the minimaList: the joys of toys

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At one point, we had a lot of toys.  With two kids, a small space and a lot of very generous family members and friends, it was easy for things to get overwhelming pretty quickly in the toy department.  I think the kids were pretty overwhelmed with all of the toy clutter too.

"But I only have two hands, Mom!"

Most of the toys in the above picture no longer live in our home.  The kids didn’t question the toys leaving the house, and they haven’t asked for a single toy since they all left.  It was a slow process which began with getting rid of toys that had been outgrown, and continued on to toys that were unloved or just didn’t get played with very often (or at all).  Next on the chopping block were toys that had a million pieces – these always ended up getting dumped out of a basket and onto the floor, and then left there for me to pick up.  I’ll admit to wanting those gone more than the kids did, mostly because I was always the one who ended up picking up all the tiny pieces that had been left all over the floor and rolled under the couch.  Finally, it was the toys that were liked by the kids well enough but were just so loud and obnoxious that I couldn’t handle keeping them in our tiny home.

How do you go about paring down the kids’ toys when they seem to love everything equally? Here’s what worked for us:

  1. Decide if your child has too much.  First, you need to get all of the toys they own together and decide if there is altogether too much for one child (or more) to take advantage of.  If you have so many toys that the majority of them are “out of rotation” at any given moment, then you might have too much.
  2. Sort the toys into categories, and decide which categories are important to keep.  We kept crafts (which includes paper, crayons and paints), a small tub of kitchen toys, some Playmobil, and a tub of Lego.  This, for us, is a manageable amount of toys.
  3. Purge entire categories if necessary.  We got rid of a huge collection of Hot Wheels cars, as well as a large wooden train set.  As much as I loved some of the toys we got rid of, if kids are more interested in dumping the lot onto the floor than actually playing with the toys once they are there, it’s a big sign that they aren’t really that into the toys themselves or they’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toys.
  4. Try to sell or donate rather than toss.  We’ve had a lot of success selling our unwanted toys on craiglist.  Find out of there is an online marketplace in your area that will make the process simple, or consider buying a table at a kids swap meet to try to get some money for some of those unwanted toys. Another fun thing to consider is donating the toys, either to an organization that can appropriate them to children in need or to someone in your community.  I’ve donated toys to Gordon Neighborhood House, as well as just posting items for free on our local craiglist.
  5. Purge anything broken or unloved.  Broken toys can be a choking hazard, especially for little ones.  If a toy is of poor quality and is broken beyond repair, I would lean towards tossing it in the trash.  Research the possibility that any broken toys can be recycled, rather than thrown away.
  6. Re-gifting is a form of recycling.  If you have no room for a gift your child has received, consider passing it on at the next birthday party or other gift-giving event.
Finally, I’ve had to curb my own enthusiasm too when it comes to buying toys for my kids. Although most toys we’ve owned were received as birthday or Christmas gifts, I will own up to the fact that I did purchase some of the toys myself.  Before we entered the toy purging phase, I leaned towards buying toys that were well-made or that were expensive.  One of the hardest lessons I learned about buying things for my kids is that just because a toy is expensive does not mean my kid will like it or even play with it.  Now I get to save my money and my sanity – not spending money on toys also translates into not spending any additional time picking up those toys lying all over the floor.

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