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What do you do when your child wants to keep everything?

by respaced on March 1, 2011

My work with moms as a professional organizer often takes me into children’s rooms and play areas. Often these rooms look like they were hit by a toy hurricane. It can seem like an overwhelming job to bring order back to these spaces, but the thing to remember is this: If you get rid of the excess, you can get rid of the mess.

In other words, the key to getting your children’s play spaces under control is to eliminate the toys they are not playing with anymore and keep only what you have room to store.

However, doing a toy sort with your children can be difficult because they are often reluctant to part with their toys, even if you know they are no longer played with. Here are some tips to make the toy sort go easier:

1. My favorite method for my preschool-age son is to sort through his toys the day before his birthday or Christmas. The next day he will get enough new toys that he won’t notice the toys that are missing.

2. For kids over the age of 5, entice them to sort their stuff by offering to host a garage sale and letting them keep the proceeds from any toys that sells.

3. Pay them a dime for every toy they get rid of.

4. Make it a contest between siblings to see who can fill up the most bags with giveaway toys.

5. Make them a deal that if they fill up, say, two boxes with castoffs, you will buy them the new toy they’ve had their eye on.

6. Older children may be motivated by explaining to them that donating toys to the Salvation Army allows less fortunate children to be able to afford nice toys. You can also try donating the toys to a church nursery or family shelter. Be sure to call first to make sure they will accept used toys!

7. When all else fails, put some toys in rotation. This means boxing up a percentage of your child’s toys and putting that box into storage for 3-6 months. After that time period, let the child have those toys in the box again, while you box up another set of toys for 3-6 months. The toys that were recently opened from the box will seem brand-new to your child, while you are minimizing the number of toys in the playroom.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne August 28, 2012 at 1:34 am

Thank you! I will try the money angle. My kids just can’t handle this emotionally. I can get them to the point of donating, but have to sneak out with the bags right away and then listen to their endless remorse! We have tried the rotation, but it only seems to add to the overall disorganization, because I can’t remember what’s been stowed and what’s been lost.


respaced September 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

That’s a tough situation you are in, Anne. Another approach that might work is to explain to the kids that they cannot have any new toys until they have gotten rid of x-amount of old toys. You might have to get tough here and tell them that even if they receive new toys as gifts, they cannot have them to play with until room has been made for them by getting rid of old toys. (This is the same tactic I encourage adults to use when they are dealing with their own over-stuffed clothes closets.) Then supervise the kids as they box up the toys to be donated to make sure they aren’t just hiding the old toys somewhere! When they start to feel remorse over their old toys, remind them how much they like their new toys and that this was a good choice they made. Let me know how it goes. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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