Declutter: Tackle the Toyboxes

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And me. It’s going to keep me honest too.


If your house is anything like ours, the Christmas season has left it resembling a toy warehouse. In that spirit, I decided to tackle the kids overflowing toyboxes as one of my first big decluttering projects. Call me crazy, call me inspired, call me Al.

Sparky and I purposely didn’t buy the kids many toys for Christmas, knowing they always receive more than they need from our families. Despite this, we spent the first week of January wading through their new things, which had been piled on top of their old things.

I sent Sparky and the kids out for the morning, cranked Wilco and rolled up my sleeves. This is serious stuff, folks.

Here’s the method I used:

  1. Get all the toys from all corners of the house. Dump them all in the centre of your biggest, most open room.
  2. Have three empty boxes and one garbage bag on hand. One box is for toys to donate, one is for toys to keep out and one is for toys to store. The garbage bag is for anything broken or not fit for donation.
  3. Start sorting. Aim to only touch things once. Pick it up and decide what you are doing with it, then put it in its box.
  4. Be honest during this step. Do your kids actually play with it, or do they simply move it from place to place? Is it in good condition? Are there duplicates? You are the only one who can answer these questions because everyone has different ideas about acceptable toy numbers.
  5. Anything that is part of a set should be put aside until you find the rest of the pieces. Similarly, anything that doesn’t belong with the toys should be put in a pile and dealt with once you’ve finished.
  6. Once you’ve finished sorting, go through your keep/store piles once more. Look out for anything you kept in a weak moment – chances are now you’ve finished, you’re much less likely to hold on to things for the wrong reason.
  7. Box up the donations and put them in your car – never to return again.
  8. Find a place for each of the toys you’re keeping out. I recommend grouping like toys together in containers. (All our cars are in a tin box, for example.) Tidying up is much simpler when you know where each toy lives. Plus the kids can help. In theory.
  9. The box for storing may need some extra attention. I usually keep roughly half the books and puzzles packed away, as well as a few larger toys. These I then rotate out at the beginning of each season. It keeps the toys feeling fresh for the kids and keeps clutter to a minimum. Additionally, I store toys that are too advanced, to bring out later. It stops them using the toy and getting bored with it before they get the full benefit.



  • This is definitely best left until the kids are asleep or not at home. It’s amazing how many of their old, forgotten or outgrown toys they will want to play with (however fleetingly) once they see them.
  • Take the opportunity to put sets of toys back together. Think puzzles, block sets, board games and dollhouse furniture – these are far more likely to be played with if all the pieces are together. Plus it makes it so much easier to clean up when everything has its place.
  • Try to separate the emotion from the decision-making. Sure, your grandma may have given that teddy to your little one, but the head is falling off and it’s been stuck under the bed for six months. Donating it or tossing it doesn’t mean she loves your kids any less. It just means you won’t have to shift it around again in six months time when you repeat the process.
  • If you’re really struggling with some particular items, then don’t feel you need to throw them away completely. Yet. Simply box them up, write the date on the box and pack it away.  Put a note in your calendar for three or six months time and if you haven’t needed or wanted to open the box in that time, simply donate all the contents.
  • Some toys will be with you for years, and that’s fine. You may hate some of them. That’s fine too. The little’s won’t keep them forever.

I look around me now and there are still toys scattered on the floor in at least four rooms of the house. Organising and culling the toys won’t stop that from happening. Sorry. But the crap is kept to a minimum and pack-up is much easier. And I’m down with that.


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