“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

As parents, one of the simplest pleasures in life is seeing our children happy.

Seeing that smile on their face on Christmas morning when they see the gifts under the tree. The joy in their eyes as they rip open their birthday presents. The happiness in their voice as they realize you got them that toy they have been asking for for months.

But, what if I told you that having less toys will actually make them happier? Hear me out on this one.

I am 100% guilty of being that parent who knows they have an overabundance of toys at home but still picks up that one stuffed animal at Target, when we were there for groceries, because I knew my daughter would be so excited.

And guess what inevitably happens, every single time?

She plays or sleeps with that toy for a few days and then it finds itself on a shelf or in a closet until we do our next big toy purge and she remembers that she even has it. Sound familiar??

But something magical happened as we started embracing minimalism and decluttering our home, including her toys: my daughter started playing with her toys more than she had in years.

Why? Because she wasn’t overwhelmed anymore with her choices. Because we only keep toys that she truly wants and that she actually plays with. Because before, she couldn’t even find half of the toys she really wanted to use because they were buried beneath a pile of toys that she hasn’t touched since she got them.

Now, decluttering her toys is definitely a work in progress and we are nowhere near where we would like to be in the process. We have had some very tough moments with her and she has had a difficult time getting rid of things at times. And that’s okay. 

Decluttering toys can be complicated and emotional for little feelings.

These five steps that I am going to share with you have made decluttering toys much easier and way less stressful, on both her and me. Let’s get started!

1. Spend some time talking and including the kids before getting started.

Before you do anything, come up with a plan and discuss what you are doing with the kids. Although I knew what I wanted to get done, they are my daughter’s toys and I wanted to include her in the decluttering process.

One thing I made sure I did was explain to her that there so many kids out there who don’t have as much as she does and that we were going to give the toys she no longer plays with to them. When I talked about this with her, she warmed up to the idea. She began to understand that we weren’t just throwing all her toys away or punishing her, but rather that we would keep what she did use and let other kids have what she didn’t.

If at all possible, let them have a voice and be a part of what happens with their toys.

2. Pick one category of toys.

At first, we just pulled all of the toys out of her room but we quickly realized that it would be too overwhelming. Pick one category of toys, such as puzzles or Legos, and start there. Even if you only get one category done a day, it won’t feel as daunting or overwhelming for the little ones.

3. Take all of the toys out into the middle of the room.

Once you have decided what toys you are going to work on, grab all of them and put them in the middle of the room. It doesn’t matter what room as long as there is enough room to see all of the toys. Spread them all out and evaluate how much you actually have. (This part was horrifying! I had no idea just how much we had!)

4. Make 3 piles: keep, donate, special.

Separate the toys into three piles. One pile will be the ones that you are going to keep in your house. Another pile will be the toys that will get donated. The third pile will be toys that are sentimental or meaningful and will either be put in storage or a special place in the house but won’t be played with.

5. Immediately organize toys you are keeping & get rid of toys you are not keeping.

As soon as you have gone through and made your three piles, immediately organize and put away the toys you are keeping, take out the toys you are donating and put in a box or container the toys that are going in a special place.

Doing this lessens the chance that your children will change their minds and all of a sudden become attached to something or multiple items. I have found that it also feels good, for all of us, when it is done and all cleaned up. Let them help you organize the toys and decide where they will go. Take them with you to the donation bin or a local shelter so they can see where the toys are going.

During this process, it is so important to have an open mind and let your kids take their time. You may not agree with their decisions and that’s okay. Let them decide and then revisit the toy at a later time. Try not to pressure them into getting rid of anything.

There is not right or wrong way to declutter!