of stuff may never cease, the truth is that our kids are only little for a time and soon they’ll be well past monster trucks, nerf guns, emojis and Shopkins.

And, on a similar note, don’t blame them for our messy house. Right after Christmas this year I felt a little overwhelmed by all of the gifts our kids had received. There was this perpetual pile of new toys at the end of the couch that didn’t fit in the toy bins.

I found myself thinking “they made our house a mess!”…yikes…probably not best to go towards the slippery slope of thinking that “they” were the reason our house was how it was. So I told the kids that we needed to get all of their toys to fit in their toy bins again and we got to work deciding what to keep and what to donate.

It didn’t take long and they all fit again.

Would it be nice to not even have to go through this process? At times. But I’m grateful that our kids have SO many people that love them SO well, and if gifts are apart of that, then I guess we’ll take it all!

I sincerely hope this helps and wish you the absolute best on this journey! It takes some work, but it is worth it :)

(Oh, and if you need a little more encouragement to pare down the toys: OUR KIDS PLAY SO WELL NOW. They occupy themselves for full hours at a time and play better together, too. Whenever I tell them that we need to get rid of a few things so that everything fits in the toy bins again, they think it is fun and rarely have a problem parting with a toy :)

It’d be helpful to hear how you deal with all of this, too, please share below!



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Great post! The link from my email didn’t work but it worked on the site :).
We have the same issue as well!! Every visit with a grandparent there’s a new dollar tree toy, holidays could be overwhelming as well. We have a small home and two of the three boys share a small room. They each get two toys. Which means a Rubbermaid of legos that fit on closet shelf and a small box for action figures. The 2 year old has two items on his shelf. I have a few things stored to swap out occasionally but that’s rare. We homeschool, and paint and play board games together, play outside, and often just hang out. I say nothing comes into your room unless something is removed so usually they play with new toy for a while then hand it over to give to another child at thrift store. HAPPILY. I say things aren’t important, there is a time for each toy to be here so enjoy it today and allow someone else to tomorrow.


This is very encouraging Mary! There have been a few times when our oldest two have come home from playing at a friend’s house and gushed about ALL of the toys and how much fun they had. I’ll catch myself wondering if we’ve gone too far…but then I remember how much better they play now with fewer toys, how easy it is to clean up and how they prefer to be outside whenever the weather allows. Thank you for you comment, I think it will encourage many!!

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