Josée in Ottawa

Decluttering the Toy Bin – Part 1: Toy Toss


Battlefield by Ernst Vikne (Flickr Creative Commons)

Battlefield by Ernst Vikne (Flickr Creative Commons)

The first thing that has to get tossed when you’re thinking about decluttering toys is the GUILT! I know it’s hard to get rid of toys that…

  • cost an arm and a leg (hello giant wooden doll house that Santa brought last year, but that has been played with approximately twice)
  • are handmade (we had a wooden doll cradle, which has been played with even less than the aforementioned giant doll house)
  • are educational (“But if they ever do play with it, it will make them smarter – it’s guaranteed!!”)
  • are gifts (“Grandma payed good money for that fisher price garage, she’d be upset if we got rid of it…”)


…but they are taking up space and cluttering up your house, and if the kids don’t play with them- they can go!

After much research and a month of stealth decluttering (my kids still haven’t noticed – there will be hell to pay when they learn to read and find this blog), here are my tips for getting rid of the toys:

  • My kids are 3-1/2 and 6. At first I tried asking them which toys they wanted to donate to children who aren’t as lucky as they are. They each happily donated toys that belonged to their brother or sister and then both had meltdowns. I don’t recommend this approach, at least if your kids are like mine. 🙂 So make plans to cull the toys when they’re out of the house or safely asleep.
  • For simplicity, I’m using the word toss to mean donate or trash. The first thing you want to do is set up an area where you will hide the toys that will be donated. Put aside a few opaque bins or bags in a little-used area of the basement where you can store them until you can donate them. Better yet, make plans to drop them off at Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or at Value Village the same day you go through them, if possible. That gives you less time to change your mind. 🙂 Make sure you have a good supply of large garbage bags for the toys that will be trashed.


Start off easy:

  • I recommend that you blitz through the toys on your first try. If you’re undecided about tossing a particular toy, put it back for now.
  • Some toys are easy to toss; if you start with those you can generate some good momentum. For example, B.G. had approximately fifteen small plastic brushes (the kind that come with My Little Ponies and Barbies.) Fourteen got tossed, one got saved. If you have duplicates, be ruthless and keep only one.
  • Toss any toys and books that are no longer age appropriate; toys that are damaged or broken; colouring books that have almost no blank pages left; markers without caps, crayon stubs, and any books that smell funny.


Then it gets harder. But don’t give up!

  • Go through the toys again. You may be surprised to find that you’re now ready to toss some of the toys you were unsure about on the first go-round. Go for it!
  • If you’re waffling about a toy, pack it up in a box and write the date on it. Then hide it. (I have a deep shelf in my bedroom closet where I hide these toys.) This way, if your kids realize it’s missing and ask about it, you still have it. If after a set period of time (a month or two, at the most) they still haven’t realized it’s missing, donate the box without opening it. This method alleviates some of the worry that you’ll find yourself in hot water with your child after tossing a particular toy. I repeat: DO NOT OPEN THE BOX.
  • Most of us adjust the size of our toy storage to the amount of toys the kids have. In my opinion this method is kind of crazy, because the pile of toys will just keep growing and our storage needs will never end. Instead, decide how much storage is reasonable and appropriate for your kids. Then decide that whatever won’t fit has to go. I decided that one Ikea storage bin and one armoire were plenty for the toyroom, plus they get three small bins for toys in our living room. Once you have set a reasonable space limitation, it becomes much easier to justify tossing more toys.


For those toys that you just can’t bring yourself to toss:

  • Get buy-in – literally! B.G. had an Easy Bake Oven that she would sporadically ask to play with. However it’s so child-proof that it’s really no fun (it make dime-sized cupcakes) but not so completely child-proof that I’ll let her use it unsupervised. So I explained to her that if she wanted to sell it, she could keep the money. So far the Easy Bake Oven and the wooden cradle mentioned above have been sold, and the gigantic doll house is next on the list. I figured that if I could sell these items it was only fair that she should keep the profits. However, keeping her from buying even more stuff is a bit of a struggle…


The final step of this whole process is repeat, repeat, repeat!

Part 2 coming soon – How to keep the toy clutter at bay, even with Christmas just around the corner.

2 thoughts on “Decluttering the Toy Bin – Part 1: Toy Toss

  1. I admit that the major thing that holds me back is the fear that my kids will ask for something and be upset that it is gone. And yet, that has never actually happened. I really need to do a cleanout before Christmas – I’m sure we will be adding about 40 more bins of Lego!

    Do you have any “keepsake” type toys you are hanging on to as heirlooms? Right now we have a big box of Thomas trains in the basement – a massive, massive investment, and also the kind of thing we could see the grandkids playing with at our house, so we are storing it for now. Ditto to a big set of Fisher Price Little People and about a million books that I just cannot seem to part with. What do you think – worth it, or no?

  2. I can’t say that I have any keepsake toys, I honestly don’t think it would have occurred to me to keep any. The Thomas trains I can see, I guess, but I wouldn’t bother keeping the Little People, I bet they will be plentiful at yard sales for years and years to come, easily replaced. As for books… I have to admit books are my achilles heel. I have a hard time letting go unless the kids have clearly outgrown them. I’d suggest maybe keeping only 5 or 10, the ones that have the most significance to you and the kids? I know my mom kept boxes full of my books, and when she decided to give them to me I went through them and ended up getting rid of pretty much all of them. But I really am not sentimental in the least…. I think that in the end, if letting something go makes you sad or upset, then keep it. It’s really about keeping only what is necessary and what matters to you, it’s not about having no things at all…

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