By: Stephanie Hawkins
How to Declutter: Sort, keep & discard the stuff
In my last post, How do I deal with all the toys?, I discussed the critical first step in the organizing process, analyzing your stuff and yourself. The next step in process of corralling the kid clutter, is deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. This step will likely be the most emotionally challenging part of your toy organizing project.
If you feel anxious about getting rid of any of your child’s things, be reassured: you can own a lot of stuff and still be organized.
However! There are 3 reasons to live with less:
- Visual clutter can be anxiety inducing
- Living with clutter can impede productivity
- Tidying up, cleaning and moving are much easier
Ready? Let’s get started…
Take stock of your toys
Collect four big containers. Label them: Keep, Donate, Discard and ?
Gather your kid’s toys into a sorting area (an unused space in your house). If you’re doing this project in increments, collect just one type of toy to begin with. Start with the toy that causes you the most stress.
In the sorting area, group like toys together in piles. For example, you could gather all of the toys your baby plays with in a “baby toys” pile. If your child has a lot of one type of toy, like cars, group those together.
Keep or Discard?
Now place each toy in one of the four containers: Keep, Donate, Discard, ? while asking yourself:
- Does my child use this?
- Does my child love this?
- Is it broken or missing a critical piece?
What goes in the Keep Container?
Place toys in the Keep container that your child plays with.
Unused toys intended for older kids or toys that your child has outgrown that you would like to pass on to future children, put in the Keep container. After you’re done sorting, separate these toys and place in separate boxes in a storage area. Label accordingly.
Do the same thing with toys that your child no longer uses but have a strong sentimental value. The number of these toys you keep will depend on the amount of storage space you have.
What goes in the Donate container?
Toys in good condition that your child doesn’t play with go in the Donate container. As do, any toys that are exact duplicates of a toy your child plays with. If space is a concern in your house, consider donating toys that are similar but not exact duplicates (ie. multiple teddy bears).
If you’re struggling to part with a toy for sentimental reasons, imagine that toy being loved by a child less fortunate than yours. Donate these toys to a women’s shelter where they will be appreciated.
What goes in the Discard container?
Place toys that are broken or missing critical pieces (like an incomplete puzzle) in the Discard box. Recycle or trash these. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you will fix a broken toy when you have more time. You’ll never have more time.
What goes in the ? container?
Do you have unused toys that you’re hanging onto because you feel guilty about getting rid of them? These are usually well-intended, but never-used gifts. These go into the ? container. Store the ? container out of sight for a month to experience living without these toys. After the month is up, open the container and reclaim the items you missed and donate the ones you didn’t.
Involve your kids!
We’ve taught our kids to be excellent consumers, so I think it’s possible to teach our kids to be purgers too. If you think your child is old enough, involve him in the sorting process. Encourage your child to focus on the toys they get to keep, not the ones they are losing. You’ll be surprised how easily kids part with toys they don’t play with.
Stay tuned for the next post as I’ll discuss how to store the toys you decided to keep!
Stephanie Hawkins is the founder and principal operator of Haven Home Organizing. As a business-owner and dedicated domestic engineer, she has a passion for helping busy parents simplify their home lives. With two children, she understands the unique challenges faced by mothers in the workforce. Stephanie has an affinity for order, she has a Master’s of Library and Information Studies from McGill University. You can also follow her on Twitter @HavenOrganizing.