A few weeks ago, I wrote a post sharing 5 Reasons I’m Glad We Don’t Have Many Toys. So many of you commented and said you’d love to cut down on toys but you don’t know where to start or how it’s really feasible when you constantly have friends and relatives giving you new toys.
If you’re feeling like you wish you could have fewer toys, but you just don’t know how to pull that off — especially thanks to generous grandparents! — here are some suggestions:
1. Set Boundaries
I’m a big believer in having a home for everything in your home. Meaning, everything has a place for it to reside — be a drawer, a cupboard, a basket, a tub, or a box. Not only does this help your house stay cleaner and more organized, it also allows you to place limits on what you have.
For instance, when we lived in a little basement apartment, we had almost zero room for toys, but I designated one of the end tables that had a cupboard door on it as the place where we kept Kathrynne’s toys. If it didn’t fit in there, we couldn’t keep it — otherwise we’d be stepping on or over it all day long!
Nowadays, we have a tub for LEGOs, a barrel in the garage for outdoor toys (balls, bats, etc.), a shelf in a closet where we keep games, and a few baskets in the kid’s closet for misc. toys (walkie-talkies, stuffed animals, etc.)
Need help getting started designating a place for your toys? Check out Five Steps for a Pared Down Playroom.
If you have more than one child, you could consider having assigned areas for each individual child’s toys and then a place for toys that everyone shares. You might consider having a tub or shelf labeled with each child’s name. Our rule at our house is that when the shelf or tub is full, you can’t get any new toys until you get rid of some that you already have.
Since my kids are really, really into LEGOs, we’ve had to put some measures in place to help them not take over a room or area of our house. The kids know they are expected to have them all picked up once per day when they clean up their room (where the LEGOs usually are).
If they bring the LEGOs into other parts of the house and don’t pick them up when they are done or if they leave them lying out in their room after they’ve been told to pick them up, the LEGOs are put up for 4-6 weeks — which is a pretty huge punishment for our LEGO-lovers. It’s happened a few times and it’s been enough to convince them to be very responsible in keeping them put away when they aren’t in use.
2. Only Keep What You Love
We love quality, versatile toys in our home: things like LEGOs, art supplies, craft supplies, outdoor toys, and educational toys. We try to have toys that encourage creativity rather than solely entertain.
And here’s the thing we’ve discovered: our kids would much rather play with cardboard boxes or build tents with old sheets, folding chairs and couch pillows than have the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos. The few bells-and-whistle toys we’ve had in the last couple of years served to entertain for a short while and then were abandoned for LEGOs, puzzles, and creative play.
We try to go through our house very regularly and get rid of things we no longer love, use, or need. There’s no point in keeping something around if no one likes it or uses it on a regular basis. Is it sitting around untouched for weeks on end? Is it broken? Does it have parts which can’t be replaced? Get rid of it!
If you have toys that are in good condition that you no longer use or love, donate them to a daycare or children’s home, sell them in a garage sale or consignment sale, drop them off at Goodwill, sell them on a Facebook Yard Sale Groups or Craigslist, or even have a Toy Swap Party.
Here’s a creative idea from The Bargain Shopper Lady:
My boys started a “friend toy swap” which is their idea of giving to their friends. Anytime they have a friend over to play, they let their friend choose one toy to take home. I approve all toys before the friend leaves just in case they are trying to give something away, such as “their brother’s favorite toy” or something that they just got and is still pretty new.
This method is great for us! We have friends over often and it really helps with the clutter! My children are also learning that they really enjoy giving toys they don’t play with as often to their friends!
3. Ask For Consumable Gifts
One of the biggest reasons parents have told me that they can’t cut down on toy clutter is because of their well-meaning and generous relatives and grandparents who are constantly gifting various things to their kids.
First off, if this is the case for you, I just want to encourage you to remember that this is a blessing that you have grandparents who want to give to and bless their grandchildren. Not all families have this. So be grateful for it instead of resenting it.
Always remember that the relatives are likely buying things for your children because they love them. In almost every case, they aren’t purposefully seeking to annoy or irritate you.
That said, I encourage you to graciously and lovingly communicate your preferences to your relatives. Perhaps they don’t know you are short on space or really would love it if they spent less money. Maybe they feel obligated for some reason. Whatever it is, come up with a plan to talk about the issues in a calm and loving manner.
However, don’t just go to Grandma and say, “Sorry, we don’t have room for your toys. Please don’t ever buy another toy again.” Give your relatives some options.
Here are some consumable/no-clutter gift ideas you could suggest:
- Bubble bath, crayons, & sidewalk chalk
- A special outing with the grandparents
- Magazine subscriptions
- Subscription to craft kit boxes — like Doodle Crate, Kiwi Crate, and Tinker Crate — our kids got these for Christmas/their birthdays and love, love, loved them!
- Subscriptions to LEGO’s Pley membership — Kathrynne got this for her birthday and has loved it!
- Craft supplies
- Crayons, paper, coloring books, and other craft supplies
- Gift cards for restaurants/treats
- Memberships to Local Attractions
Check out the comments on this post here for many, many more ideas.
You could also ask for clothes, books, educational toys, outdoor toys, LEGOs, gift cards, or even for them to donate money to your child’s college fund!
At the end of the day, though, be sure you don’t deprive the grandparents of getting the joy that comes from giving. Just as you would like to see change on their part, be willing to meet them halfway–or more! It might never be perfect or ideal, by openly communicating in a loving manner and presenting some options and being willing to listen and show appreciation to them, you just might be able to come to a happy medium.
4. Rotate Toy Collections
If you feel like you have too many toys, but you don’t want to part with what you have, consider a rotational toy system. Put away half the toys for a month. After a month, put away the toys you currently have and get out the toys which were put away. You could even do this on a quarterly basis.
This method can help you to see what toys your children really like and use. It also might help encourage more contentment with you already have since your children will probably feel like they are getting “new” toys quite often — when really it’s just the same old toys they’ve always had being presented in a new way!
One toy rotation system we’ve used in our home when our kids were little was the Day of the Week Tub System. This idea has so many variations, but the basic gist is to divide most of the toys in your home into seven groups and put them in seven different tubs labeled with the days of the week.
Your children can then play with the appropriate tub each day. It keeps things rotated and fresh, while creating less mess.
5. Don’t Shop for Toys at Garage Sales or Dollar Store
I know, I know! There are so many supposedly “good deals” to be found at garage sales and dollar stores when it comes to kid’s toys. But like I often say, if you don’t need it and it’s just going to be cluttering up your home, it’s not a good deal for you — no matter how inexpensive the price is.
So unless it’s something you really need, it’s consumable, or you’re planning to get rid of it after they play with it for a few weeks, just don’t buy it. Because there’s no point it filling up your house with stuff that you then have to pick up, clean up, care for, organize, and (maybe even) get frustrated by!
What ideas and suggestions would you add to my list? How do YOU cut down on toy clutter at your house?
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