How to declutter kids toys: your step-by-step guide

3rd July 2020

Words by Anna Whitaker / Photography by Alexa Loy

There’s a full moon on Sunday, which I often find is the perfect time to start a detox. I won’t go into too much detail on my slightly woo-woo theories but I generally find that when the moon is waning (getting smaller, between full moon and new moon), it’s much easier to say goodbye to the things that no longer serve us, cleansing our spaces as well as our minds. When it’s waxing (growing bigger, between new moon and full moon), we’re able to take on new challenges, welcome new ideas and absorb more from the world around us. It might also explain why we’re always hungrier as the moon is waxing. Trust me, you’ll notice as soon as you follow the cycles.  

That’s a pretty radical intro but if you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that it’s not always easy to get rid of stuff. Doing it when the moon is on your side might just be the push you need. 

So where do we begin? We’re on the cusp of the world returning to ‘normal’, but our homes are upside down. They’re filled with an overwhelming amount of crap; the crap we bought on Prime when we absolutely, 100% needed to make that giant space rocket with tissue jet boosts. Or the games we bought for ‘family games night’, which lasted about three seconds before remembering toddlers have the attention span of a goldfish and they ended up at the back of the cupboard. Can you tell I’ve been there?

So this post is ToyDrop’s guide to decluttering, based loosely on Marie Kondo’s method of only keeping the things that spark joy. This version is specifically for toys, games and crafts but you can use the theory through every category at home. In fact, if you pick up a copy of Kondo’s book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up’ (then get rid of it, of course), you’ll get the full picture and may never fold your clothes in the same way again. 

Where to begin

First things first, decide whether or not it’s a good idea for your kids to help. You know them and you’d never throw away something they love so if they’re not old enough to understand the process, maybe wait until they’re in bed. If they’re happy to help you and like the idea of giving some things to charity or selling them and putting the money into their savings, that’s great too. It can be a lovely, therapeutic process if they’re on the same page as you.

Tip out the toys

It’s hectic, but find a tidy space in your home (or one that’s already covered in toys) then bring every single toy into that space. Every one. The toys in their bedrooms, the toys in the living room, the toys in their bags and hanging on the back of doors, the toys by the bath and the toys outside (if they’re small enough). If you’ve got a car, I’d check there too because if it’s anything like ours, it’ll be chock-full too. You want to make sure you’ve got every single toy they own now together on the floor. Cue heart attack at the amount of toys, then pour yourself a glass of wine and sit down for a minute.  

Find a few boxes

You don’t really need these, you can just make piles but I find boxes help to make it more official. It’s also harder to see what’s in them so you can’t change your mind as easily. Mark them as ‘keep’, ‘sell’, ‘charity’, ‘bin’ and ‘storage’, so you don’t get confused half way through and throw out the wrong things.

Does it spark joy?

Kondo recommends holding each item in your hands and asking this question. The answer isn’t always easy, so feel free to add an extra ‘maybe’ box to begin with and come back to it at the end. Perhaps it’s a beautiful wooden shape sorter, but your youngest is five now and the shapes are used as weapons or constantly appearing in random places around the house. Gather it together and put it in your eBay box. Perhaps it was a really generous gift but your kids have never played with it and it’s taking up unnecessary space in your home. Feel free to thank it for its service in the moment it was gifted, then add it to your eBay box. Anything that’s broken and beyond repair should go in the bin. Anything that’s broken and worth repairing should be kept (if it sparks joy) and anything that sparks joy in you but not the kids? Well, it’s your home too. I’d say keep anything that’s really special and find a place for it to go on display, in a memory box or in storage for future siblings.  

Time to follow through

Once you’ve been through everything, throw out that bin box (in the outside bin preferably), put the ‘charity shop’ box in the boot of your car, the ‘storage’ box in the loft and the ‘eBay’ box somewhere safely away from the kids, to list another day. You should now be left with a much smaller pile of toys that they actually love and want to play with. I’d say that deserves another glass of wine.  

Get smart with your storage

At this stage, I’d categorise the toys based on what they are and where you want them. I find that soft toys and fancy dress are most at home in their bedrooms, whereas cars, train tracks, Duplo/Lego, schleich-type animals and musical instruments are played with in the living room. Active toys (balls, frisbees, ride ons etc) should ideally live outside, or in a cupboard you can easily reach when going out, and those tiny, uncategorisable ones deserve a random little basket of their own. Maybe one of these beauties from Edit58? 

Whether you want to hide them away or keep them easily accessible, there are toy storage options for every home. We have some cube shelving in our living room, with rope baskets inside each hole and space on top for larger toys, like their Hape car garage. Upstairs we have the IKEA TROFAST, some vintage crates and H&M baskets for soft toys. If I can work out how to upload a little shopping guide before this post goes live, I’ll list a few of my other favourite options for every pocket, but don’t hold me to it, I’m still getting to grips with WordPress! 

Get on with the games and crafts

It’s pretty much the same process for games but if you’re like us, you’ll have a handful they haven’t quite grown into yet and are taking up valuable space, so why not put them in storage, then set a reminder on your phone to get them out in six months time? 

For crafts, it’s a bit trickier because I don’t think scraps of tissue paper or a plastic bag full of feathers is bringing anyone joy but this is all down to how you store it. Throw out any lid-less felt tips and dried up paint and for everything else, why not invest in a little locker (with a key, so only you can get into it) and some IKEA tupperware. This way you can separate the different supplies and don’t end up getting heart palpitations every time the kids suggest messy play. Having some order to this craft cupboard will definitely help to ease the art anxiety we all share to some degree.

Oh, and for their art in general, why not scan it (you can get great scanner apps for your phone now) and make yourself a photo book each year, rather than keeping all the originals? That’s been one of my lockdown jobs that I’m still very much ignoring but I’ll get there at some point! 

I’d love to hear how you get on with your big post-lockdown declutter. Comment below or tag ToyDrop in your social channels as you purge those pesky playthings and make way for more joy in your home.    

   

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