Toys are in the top 3 things I get asked about for decluttering.
It’s often the most, if not the most overwhelming category for moms, especially when the children are still very fairly young. The real question inside this though, is how to include kids in decluttering. To answer this, we first need to understand why it’s difficult for kids to declutter. And why it’s difficult to include them
1. Kids who do not have the skillset, or developed brain to actually manage or declutter toys.
Often the expectation we have for kids and toys is that they treat toys like a Pinterest photo of organization and that’s just not reality. Kids are using toys to develop and master developmental skills. Our expectations really set kids up to fail a lot in this regard.
They also lack the executive function required to make and follow through with decision making. Decluttering is just a series of making decisions. What to keep, what not to keep. Where to take it. How much to keep. How much to let go of. Do I like this? Want it? Need it? And so much more.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions that go into decluttering? Your kids are, too. They just have a much less developed brain to navigate than you do.
2. We have our own personal emotions wrapped up in the toys.
Again, mainly expectations that ruin this for us.
Many Pinterest and Instagram accounts are actually designed to market toys and products to us give us ideas and expectations for what our kids should have. They send the message that more variety is better, maybe even essential.
This variety is one main root cause of clutter by the way.
On top of that, we feel guilty taking away their things. We confuse being around the toys with actually playing with the toys.
Toy sampling is not actual playing. Toy sampling is when kids move toys from place to place. Or play with it when it is found again after being gone for a while (new and exciting is not the same as play). Dumping it on the ground and playing around it is also not playing with it. It is a developmental skill, but it is not necessary to have a large variety of things to dump ;).
So now that we understand that, let’s talk about how to include kids in decluttering.
1. Declutter your stuff first.
I know, probably not what you want to hear. But here’s the thing, when you jump right into the toys it often comes across as a form of punishments for the kids. Or at the very least, like their stuff is the main problem – and they THEY are the problem.
They didn’t buy or accept all that stuff into the home, and it is not their responsibility. Focusing on just the kids stuff is ignoring the bigger, and important picture that is that you entire home is cluttered.
Plus when you declutter your things first you gain a degree of trust and credibility.
They will see you doing it and you can communicate how you are doing it, and why. You can even include them in the process so when it’s time for their toys they are experienced.
You also need to know how it feels to actually declutter. The good, bad and ugly. Having an understanding of this first hand will allow you to support your children in this even better. Imagine learning from someone who had never actually done the thing? Or trying to teach something you have never done? Would that even work? I don’t think so.
2. Give them a boundary.
Choose where they toys are going to be kept. If there is not dedicated space for where the toys are kept, of course you are going to keep just putting toys all over the house and accumulate an infinite amount.
Parkinsons law says: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Meaning, if you have 3 hours to get something done, it will take 3 hours. We can apply this concept to your home, too.
If you have toys in all the rooms, and in all the places, you are going to have toys spilling out into all the areas. Choose the rooms, and then choose which shelves/containers you will be using within that room. Only keep what fits.
3. Focus on what you are keeping with your kids.
When you establish those boundaries you by default are going to focus on what you are keeping. Decluttering feels like a loss, because technically it is. And kids can’t see the invisible things they gain by decluttering. Make sure to communicate that what doesn’t fit and what isn’t chosen is going to be taken somewhere. I teach how to decided where to take it in my toy decluttering 101 course.
[0:50] An explanation of why toy decluttering can be so challenging
[1:22] Kids lack the skill set, and brain development to make decisions without guidance from someone who understands the decluttering process, and children
[2:59] The second reason toy decluttering is challenging: unrealistic expectations of what toys are needed, wanted, and used
[06:54] The first, and most important way to support your children in decluttering their toys
[08:47] An example of questions to ask while decluttering toys
[11:32] The second way to support your children in decluttering their toys
[12:47] Choosing where they toys will “live”
[13:43] The third way to support your children in decluttering their toys