Recently we moved house and it was painful when packing up the kids’ stuff – really painful! Between the children and working full time, packing was a nightmare! Out of sheer desperation, I decided less was more, and went on a one woman sorting spree that resulted in us donating almost 80% of the kids’ toys. As amazing as that might sound, the remaining 20% of Rachy’s items still filled up 15 boxes, so can you imagine how much she had.
Honestly speaking, the sheer excess I found embarrassed me. I stared around in shock at the brand new toys mixed with those that I knew had been discarded after a few hours of play. I asked Rach why she hadn’t played with them more and she innocently responded, “There’s always more Mummy. Its so much fun.”
The realisation that she doesn’t appreciate the newness because I don’t give her the chance to, really bothered me. 60 Barbie dolls, 7 doll houses and every single toy that has entered the market from the time she was born all shewn around doesn’t make for a pretty picture. Add a tired, guilt ridden mother in tears in the middle and you can imagine what Hunky Hubby walked into that evening. After a good cry about how I hadn’t instilled the proper values and how there were thousands of children without these toys, I got to work. Here’s how, its so therapeutic (and coming from a counsellor, thats free advice you can quote me on!)
Use the 3 pile rule(Keep, Discard and Give)
The trick here is try to not associate memories to the items. I limited myself to 2 “memory items” per child and the rest were assessed practically.
Try to be gender neutral
We kept a few gender specific toys – 10 dolls, princess figurines and a few choice accessories along with 2 doll houses for Rach, and for Baby Bump we kept 4 trucks and his super hero figurines. The rest of the items kept are gender neutral – Lego, Wooden Blocks, etc to allow for them to play with the same items (even if they do not play “together”).
Create a toy library and define play areas
The kids can “swap out” their toys weekly (behaviour based) and the majority of toys are stored away in their bed bases (luckily we have storage in these are they are custom made). I find that this allows “freshness” and appreciation of the item.
Play areas are specified (kids rooms, play zone, dining room table, playmat in dining room area that leads off into the lounge), and always takes place on a table or on a mat if Legos or blocks are being played with. The kids also know that the lounge/passages and non children bedroom areas are off limits to any small toys, figurines or block toys – a single doll, truck or book is fine.
One in, one out
For a new item to come into, another item must be donated. The only exception are books because mummy loves books and they are the only gift that keep giving!
Dealing with gift givers
Most of my friends and family know that we prefer the kids to receive clothing, books or something they can create with like LEGO or arts and crafts. However if a well wisher does buy a toy then that toy can be placed into the toy library and will wait its turn to be “checked out”.
Finally, and this is a lifesaver, keep a large toy box in a central place. If you find a toy lying around place it into the box. If those toys do not get asked about, missed or “claimed” , think about donating the item at the end of the month.
Unpacked the kids rooms first, now to get to the rest of the house!