It happens to everyone who has children. One day you look around to realize that the toys have overtaken your house. As you step on a minuscule piece of Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Café Play-set, you can’t even remember the last time your daughter played with the set. You wonder how this little plastic piece ended up embedded in your foot, when the other 150 pieces have long been MIA. You dread the next birthday or Christmas, when the mess of toys and their thousands of pieces that inevitably get lost and distributed around the house will compound and grow like some kind of mutant beast. It’s time to take action. It’s time to purge the toy collection.
Before You Begin
One thing you’ll need to decide beforehand is whether or not your child is going to help you with this project. Purging toys can be a valuable lesson for kids. They learn about letting go of things they don’t really need or want. They also learn about keeping a tidy room and having a specific place to put each toy or book. If you will be donating some of the toys, it’s a great way to train them in giving to others in need. Allowing your children to help you with this project can be a rewarding experience for your both.
It can also be a total nightmare. If your child’s nature is on the emotionally nostalgic side, it may too difficult to get her to part with her things, even if she hasn’t touched them in 2 years. If your child is too young to understand sharing or giving to others, it may be a better idea to handle the project when he is not around, and chances are he will never notice anything missing. Whether or not your child participates in the purging process is your call, and should be based on your own knowledge of your child’s emotional nature, maturity and the likelihood that you will finish the purging project only to find that everything in the “discard” pile has mysteriously migrated back into the “keep” pile.
This project typically takes a good chunk of time and space, so be prepared. Attempting to tackle it for a few minutes here or there is rarely effective. More than likely, you will need to carve out a few hours during which you can have a room to yourself with as few distractions as possible. If your children are not participating in the project, try to have them out of the house. It will not help your progress to have them running through the room rearranging all your piles.
Once your have determined the space in which you will be working (typically the child’s room or playroom, or wherever the majority of toys are stored), begin by carrying an empty laundry basket throughout the house and filling it with all toys that have made their way into other rooms. When you have gathered all the toys in the outlying rooms, deposit those toys somewhere in the room where you will be conducting your purge. A pile off to the side is fine, as long as you leave enough floor space for the four sifting piles. You may need to make several trips with your laundry basket to transfer all the scattered toys to the working room.
The Sifting Piles
This part of the project is essentially like sorting laundry. In the room in which you will be working, create four separate spaces: The Pieces Pile, The Keep Pile, The Pass On Pile, and The Donate Pile. A large trash bag can serve as a receptacle for the Keep, Discard, and Pass On piles, as long as you can remember which one is which. Do not attempt to eliminate The Keep Pile by leaving the toys you intend to retain in their current location.
The Pieces Pile
This pile is a temporary place to keep play sets that have pieces. You may think that all the slides from that ViewMaster are long gone, but you’ll be surprised at the pieces and parts you uncover as you sift through the mountain of toys. You may have some complete sets that you had given up hope on ever putting back together. Put loose pieces in a sealable bag, and when you have a complete set (or have located all the pieces that you can), move the set to one of the destination piles.
The Keep Pile
Obviously, this pile is for the toys and books that you intend to keep in your house. If it’s something your child plays with regularly or asks about when it’s not in front of him, it should probably stay in this pile.
The Discard Pile
This is the trash pile. It’s the pile of toys that would have no more value to anyone else than they do to you. Discerning which items should go to the Discard Pile as opposed to the Donate Pile can sometimes be challenging. Here are a few guidelines: Worn or broken items should be tossed. Most places that take donations try to sell the items they receive. If you’re looking at a toy that you would never buy off a shelf at a resale store, chances are it belongs in the discard pile. Don’t donate a bunch of junk. It will just get thrown away and waste the time of overworked employees and volunteers. If the toy is missing most of its pieces, it probably belongs in the discard pile. Stuffed animals are very difficult to clean and can look worn after just one washing. Unless Winnie the Pooh has not been played with and still looks brand new, he belongs in the discard pile. Personalized or monogrammed toys usually need to be thrown away, because the chances of someone finding it who has the same name as your child are pretty slim.