The following is a guest post by Marci Lambert of Make Art Everyday. Marci is a stay at home mom with a part time photography business. If you enjoy this post, consider subscribing to her blog’s RSS feed.
About twice a year at my house, we have a toy purge. It is not optional. My two girls (ages 7 and 5) have large extended families and are blessed with an abundance of stuff. Even though we don’t buy our kids a lot of toys, they somehow seem to multiply as the year goes on. Between summer birthdays and Christmas, we could easily get lost in toy clutter in our small house if we weren’t on top of it.
We take all the toys from throughout the house and put them in the den (where we have room to sort things out). From there, we sort into like piles: Barbies, stuffed animals, puzzles, games, etc. Then we begin to tackle each pile and ask the girls if they want to “keep” or “give away” each thing. The giveaway stuff goes into bags or boxes. Some things are kept for a yard sale; others are taken to Goodwill. And a few things end up in the trash.
My husband and I started this tradition when our first daughter was about two years old. We told her she could keep anything she loved but she should give away anything she didn’t so someone else could love it. She surprised us by giving away a fair amount of stuff. When her little sister was old enough to express opinions, we let her join the party. But you can also start with older kids. Once they’ve been through it a few times, they’ll see that you mean business.
Our main rule is to keep what you love. I don’t want them to feel like I’m going to throw out all their toys. But I also want to impress upon them that they can make someone else happy with toys they don’t play with anymore. Sometimes we set limits on how many they can keep, like with stuffed animals (is there anyone who doesn’t have too many of these?). The last time we did this, I pulled out the dress-up clothes and had them narrow down to their four favorite purses and four favorite hats (among other items). Because they are used to this process, the choices were easy and now they have a manageable collection of dress-up clothes.
You may need to tackle some categories on your own.
While my husband helped the girls go through the piles, I worked on the art supplies. Basically, I went through all the supplies and threw out old paint, filled-to-the-covers coloring books and broken crayons. One part I saved for them was to test all the markers. I set them up with paper and while my husband and I boxed up the giveaways, they put the good markers in a box and tossed the bad ones. It made them feel important to have that job.
When we do our toy purges, we start right after breakfast on a weekend. And it is not unusual for it to take all day to go through everything and then put the keepers back in the playroom. The upside is that we have a clean playroom and the kids can actually see what they have to play with (instead of baskets of stuff that never gets touched).
Toy purging is a big job, but it does get easier with time and experience. If your house feels like a toy store threw up in it, it may be time to do your own purge. With help from the kids, of course.
A note from Lynnae: I do this with my own children, and it works really well. How about you? Do you do regular toy purges with your children?
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