Outside of the kitchen, the question of how to declutter toys is one of the most asked that I receive. Whether in my Facebook group, from friends, or in my inbox – every parent seems to struggle with their kids' toys. Myself included! But – there is a way to manage the chaos and minimize the mess, and you can bet it will help with the stress! Let's declutter some toys!
Benefits of Decluttering Toys
I get that most, if not all, of the toys your children have, were received as gifts. Your great-grandma bought that, and this one was from their cousin. If it is truly a toy and not a handmade keepsake, I assure you that the person who gifted it is OK with you getting rid of the toy when your child outgrows it. I mean – would you be offended if your nephew got rid of the big T-Rex toy you gave him on his third birthday? Yeah – I didn't so.
Do not let the stress of hurting someone's feelings potentially stop you from purging the toys. We aren't talking about going around the room like a tornado, bagging up and tossing out toys. Instead, we will work through the toys methodically and efficiently. But first, let's cover some of the benefits associated with decluttering toys:
When I worked on decluttering toys before Christmas with my friend Natalie, we worked our butts off! We had 4.5 hours to work – and an entire basement to go through. However, we hunkered down in true Boot Camp Mom Fashion and tackled the chaos! When the kiddos got home, she sent me videos of them running around the newly decluttered basement, enjoying the space we had created.
I'm so glad we didn't stop the project when we were tired and running out of time. The look of joy that those kids had on their faces will forever be one of my favorite memories! Do that for your kids, too. You won't regret creating space for them to be themselves and grow!
Donating toys is beneficial not only for your home but also for your heart. Any new toys or gently used toys can be donated to some amazing charities that help kids throughout the year. Here are some good options to consider when donating toys:
- Family – Consider donating to friends and family whose kids are younger than yours. 90% of our toys go to my cousin since she has littler kids than mine. Helps me – helps her – it's a win-win!
- Charity – Many charity options are available these days to donate used toys in good condition. I recommend asking around in a local social media group to see if there are any smaller charities in your area that you would like to help. Here are some of the bigger options available in more regions:
- Goodwill – Goodwill is a nationally recognized charity that will take items and sell them at its stores for a discounted price. While they are easily findable, and you can get a receipt for your donation, they make an extreme profit from your donations. However, if you want to move stuff quickly, they are an easy choice.
- Salvation Army – The Salvation Army is another nationally known charity that will take toys as a donation. Again, they will sell these items for a discount in their local thrift stores.
- Toys for Tots – Toys for Tots is a kid-focused charity run by the U.S. Marine Corps. They collect gifts year-round to donate to children in their community. They also have an online application for families needing children's toys.
- Local Safe Houses – Local safe houses are places where women and children can seek anonymous help for domestic violence. The mother and child are given a safe place to regroup and a secure location if anyone is looking for them. You can use this link to find local domestic violence resources. Give them a call and see if they could use your donation!
Find Lost Toys or Broken Pieces
As parents, we have all experienced the ultimate freakout of a lost toy or a piece of a toy. We dig, move, and toss everything and cannot find it. Guess what – when you declutter toys the right way, you'll find all those lost toys. We found so many when going through Natalie's house. Think of it as a little treasure hunt!
While you may be really good at kicking toys out of your way when you run the vacuum cleaner, I can assure you that your sideboards are not clean. Piling toys in endless piles prevents you from getting your home completely clean. These are facts. By decluttering, you can wipe down those unseen areas and get all the dust and pet hair up. It's a double-whammy!
Make Some Extra Money
If you sell some of the toys as you declutter, you can put a little extra money in your pocket. I always start with listing items for sale in local groups I am in on Facebook. You'll want to ensure that you follow any rules the admins have in place for listing items for sale. Facebook is not the only way to sell items online locally; you can use several apps to help!
How to Declutter Kids' Toys
Now that we've covered the benefits of decluttering your kid's toys let's focus on the process. If you've been a follower of Boot Camp Mom for a while, you know that my method for decluttering is the same in all home areas. There are a few tips and tricks or unique things to consider, but the process can be rinsed and repeated throughout your home. Here is how I recommend that you declutter the toys, as referenced in the Toy Organization Boot Camp, is:
Before starting your decluttering journey, you must complete some prep work. We always want to be prepared before beginning a project to avoid unnecessary delays.
- Block out time – You cannot declutter your children's toys in 10-15 minutes a day. Well, you can, but it is much more beneficial to tackle the task all at once. So, before beginning, block out a 2-5 hour window to get your home back in shape.
- Plan out the room – While you wait for your blocked-out time, go ahead and map out how you want the room to be. Check out all the big toys and storage items to see what you want to keep or toss and decide what can be repurposed. If there are other storage items you want to use where the toys are, go ahead and grab them so you're ready to roll.
- Grab your supplies – Go ahead and gather the following items to be used during your toy decluttering:
When decluttering toys, I recommend starting with loose toys on the floor. If your home is like mine, your kids are good at leaving toys out in a trail through the house. Use one of your boxes and gather all of them up. We want to make a giant pile of all the loose toys for sorting.
At this point, you can choose your own adventure in a way. Either sit down and start sorting the pile of toys by type, or you can start in the corner of the room and go through those items first. Both ways work – it more depends on if you want to sort their most played-with toys (the giant pile) or clear out room with their less played-with toys (the ones “stored” around the room). I'll go through both processes, and each should be completed one after the other:
Sorting the Pile of Toys
I always sort toys by type rather than set. This allows you to combine like toys together and store them more efficiently and logically. For instance, rather than keeping a set of Paw Patrol and a set of Bluey separate, I would put those character sets in one pile as “characters.”
As you start to make piles, you will likely notice that some stacks can be combined. Go ahead and combine what makes sense. Don't forget to create a pile for “sets” and another for “toss.” As you find items for a particular set that you know is in another room, you can go ahead and keep those separate for later. Same with things that you know you are going to get rid of.
After you have completed your sorting, you will want to store these items together. If you choose this step first, you can leave the piles as is and then store them with like items as you complete the room's exterior. If you pick this step second, you can add these to the already decluttered storage options and make room where needed.
Start in a Corner
If you don't want to start sorting the pile, then you need to pick a corner. Any corner of the room and start there. Your goal is to take all the toys out, ensuring that you touch every toy and sort as needed. For instance, if you have cubbies, you will need to dump each and every bin, sort the toys, and put back what makes sense. If your bins and storage options are a jumbled mess, you can start making piles of types of toys, as mentioned above.
Do not just move toys or take a peek at what's in a bin. Dump them, sort them, and ask yourself if your child still plays with them. If you find game pieces or items you know belong to a particular set, set them aside. As you find the other parts of the set you can combine them. This will also help you decide what to keep or toss because we are not keeping any incomplete or broken toys.
Continue working along the room, going through all the toys until you make it around the perimeter. When you've completed the exterior and sorted the pile in the middle of the floor, it's time to store the items you deemed as keepers.
Keep or Toss
Whether your kids are helping you or if you blocked out time to work solo, keep or toss is a great game. If there are items that you know you will be getting rid of during the sorting and exterior steps, go ahead and put them in a donate, sell, or trash pile. I also recommend starting a maybe pile.
Ask yourself or your kiddos if the toys should be kept or tossed before being put in a storage bin. You'd be surprised how many your kids will deem as tossable when you play this game. Don't give them a lot of time to think; rather, try to play the game in a rapid-fire manner. If your child can't decide on an item, put it in the maybe pile. Tell them you will decide later. If you are working solo, put the items in the maybe pile and then store that box out of sight but easily accessible for a few weeks to see if your kids ask for them.
If they don't ask, go ahead and sell, donate, or trash those items. While they may ask for them later, you can always play dumb or ask for forgiveness later.
What Toys to Keep
When considering what toys to keep while decluttering, I always look at the following:
- Is it Broken? We do not keep any broken toys in our house. I told the boys at a very young age to play gently and be respectful of their toys; if they break, they are gone. There have been some exceptions that I'll try to fix, but for the most part, we toss them as soon as they break. Do not keep broken toys when decluttering!
- Is it Missing Pieces? Don't only consider board games and puzzles as missing pieces. If there is a set of toys you can not find the missing character to, you shouldn't keep the set. Also, don't try to sell items that you know are missing toys.
- Is it Age Appropriate? Your kids are growing. And, while they might occasionally bring out an item they've had for a couple of years, the truth is that toys are made for specific age groups. If your child has outgrown a toy, explain that to them, and go ahead and get rid of them.
- Does it have Sentimental Value? Obviously, if your child has a toy that you have fond memories of them playing with or a stuffie that they have always loved, you do not need to part with it. Other items that you should consider keeping are toy collections, DIY projects, items for pretend play, toys good for the brain, and their absolute favorite toys.
When you have sorted the toys and stored what you are keeping, it's time to clean up the toys. I recommend starting with oversized items. Think desks, cubbies, playhouses, etc. If you donate or sell the item, take them to the garage for easy access. If you are tossing them, go ahead and set them on the curb with your next trash pickup.
For all of those tiny pieces or sets that you don't have a dedicated space for, use the Ziploc baggies to contain them and make them easier to store. I have a small bin in our hallway closet that holds all of the boys' card games, each stored in a Ziploc bag.
Lastly, run your vacuum and enjoy that space!
While the process of decluttering toys can seem daunting, it's really not. When figuring out how to declutter toys, simply break the process into bite-sized pieces, but not over several days, and you will conquer the toy chaos. Start with the prep work, focus on the decluttering, and finally, feel good about your kids' toy situation. You can do this! If you need more inspiration, join the Declutter and Organize with the Boot Camp Mom Facebook group, where I host monthly challenges to get your home back in shape! Also, check out our new blog post on how to organize kids toys!
Need a checklist to get you started?! Download the Decluttering Toys Checklist from our Resource Library today!