Less Toys, More Joy!
Updated: Jun 21, 2018
Most kids today have far too much stuff. Their rooms look like messy toy shops; floors, surfaces and shelves are strewn with dolls, construction kits, games and crafting activities. Overwhelmed, they mindlessly flit between different activities and can end up feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
There is a growing body of evidence that the old adage “Less Is More” is especially true when it comes to toys. Joshua Becker (Clutterfree With Kids) identifies several developmental benefits of kids having fewer toys:
Kids learn to be more creative, too many toys impede imagination.
Kids develop longer attention spans, lots of choice equals distraction.
Kids take better care of the possessions they have.
Kids develop a greater appreciation of reading, writing and art.
Kids become more resourceful and make do with what they have.
Kids argue with each other less as they must share toys more and collaborate.
Kids persevere to learn how to properly use and master their toys.
Kids experience more of nature as they are more likely to play outside.
Kids learn that true satisfaction comes from finding joy outside of our possessions.
Kids live in a cleaner, tidier, calmer home.
So what can you do to be more intentional, as a parent, and combat toy clutter?
FIRSTLY STOP THE INFLUX OF TOYS:
For birthdays and Christmas, proactively encourage friends and family to club together and buy “experiential” gifts such as tickets for theme parks, cinema or the theatre.
Alternatively request relatives opt for putting money in trust.
If you encounter resistance at least try and get others to adopt a quality over quantity approach to gifting.
Don’t let your kids become collectors. Any fad will burn out quickly but not until you've spent a lot of money and are left with an unloved burden of dolls/figures/sticker books/random plastic tat which can feel difficult to part with because of the financial investment. If you feel they really must collect something, set limits on how much physical space a collection can take up and/or money you are prepared to spend.
Celebrate milestones and good performance with trips out, special meals or small consumable treats such as comics.
Consider stopping weekly pocket money for infant or primary aged children and offer family time/activities instead.
Teach your children about the powers of (mis)advertising, decode adverts together and show these new "must-have" toys up for what they really are.
SECONDLY YOU NEED TO REDUCE THEIR TOY CHOICES BY DECLUTTERING:
A quick word of warning: do not declutter toys of children aged 5+ years old without them being involved in the process or you can seriously breach trust with them, and even trigger hoarding tendencies in later life. With younger children I’d still try to involve them where possible but accept they will want to keep everything! Stay calm and be gentle, persuasive and persistent! The key is to get the child to recognise they have more than they need and actually want to re-home some of it. The following advice should help you make some progress:
1. Gather everything together and do a “stocktake”. Split the toys into categories to help your child see the true excess. Emphasise how much they have by counting everything, identifying and collecting together duplicates, and pointing out that they cannot make use of it all. At this stage you can reduce the volume a little by throwing away anything broken, used up, or missing vital components. Once you’ve jettisoned the junk, ask your child to pick out their favourite things within the category and probe as to how they might feel about rehoming the rest. As with adults, owning too much stuff can make children feel under pressure and guilty, and the idea of letting some of it go may actually come as a big relief. If you come to an impasse, attempt to compromise by agreeing reasonable limits in conjunction with your child.
Some suggested categories:
Play-doh/Kinetic sand/modelling clay & similar
Art supplies & Craft kits
Puzzles & Games
Action figures & small dolls
Larger dolls/& doll accessories
Tea party/Picnic/Cooking/Play food
Electronic/high tech toys
Books - Reference
Books - Stories
2. Enlighten your child about how giving things away will make them feel good about themselves. Often if a younger friend or relation will be the beneficiary, children are less reluctant to let their things go, especially as they may still get to visit the toys occasionally. Alternatively, explain how donating to a charity shop both raises money for good causes and also helps less well off families buy toys they couldn’t otherwise afford. If practical, let your children choose which local charity shop they’d like to help and let them accompany you to make the donation in person.
3. If gentle persuasion has failed, or your child is very young, you may decide you need to cut your child out of the decision making process and go it alone with the toy decluttering. In such a case proceed with caution - place anything you want to get rid of in a box and store it out of sight. If the child doesn’t miss the contents within a 3 month period then assume you are pretty safe to donate them. If you do get caught out at a later date, tell the truth and justify your action, or be inventive “the Toy Fairy took them to give to children who have no toys at all”.
A few final thoughts:
Don’t keep things because you think they may become collectable or valuable one day. While some toys do become collectors’ items, you have to keep them in pristine condition so will need somewhere safe to store and protect them for years before you get any potential pay off. Do you really want the hassle?
Allow children to keep a few outgrown but treasured items in a memory box. Once the memory box becomes full adopt a one in, one out rule.
Be ruthless when it matters - don’t look a soft toy in the eye if you may falter! Sometimes it’s easier to let your children drive the process, you may well find them less sentimental than you are!
You need to keep decluttering children’s things on a regular basis. It’s particularly good to have a big clear out before a time of great influx of new things into the house - e.g. Christmas or birthdays.
If you're really struggling to remove toys for good then at least consider stashing away a selection and bringing them out for special occasions (school holidays perhaps) to keep them feeling "fresh" and novel. Or alternatively prevent overwhelm by dividing toys into two groups and rotating them every couple of months so one group is stored away whilst the other is available for play.
Look out for my next blog which will focus on how best to organise kids’ toys so they are easy to locate, get out, and perhaps most importantly, put away again!
I hope you'll find these tips make the process less daunting and emotional. If you have any feedback or need more hands-on help decluttering or organising your children’s toys, then please get in touch, I would love to help you Rule Your Roost!