Many parents feel anxiety at the prospect of adding a pile of Christmas gifts into a home that's already crowded with too many toys. Whether it's a storage issue or it's time to toss toys that no longer get played with, here are seven decluttering strategies to try during the month of December.
1. Use Bins Wisely
While plastic storage bins are a great solution for playroom chaos, it can often be difficult for kids to find the toys they want to play with if small items fall to the bottom of large bins. Instead, Parents magazine suggests using shallow bins for small toys like Legos, larger containers for big trucks, and medium-size catch-alls for toys in between.
2. Purge Regularly
Rather than taking up time and space to store toys that no longer get played with, remove the "low-hanging fruit" from your home on a regular schedule. That means that toys that are broken, missing pieces, or have little life left in them should get discarded. Items that no longer get played with but are relatively new can get donated to a non-profit organization--some will even pick up unwanted toys at your home.
3. Find a Home for Everything
Clean-up time can be frustrating for kids and parents alike if items don't have designated "homes." Every item in your house should belong in a specific space, and get put back there every time it's used. If there isn't room for something, consider putting it in local self storage for the time being and "rotating" toys each month or season. Not only will this divide the number of toys kicking around, it will help your kids appreciate the ones they have a lot more.
4. Create Special Activity Spaces
If your kids seem to have endless toys with tiny pieces, try creating a designated space for play with items like Legos and art supplies. That way, each child has a place to keep projects in progress without the pieces getting disturbed or contributing to the clutter. What's more, this type of arrangement can help teach them to value their belongings.
5. Focus on Other Activities
When kids spend a lot of time on screens, they are exposed to endless commercials about the latest buzzworthy toy of the month. Teach them value experiences above belongings by swapping out the birthday party with a dozen gifts for a day spent at the local dude ranch, for example. If you have gracious relatives who ask for gift suggestions for your kiddos, consider "subscription" or experience gifts, such as spending a special day together. Your toy load will decrease, and your kids will have precious memories of spending one-on-one time with grandparents and loved ones.
6. Develop a System
Some moms swear by this simple method, in which you first decide on a narrow category to declutter ("cars" or "puzzles," for example. Bring all items in that category together, ideally on a large patch of floor, and one by one, select items to discard, pass along, or keep. Commit yourself to decluttering one category a week and soon your home will be streamlined, allowing your kids to enjoy their existing toys more.
7. Limit Space
It's OK to place limits on the number of toys that come into your home in the first place. Designate specific areas for toys--a toybox and a set of shelves for each child, for example--and weed out any items beyond those that can be safely stored. If you have the space in a garage or basement, you can temporarily store the extra toys and see how long it takes your child to ask for those that are missing.
Because building up clutter can take years, it's not realistic to expect to clear it all in a single day. Instead, make these habits a part of your regular routine. Then you’ll be sure to have a manageable amount of toys your kids value all year round!