Dealing With Kid Clutter Through Toy Rotation
In case you didn’t know it, kids accumulate stuff like nobody’s business. Kids’ meal toys, gifts from the grandparents, birthdays, Christmas… the list goes on and on. They also spread said “stuff” from one end of the house to the other faster than you can blink, but that’s another story for another day. As much as I dread it, the pile of toys has to be dealt with.
Now, I’m not a neat person by any stretch of the imagination. I have “creative brain,” often leaving plenty of evidence of where I’ve been and every project on which I’m simultaneously working. I seriously doubt my skills and abilities in organizing anything, much less the massive undertaking that is my boy’s room.
But quite frankly, I have a clutter tipping point. Seeing piles upon piles of toys strewn everywhere, wading through legos to help them find their shoes, clothes being “lost” frequently in the mess – I just can’t take the chaos. There’s no method to the madness, and it makes me crazy.
One of my main resistances to tackling the kid’s mess was this idea I had built up of all the whining and complaining I would hear from the boys. I’ve found this funny phenomenon, though – the more toys they have in their room, the less they can find to play with. I’m convinced the sheer volume of things in their room overwhelms them from being able to see individual things.
Something had to give.
Our Kid Clutter Solution
To keep the toys (and the clutter stress!) from taking over, my kids help me go through their toys about once every 3-4 months. We’ve made a system that we all love – and they know what to expect now – so this process goes smoothly. Don’t tell them, but I think they actually look forward to it.
It’s like they are receiving brand new toys because they can actually see what is there and enjoy playing with them.
To begin the process, we touch everything in their room and divide each item into one of 4 piles; trash, share, save, and keep; and then act accordingly.
This one is pretty easy. I bring in a giant trash bag (or three!), and we trash all the things that are broken beyond repair and the literal trash that has accumulated with their stuff. Boys are so silly sometimes. If I don’t find at least one band-aid, three crumpled pieces of “art,” and a handful of used stickers that aren’t sticky anymore, then we haven’t dug in deep enough. The rule here is simple: If it’s no good to anybody, in the trash bag it goes.
Next up was the hardest to teach at first, but has become second nature to my boys now, and that makes my Mama heart happy. If a toy isn’t getting the love that it once was but is still in great useable condition, we will add it to the share pile. When we’re done going through everything, we load up these things in the car and immediately go to donate them.
The kids love knowing that they are giving to other kids who might not have any toys and that these new kiddos will be giving their “old toys” new life. In fact, I overheard them telling a friend he should do the same since he had so many toys. It’s a great lesson in the joy of giving!
As we’ve continued this practice and my boys have grown familiar with it, they will often mention on their own that they want to share a particular toy they have outgrown. It’s amazing to watch their compassion grow with this one simple practice that originated to keep their room clean.
A more seasoned mom shared with me the idea of toy rotation – basically putting a portion of new toys out of sight while the kids played with the other new toys, and then swapping them out as they were getting less creative with them.
As I began to put this into practice, I noticed that the toys don’t need to be new to start rotating them. If you put away a portion of the toys they enjoy playing with for a span of time, it’s just like brand new toys appear when they come out of the rotation!
This has been the biggest sanity saver for me – there’s no arguing or complaining when the kids are “losing” toys they love. They know they will come back. I’m able to reduce the clutter in their room without making them get rid of things they love.
We will randomly select some toys they still love and play with to swap out with some older favorites that have been waiting in a box in the garage. It’s like Christmas morning all over again as they re-discover these toys. This might be their very favorite part of cleaning out their room, because they know at the end, they will be opening up a box of toys that are new to them all over again. It also gives Mama the chance to rest after a busy day of digging through the piles in their room as they are happily entertained with the “new arrivals” until bedtime!
The last pile is certainly the smallest. We keep a few things they can’t bear to part with right now (hello, bazillion piece train set and legos), but as I mentioned before, most of the toys they will part with gleefully, knowing a batch of the “new-again” toys will be coming in.
As we put everything away, we make sure that everything in their room has a clear home, grouping together the things that are alike, or that get played with together. We have the cubby bins in the boys’ room, and I drew a picture of the kinds of toys that go in each bin to put on the front. This helps the boys during clean up time to know exactly where everything should go, so they can find it again when they’re ready to play with it!
Granted, it’s not a perfect system because there are imperfect people behind it, but it sure does help.
Once the toys outgrow the bins again, we’re past due for another clean out! We try to stay on top of the clutter and do this as the seasons change and right before birthdays/Christmas, but life happens. The boys often remind me that it’s time to clean out their room now, and I’m so thankful that we’ve found a system that helps them enjoy what they have more.
What about you? Have you tried toy rotation? What works for you?
Bio: Melissa Peduzzi is a recovering burnt-out homemaker who’s rediscovering purpose and joy in her calling. When she’s not wrangling the chaos as wife and mama to two boys, her heart is connecting with other mamas in the Mom Life By Design Facebook community group (link: http://www.facebook.com/groups/momlifebydesign) and through her site, momlifebydesign.com.