Feel like your kids’ toys have overtaken your home? Don’t sweat it. Here are helpful tips on how to deal with the mess … and your frustration.
Every parent knows that kids’ belongings have a scary way of multiplying like little else.
Happy meal toys. Little plastic birthday party favors. Hand-me-downs from well-intentioned friends who are trying to clean out their homes.
And, of course, kids’ stuff multiplies in your home every Christmas and birthday. It looks a little bit like cell division at conception … you start with one toy, but suddenly there are two toys, and then four, then eight, and so on and so on.
As a parent, it’s hard to walk such a fine line of wanting to teach your children gratitude (and practice it on your own!) – and flip out over the sheer amount of stuff that’s accumulated in your home.
It’s a sticky situation, for sure, because the more that’s in your home, the more you have to take care of – and the more mess you have to manage.
All of the extra stuff zaps your time, energy, and peace of mind.
When your house is filling up with stuff, it’s tempting as a parent to dump it all.
And, if your children regularly get everything out but refuse to put it away, getting rid of the mess by donation may be a viable option for you and your family.
But I’m a firm believer there must be a happy medium.
Watching your perspective
As much as clutter can choke out peace in your home and minimalism may feel like it’s the easier answer, I think it’s important to keep a healthy perspective about your situation.
First of all, remember that you’re facing a first-world problem. Too much stuff? Not everyone in the world has that complaint.
Frustrated by kids’ toys? There are plenty of adults in the world who wish children could be a part of their home.
As you adjust your perspective, you’ll be able to take a step back and assess your situation.
What seems to be the underlying problem?
What bugs you most right now?
- The toys?
- The mess?
- Your children’s attitudes toward their toys?
- Your children’s attitudes toward cleaning?
- Having too much stuff in your home … and toys are the cherry on top?
Do you really have too much?
- Do you have too many toys?
- Does it look like Toys R Us set up shop in your home?
- Do you have enough space to keep all your children’s toys?
- If your child’s playing, can you even spy your child in their mountain of toys?
Is organization a problem?
- Do you have good organizational systems in place for storing your kids’ toys?
- Does everything have a place that’s accessible to your children?
- Does your son or daughter know where to find everything?
Is cleaning a problem?
- Do your children love to play but refuse to clean up?
- Are you sick and tired of picking up LEGO pieces for the 50 billionth time so you don’t step on them in the middle of the night?
- Is your house tidy except for the mess of toys that is strewn everywhere?
Do your children break everything they own?
- Do your children know how to take care of their toys, or are they destructive?
- Are Barbie legs and Mini-Fig heads scattered around your house?
- Are most of your children’s broken or complete?
Have your children outgrown some of their toys?
- Are you holding on to baby and toddler toys for the sake of memories even though your children are in grade school?
- Are you planning on having more children who would enjoy these toys?
Do your children even play with their toys?
I’m all too familiar with the ironic reality that happens on holidays when young children have more fun playing with boxes and wrapping instead of the actual gifts themselves.
For as much as toys have become a normal part of childhood, they’re not always that fun.
So as much as your children may love certain toys, are their other ones they NEVER play with?
If so, there’s probably a good chance that they’re either bored with them or ready to pass them along.
How to begin to take control of a mess of toys
Once you’ve figured out what bothers you so much about the toys in your home, it’s time to figure out a plan of action.
First of all, get rid of toys that are broken. They’re probably not safe (or fun) for your children to play with – or any other children.
Next, get rid of things your children don’t want anymore. If they’ve outgrown something or lost interest, bless another family with it – either by way of hand-me-downs, or take it to a consignment or thrift store.
Finally, figure out how to store your children’s toys. If you’re tight on space or if your kiddos seem to be bored with perfectly good toys, a toy rotation system might work well for your family.
Toy rotation is as simple as letting your children play with a fraction of their toys and packing away the rest.
In my own home, I used to store three-quarters of my kids’ toys in plastic storage tubs and let them play with the remaining quarter. At the first of every month we’d switch toys … and it seemed like Christmas for a few days as they appreciated all their toys.
The surprising thing about toy rotation is that it’s an easy way for children to appreciate and play with all their toys – plus, it’s a fantastic way to minimize the mess in your home.
Cleaning up a quarter of their toys is a lot easier than cleaning up all of their toys.
Once you try rotating toys, it’s reasonable to get rid of the things you know your children aren’t playing with.
And it’s wise to create a boundary and only keep the toys that can fit in your storage area.
If you have more toys than you have room to store during the rotation, it’s time to pare down.
Still feel like toys have overtaken your home?
Once you’ve tried those three steps, keep the toys.
Yes, you read that correctly. I think you should keep your children’s toys.
Here’s the thing: kids are only kids once. And while it may not feel like it when you’re in the throes of motherhood, those little babies and toddlers are going to grow up before you blink your eyes.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “The days are long but the years are short.” There is so much truth in this.
As a mom of babies who are growing up way too fast, I know that as much as I hated their toy messes, my 10-year-old son already has outgrown his toys.
My daughter still loves playing with hers, and there’s not much that brings me more joy than listening to the sounds of her playing in her bedroom. The little voices she uses. Her imagination. Her sheer joy of playing.
If I would’ve pitched all of her teeny tiny toys long ago because the clutter annoyed me, I would’ve cheated her of this innocent childhood pleasure.
In a few years, I’m sure they’ll be sold off at a garage sale or donated to Goodwill. But for now, all of these little gifts and trinkets keep her busy – and happy – for hours.
As a mom, please remember that your kids are only kids once. They’ll grow up and move out soon enough. As I’ve been reminded when watching so many friends deal with the reality of sending their children off to college for the first time this fall, childhoods race by.
We’ll have quiet, clean, childless homes again. Let’s allow our children to keep their toys for now.
What do you do to manage your frustration when it seems like kids’ toys have overtaken your home? How do you deal with the mess?
This post originally appeared on HilaryBernstein.com.
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