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This is a guest post from my blogging friend, Anne. Anne is the mother of eight beautiful children and in her spare time (ahem) she runs a hobby farm and writes the Zephyr Hill blog. Go over and check out her amazing blog and say hello!
Having a lot of toys isn’t bad. This isn’t that kind of blog post. I just want to share some practical ways to take control of the toy situation in your home, if you feel like it’s gotten out of hand for whatever reason. It’s just a fact that toys start to accumulate over time, and it increases with the number of children you have.
Reduce toy clutter in your home with these five simple tips:
If it hasn’t been played within __ months, it’s gone
You can determine the amount of time that has to pass by, but just like the clothes in your closet, toys that haven’t been used in a really long time are not toys you need to hold on to. If you are uncertain, hide them in a closet or your basement. If your children don’t ask about them for a long while, that’s your cue to let them go.
Appeal to your child’s generosity
For the longest time, I felt like I had to sneak around and find stuff to donate, but one day I asked my children outright, “Do you have any toys or books that you’d like to give to less fortunate children?” They overwhelmed me with their generosity! Get a big bag or a box and see what your children will voluntarily fill it with.
Birthdays or Christmas coming up? Put some serious thought into what you’ll buy your child this time around, and avoid the mistakes of the past. Are there millions of small pieces? Is it just a passing fad that your child will quickly grow out of? Is it the kind of gift that creates a lot of mess later? Ask yourself these questions as you shop. Use them to guide you when friends or family members ask “What would they like for their birthday?”
Gifts that don’t create too much clutter: money, favorite snacks, clothes they actually need, one good book, tickets to an event, restaurant gift cards, etc.
Re-think the toy room
If there’s a room in your house set aside solely for play, don’t let it turn into a nightmare of bins, boxes and shelves overflowing with toys. It doesn’t have to be filled from wall to wall with playthings. Decide what your child’s favorite toys are, organize them neatly, and then use the extra space for things that will make the room a pleasant place to be in (and look at). Some ideas: rugs, houseplants, table and chairs, rocker, etc. The “prettier” your toy room is, the more you’ll be motivated to keep it that way with wise spending habits and periodic purgings.
Set toy boundaries
Avoid the temptation to put up another shelf, or buy more storage bins, for the purpose of holding more stuff. When the bookcase is full, then don’t buy any more books until a few are given away. When the toy box is overflowing, donate something before adding anything else.
Don’t fall into the educational toy ploy
Seems like nearly every toy or game you buy now has some kind of “educational” claim on the label. The message is “Our toy can make your child smarter.” Many parents fall into the trap of thinking they aren’t just buying more toys; they’re investing in their child’s education! The fact is, the daily interaction between you and your child is the real key to critical learning and development. Having a meaningful 5-minute conversation with your son is far more beneficial than 50 minutes of playtime with an “educational” app.
Here are two great reasons to get motivated about getting toys under control. Reducing clutter not only frees up living space in your home, but it has the added benefit of reducing the mess that everyone has to clean up!