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How to declutter toys with the KonMari method

Toys. Parents all over world can be heard making a collective groan at the mere mention of the word. They invade our homes before our children have even exited the womb and effortlessly multiply before our very eyes.

I was able to keep the toy situation somewhat under control when we only had one child, but once we had our second, I started to feel like the toys were overwhelming us. I’ve read that the average American child has more than 150 toys. We must have them, but why must we have so many of them?

I always actively managed our toys to ensure they didn’t completely take over our lives. I regularly purged toys, passed down items to friends and family and developed a toy rotation system to store excess toys when not in use. I considered myself a toy minimalist and compared to all of my friends and family, we had fewer toys that most. But still, every night, one of my must-do chores was to clean up all of the toys. It was frustrating and exhausting having to repeat this chore every day, multiple times a day.

PracticallyHippie

 

When I discovered “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I knew it was going to solve my toy problems. Just a warning for those who haven’t read the book yet, the author Marie Kondo very obviously has no children. There is one mention of toys in the book where she declares that all of a child’s belongings should be stored in his room.

Although I consider myself a KonMari purist and followed the instructions in the book exactly, the author’s lack of familiarity with children is reason enough for me to adapt this one bit of advice to better suit my needs. Storing all of a child’s belongings in one place sounds great in theory, but at least in my house, that’s not going to happen. Kids come with a lot of baggage and just about every room in the house has some bit of child-focused paraphernalia. I’m not sure how I would get a shower without having my little stash of play things in the master bedroom.

The basis of KonMari is to ask the simple question, “Does this spark joy?” If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it and release it. While I’m sure this could be done with toys, I felt like we needed a little more direction since we were working as a collaborative team of a 30 year old, a 3 year old and an 11 month old. I suspected that our joy meters might veer apart on a few items so we set a few ground rules loosely based on another favorite book “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier Kids.”

Before beginning to declutter toys, we agreed on a list of non-negotionable items to discard:

  • broken toys
  • duplicate toys
  • unsafe toys
  • loud toys
  • toys that aren’t age appropriate

Joytoys

I wanted to make sure that we ended up with:

  • open-ended toys that inspire imaginative play
  • toys that are healthy for the planet and our family
  • toys that spark joy for the whole famiy

Once we set the ground rules, we gathered all of the toys from around the house and piled them on the living room rug. The process of gathering the toys took a whole day because we had toys in the kids’ room our playroom, the living room, the bathrooms, in storage closets and the garage. We did not begin until every single toy in the house that could be easily moved was brought into the room.

before

We decluttered the toys in subcategories:

  • small toys
  • puzzles
  • games (board games, card, games, activities)
  • toy sets (Little People sets, LEGO sets, block sets)
  • outdoor toys (shovels, buckets, bubbles, bikes)
  • stuffed animals
  • large toys (doll stroller, jumperoo, baby walker, play kitchen)

Our ground rules helped guide the process along quite smoothly. When we picked up each item, if I knew it did not meet the criteria to stay, I helped my daughter understand why by saying something like, “We have a Little People barn set and a Little People doll house, but the rule was that we can only keep one toy of each type. What should we do?”

Just in case my daughter decided that all of her small toys sparked joy, I designated a storage crate for each of us and set a rule that we couldn’t keep more than what could fit in the box. By having a bin for each of us to fill, my daughter and I both felt in control of the sorting.

If I was decluttering the toys by myself, I would have discarded all of the toys with any plastic, batteries, characters, or a million little pieces. I respect my daughter’s opinion and feelings though so a few of these types of toys definitely made it into her keep box. We have some beautiful, classic toys that I want my children to love and it was necessary to have veto power when my daughter chose to discard something that I wanted to keep. Instead of a battle over a toy, I simply said that it sparked joy for me and put it in my crate.

There is one category of toys that I did not argue with, even if it broke the rules- beloved toys. Simplicity Parenting considers beloved toys as a category of its own and an important one to acknowledge and keep. These are the toys that revered, honored and played with day in and day out for months or even years. For my three year old, her beloved toys include a pink stuffed bear, a stuffed worm, and a Caboodle-type storage case. My baby boy’s beloved toy is a pink, obnoxiously loud guitar. His face lights up when he sees it, he dances to the beat of the songs, and I am sure it brings him joy so it was an automatic keeper.

after

In a perfect world, we would have discarded much, much more. In reality, I was pretty happy with what we were left with and felt it was a more manageable amount for the whole family to enjoy.

Next up, I’ll share how we store and rotate our toys so that there are only enough toys out that can be cleaned up in five minutes. Have you decluttered your child’s toys? I’d love to hear your tips or success story!

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  • Jay Dome

    I have older children (boys 9 and 6) and I did much the same as you. I felt strongly that it would not be possible for me to know what is important/joy sparking for them. I’m sure my mother wouldn’t know what toys I still remember from my own childhood!
    I did the ‘box each’ to fill and they decided they would keep all the logo they had. I purchased (second hand) a set of shelves to display their logo once it is made so they didn’t have to dismantle it to put it away each time.
    They share a room and can still clean up pretty quickly now 🙂

  • Amy Linton

    Love this!! Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the toy rotation post.

  • Shelby Roberts

    I just konmaried toys. It was so hard but when finished I realized we realy didn’t have many quality ones. Most were plastics things that were missing half their parts. The one thing we did have and I kept are wood kitchen items. I made three bins. One is out now two are in her closet. I’ll switch them out occasionally so she has new ingredients but other then that she has about 5 stuffed animals (too many IMO) and six other toys besides her kitchen.

  • This is such a helpful post! I think it’s gotten easier as my girls have gotten older–far fewer toys are coming in. 🙂

    • admin

      oh, something to look forward to!

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  • Kristy Manning

    I just finished the Marie Kondo book and wondered about my kids’ toys. I have a two year old and a 9 month old, so I wasn’t sure how to organize their items. We’re moving to a new house so it forces me to really look at what we should keep, donate, or throw away. Thank you for your post! It will definitely help me with my little ones’ playroom a more enjoyable place!

  • I’ve been KonMari-ing my house too and stumbled big time on my daughters stuff, so when I saw this on Pinterest I clicked immediately! I let out a sigh of relief when I read that our methods were quite similar. I love the idea of the two crates though, that’s brilliant and I will use it next time. Thanks for the thorough post, much appreciated!

  • Laura N.

    One of the problems I have after deciding which ones go, is how to get rid of it. Do I sell it, if so in garage sale to a resale place, etc. Do I donate it? There is so much effort in getting rid of toys without feeling wasteful or guilty. Any guidance would be much appreciated.

    • admin

      Hi Laura- The KonMari method calls for us to get rid of our excess items quickly. When I was going through the bulk of my tidying, I gave myself a deadline and had a garage sale. Everything that wasn’t sold at the garage sale was immediately taken to be donated. Now, I usually give myself two weeks to sell something and if it doesn’t sell I give it to a friend who could appreciate it (I ask first as not to burden them!) or donate it right away. It is a tough struggle, but once the decision has been made to get rid of something, I want it out of my life ASAP.

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