We have a lot of toys. Like – a lot of toys; and not a lot of space for them. Though even if we had more room, there is still just too much “stuff”.
My kids are very very loved and have many adoring grandparents, uncles, aunties (both the related kind and the “basically family” kind) They have had so many things bought for them over the years, and also been given heaps of really amazing hand-me-down toys, mostly from my young cousins as they’ve outgrown them.
I don’t want to sound at all ungrateful for that, but the toys have piled up a bit.
In some ways think the kids are less attached to their mountains of toys than I am. I hate parting with gifts. I remember where almost all of their toys came from – who gave it to them, what birthday or Christmas it was, how special it was at the time. I feel guilty, like I’m rejecting those gifts which came from a place of love – as though it’s rejecting the love itself and thanks “Toy Story 2” I feel even worse because of the song “When Somebody Loved Me” ; I feel guilty getting rid of any toy that has a face!
BUT We just have too many toys! The kids don’t play with all of them, so often they just spill them out of tubs onto the floor, retrieve the one thing they were looking for and then leave them there. They get lost in their own stuff and I also don’t feel like they respect the toys they have, because they have so much. How much value can you put on a toy car when you have 16 of them?
Two weeks ago we unpacked the last couple of boxes of toys (we moved about 6 months ago, so that’s a perfectly reasonable amount of time to still be unpacking boxes, yeah?) and felt a bit of dread as those toys were poured onto the lounge room floor. The kids were excited, toys they’d not seen in 6 months we like new again. We didn’t even try to pack the toys away, we got in the car to Bunnings and bought a 4 tiered shelving for the kids room – and it was overflowing with toys as soon as it was put together. Something had to go – and by something – I mean half their toys.
I struck a deal with our two and five year old. Which might sound a bit strange, but hear me out; I offered them a brand new wooden train set – which I bought a container with a lid that fit perfectly on their new shelves, in exchange for a washing basket of toys. And we have large washing baskets.
We explained to the children that the toys would be donated to charity – and found charity bins that we could put them in not too far from our house.
The kids were very obliging and easily filled a washing basket in the space of an hour, it was heaped over and stuffed full – it was a great effort! We also sorted all their toys into various sized containers we’d purchased to go with their shelves, so they could find the toys they’d decided to keep more easily. By sorting their toys into piles of similar items we could easily see what they didn’t need – we put them in piles of toy vehicles, dinosaurs, farm animals, dolls and so on. That made choosing what to give away easier, because I could allocate a container that they could fill with that type toy and anything that didn’t fit in the container had to go in the basket – sometimes a bit of swapping needed to happen, a little bargaining, but we got through it with minimal fuss.
(The plastic containers I bought were from “The Reject Shop” and only a few dollars each – absolutely worthwhile! I have plans to label the boxes with what’s supposed to go into them – when I feel particularly ambitious and organised, but for now, they work great to keep the toys sorted!)
Overall the result was very positive, straight away they play better with their toys and with more focus. They can get out a box of little people and animals and play with the doll’s house together (together together –as in reasonably cooperatively! It’s wonderful!) – and most of the time are much more willing to pack away their activity afterwards because each toy has a place that it belongs; not just in a pile on the floor.
There are specific toys I want to get them like a kitchenette, puzzles, more wooden toys, shape and colour sorting activities for our two year old – those sort of things; and we still don’t really have the space for it. I also observed over the last two weeks which toys didn’t move from the shelves at all in that time.
So, yesterday I filled two large garbage bags with toys, which I’ve stashed into the top of their cupboard. I’ll give them a month, if neither of them asks for anything inside those bags; I’ll take them down and talk to the kids about who we can donate them to. Because I don’t want to do this to them, I want their involvement, I don’t want them to feel robbed or deprived. I want them to feel in control and positive about these changes. And overall the kids have been completely happy with the process, my only regret is not doing this sooner!
Have you ever had a major toy cut back? How did you approach it? How did your children respond?