Many parents approach the holiday season with a mixture of joy and dread. Joy because, hey, it’s Christmas and we like to eat cookies and listen to Bing Crosby. Dread because, among other reasons, many parents who are losing the war on clutter in their home have to contend with a bombardment of new toys filling what little space they had left. It can make even the most anti-clutter parent (that might be me) feel a little overwhelmed and powerless (especially since I also have to contend with the presents from my son’s December birthday — yikes!)
So what can you as a parent do to stay on top of the Toy Bombardment? The simple answer is to go through the toys and get rid of roughly the same amount you know they will be receiving for Christmas. That means if you know they will be receiving 10 presents for Christmas, you help your child get rid of 10 presents before Christmas. Most children will initially protest this, but explaining to them that they need to get rid of some of the old toys to make room for all of the new toys Santa will be bringing is enough to convince them to part with some.
I give this advice at the moms’ groups I speak at, and each time one or two moms raise their hands to tell me there is no way their child will willingly part with their toys, so what can they do? Well, it depends on how old the kids are.
If the kids are between the ages of 0-4, maybe even 5, pay attention for about a week to what toys the kids are playing with or not playing with. Then when they are in preschool or asleep, get rid of whatever you know they are not playing with. Do NOT involve them in the sorting process because most kids at that age cannot make those kinds of tough decisions. Do it in the night and be done with it.
For kids 5 or older, you really shouldn’t sneak the toys off in the middle of the night. For starters, it is possible they will notice what is gone! Also, you want to start teaching kids the valuable lessons of setting limits on how much stuff they can own as well as how to do a sort/purge of their space. To this end, you could entice them to sort through their stuff by offering to host a garage sale in the summer and letting them keep the proceeds from anything that sells. If they can’t wait that long, offer to sell the unwanted toys as a bundle on Craigslist. At least here in Portland Craigslist has become a popular venue for finding good quality, used toys around the holidays.
You could also pay your children a dime for every toy they get rid of. Yup, that’s bribery. No, I don’t have a problem with that so long as you are not bribing them to do anything and everything around the house. Along similar lines, you could make a deal with your child that if he gets rid of X-amount of toys, you will buy him the new toy he has had his eye on.
Another tactic is to make the toy discarding a contest between siblings to see who can get rid of the most toys. Sometimes bragging rights can be a big motivator.
Older children may be motivated by explaining to them that donating toys to a shelter allows less fortunate children to be able to play with nice toys. You can also try donating the toys to a church nursery, daycare center or preschool. Be sure to call first to make sure those places will accept used toys!
Bottomline: If you are dreading Christmas because of the toy avalanche, taking the time before Christmas to pare down the toy collection could bring back a little joy into the holiday for you. Let me know how it goes or if you have dealt with the holiday toy avalanche in other ways. I always love to hear other toy management ideas!
Image courtesy of Flickr.