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Purging Toys: How to Simplify the Toys & Why it Matters

Purging Toys: How to Simplify the Toys & Why it Matters

I’m excited to share today’s guest post with you all about purging toys. Including why purging the toys is a key step to seeing progress simplifying your home.

Today we’ll hear from Alyssa of Unbusy. She’s sharing her tips and suggestions for purging toys and giving your kids space to decompress from a mountain of toys.

Test drive fewer toys (without the pressure)

While I always encourage you to get your kids involved in purging toys and the decluttering process when you can, it’s not always easy. Sometimes it can be helpful to take the reins and let your kids experience what fewer toys feels like for themselves.

What I love about Alyssa’s tips is that they give your kids a chance to try out and adjust to the reality of fewer toys. And an opportunity to see how easy and great it is to live with only what you love.

Instead of fighting with your kids about decluttering and purging toys, use Alyssa’s tips to let your kids take life with fewer toys for a test drive!

Her approach is a great way to give a simplified toy collection a trial run. Without you worrying about facing a ton of resistance from your kids when they aren’t willing to get rid of anything. And your kids not worrying about you actually getting rid of their toys for good without their permission.

They just may start to notice how freeing purging the toys and clearing the clutter can be. Giving them more time and space for what they truly love.

Without further ado, here’s Alyssa with her tips for purging toys and giving toy minimalism a test drive today!

Purging toys: why you’ve got to purge the toys to see progress

You stop dead in the kids’ room. Look around. You can’t believe what you’re seeing.

How are there so. many. toys on the floor?

You just don’t get it.

You’ve told them to pick up. Tried to enforce room checkups. You’ve even decluttered the broken toys!

But it’s still not changing. You still see a pigsty every time you walk in there.

Sound familiar?

I’m going to give you three tips that’ll help you change this reality, for good. Let’s get started.

Organization is hiding the real truth

A meticulously organized heap of toys is still – you guessed it – a heap of toys. (And will take a commensurate length of time!)

So first off, you need to drop this notion that a messy kids’ room is a failing of you as a mother. You’re not letting them down by not organizing every little piece of Lego into colour-coded bins, each different Duplo set into a different box, or each of Barbie’s things separately.

Ultra-organization does most kids no favours. So we’re going to get rid of it.

(And coincidentally, take a load off you! Hey, that’s good news!)

No more of this “Oh, I should try to go in there and organize for them – maybe that would help them keep it up.” Or “They’re just kids; they don’t know how to put things away as well as I can.”

Exactly. They’re just kids.

So quit expecting them to want to take the time to keep up some meticulously organized system for each and every set of playthings.

Pickup time will go a lot better.

Small toy sets go faster

Next, something basic to keep in mind: kids get overwhelmed easily.

Therefore, the more toys they have, the longer it will take them – mentally and physically – to gear up and tidy up.

You’re doing them a favour by decluttering, really.

No more overwhelm. No more dragging their feet at the start. (Heck, no more whining, “Mooom, this is going to take forever!”)

Because if they’ve only got a few small bins (think shoebox bins) of toys to pick up? That’s not going to take very long at all, is it?

So. The first thing to do is get firmly convinced in your mind that decluttering will benefit you and them.

(We’ll get ready to do it next.)

You need to 80/20 it

Now, what’s the logical next step? Cutting down on the toys.

And how do we do it? I’m about to tell you.

You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, right? The 80/20 rule?

That’s the one that says you’re not using 80% of the items in any given category – and moreover, 20% of those items are the ones doing all the work.

We’re going to turn around and apply that advice to your kids’ toy collection. Ready?

Find your kids’ 20%

First off, get a rough idea in your head where this is all going. One out of every five toys is about the ratio of favourite toys you can expect.

This means that yes, four out of every five toys are actually not your kids’ favourites! Oh, sure, they may play with them every month or so. Wail when you suggest donating that doll or car to Value Village.

But when you actually observe their normal behaviour – watch them playing in the wild, as it were – you’ll notice that they don’t pick that particular toy very often at all.

No, most of the time they’re grabbing the Duplo, or playdough, or art set that has crayons in every shade of the rainbow.

Those are the toys your kids love. Those are their 20%.

Focus on what is actually played with often

You see, we have to disengage our own emotions as mothers from this process in order to actually see the light.

We know that they might enjoy a certain toy in a certain way – or that if this one breaks, that one will be a good substitute. Or that we gave them a particular toy and really wish they’d like it.

But you are not them. Their decluttering decisions are their own. We have to give them space to make up their own minds and honour that.

(Remember how annoying it was when your mother-in-law told you not to declutter those clothes you had just bagged up for donation? “Oh, but you looked so pretty in this! And that one – I can’t believe you’re getting rid of it!”)

We have to let our kids choose, without forcing our notions on them, if we’re ever going to succeed at this teaching-our-kids-to-declutter thing.

And that’s what we all want in the end, isn’t it?

The end goal. The ultimate prize.

Kids who know how to declutter – aren’t afraid of decluttering – and are fully confident in the process.

Remove the 80%

So, back to our 80/20 endeavour.

You’ve watched your kids at play for the last week. You know what their main favourites are (those grab-every-day toys, or at least every other day). The ones they can’t keep their hands off of.

Those ones, set aside in your head.

They’re untouchable. They’re the best.

The rest? They’re gone.

Not permanently – we wouldn’t want to scar them for life on decluttering or anything.

But you can certainly bag, bin, or box all those ones up and stuff them in a corner of your garage (or attic or closet – just not one of their closets!).

Give your kids space to decompress from a mountain of toys. To adjust to the reality of minimalism (toy realm style). To see how easy it is to live with only what you love.

Let your kids experience the freedom of less for themselves

That is the best lesson you can give them. Not that they need to declutter. But that living with all the dross of life removed (in this case, toys) is a freeing experience.

In fact, it’s so wonderful that no one wants to go back.

I mean, who would?

If you were a kid, would you ask for all your toys back so you could root through four shelves’ worth just to find your favourite three dolls or two dump trucks?

And have all those shelves’ worth of toys just waiting there for you to pick up, several hours later, when your mom shouts, “It’s pickup time!”

No way. No. Way.

Your kids are smart – they’ll know which way means less work for them.

You just have to give them enough time to get used to this toy minimalism thing.

Stay flexible when purging toys

And even then, expect to hear an occasional complaint that such-and-such toy from the garage would be really fun to play with right now… about three months later.

(And when you give it to them, they run off rejoicing, leaving you second-guessing your 80/20 decision. Till you run into that very same toy the next day, and the next, and the next – forgotten on the shelf.)

Note from Melissa:

If your child is asking for a specific toy you put away, don’t be afraid to give it back to them. (Only the specific thing they asked for! No digging through the box on their own to see all their never-played-with-but-suddenly-can’t-live-without toys!)

If you notice them losing interest in the toy quickly, point it out to them. Ask them if it’s really worth bringing back into their toy area, or if they might be willing to let it go? You can even ask them if they love it enough to trade one of their favourite toys in to get the thing they’re asking for back out of the garage.

Occasionally bringing a toy back out is a great way to open the conversation with your kids about what adds value to their lives and what seems like it will, but doesn’t really add any long-term value at all!

So take heart, and take courage – your original decluttering decisions for them are most likely right.

You’re the mom; you’re the person who knows your kids best.

You’ve seen what they play with day in and day out.

You’ve got this.

Just go do what you know is next. Set aside their daily favourites. Box up the rest of the toy mountain and put it in the garage. Plan on a little adjustment time for your kids.

You’re going to have a cleared-out toy shelf, tidy kids’ rooms, and happier kids before you know it.

Let’s get started.

Check out this special offer from Alyssa!

And while you’re at it – how about getting those same kids to be responsible for room cleaning, every day? It’s time to give yourself a break! Here’s your free five-day course on how to Get Your Kids to Clean Their Rooms (without you doing it).

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Christine S.

Thursday 25th of March 2021

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for the tips, they're very encouraging. I like that 80/20 rule, it makes a lot of sense. My toddler really only plays with, like, 20% of his toys. The other 2 kids are older, so they don't have toys but have accumulated other stuff. I have such a hard time with this. I think that it's my emotional attachment to their toys, so I have to be more flexible with myself.

Simple Lionheart Life

Saturday 27th of March 2021

I think just recognizing those things about what your kids play with and how you feel about the toys are such important steps. Thanks for reading! I'm so glad to hear you found it encouraging!


Friday 19th of March 2021

Such a great post and guide for decluttering toys. I have seen myself the benefits of fewer toys and I’m sure your readers will be able to take steps toward decluttering with the helpful tips you’ve outlined!

Simple Lionheart Life

Sunday 21st of March 2021

Thanks! I appreciate your reading and your encouraging words!

Mike @ This Evergreen Home

Monday 15th of March 2021

Thanks, Alyssa, for today's post. My highlights: --> A super-organized pile of toys is non-sustainable, it takes too much time and energy to maintain. --> Identify the 20% of toys that your kids actually play with. Remove the rest. Give them time to adjust. --> Help your children experience the benefit of less clutter by showing them how much faster clean-up time goes.

Simple Lionheart Life

Thursday 18th of March 2021

Thanks for reading! I love the points you highlighted!

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