Toy Story: How to declutter, organize, and get back to playing

Ah, Springtime, when our homes are ready to sparkle once more after a winter of boots, company, and a gifting season that brought a seemingly insurmountable influx of toys. Not gonna lie, I’ve had my share of moments where I look around at the takeover and sigh in defeat, but at some point, we parents have to put a foot down to regain our domain. I’m all for free play but that doesn’t mean my home should be a free-for-all. Here are some tips on how to mitigate the mess, cut the clutter, and get back on track to organization. A place for everything and everything in its place, as they say.

Originally published in Refined Magazine

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First things first: finding time without your kiddos to do some recon work. It’s tempting to get your children to help from the outset but trust me, doing a wide-scale first pass is a thousand percent faster without little hands in the mix. Start three bins for toys you’re sure your child won’t miss: “recycling/trash”, “sell/giveaway”, and “archive” and get your cardio in with a quick sort of the house, looking under the beds, in the bathtub, under couches, and dumping every toy basket. Toss the irreparably broken toys in the first bin (which we’ll come back to later for responsible disposal), put good condition but no longer relevant toys in your purge bin, and in your “archive” bin, place toys your kids have outgrown but you want to hold onto—we’re on generation two of Duplo and with its simple play and sturdy design, I can’t imagine it will ever be out of circulation.

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Vacuum the empty toy baskets, clean the vacant shelves, and seize every opportunity you see because lord knows when you’re doing this again! This is also your moment to solve storage deficiencies. In my daughter, Petra’s room I knew the stuffies would be overflowing even with serious editing so a hanging mesh closet organizer would give them a home, and we put up a new shelf so she could display her favourites. Under her bead, I used an old suitcase to easily store doll clothes that had been strewn between baskets of miscellaneous toys. In my son, Paris’ room, we decided to have the closet act as a storage space with modular bin shelving and, in every room, there are either baskets, pocket shelves, or cubbies just for the kids’ books so reading can be a go-to. For bath toys, I find our over-the-showerhead rack handy for storage while still letting them dry in open air.

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After your solo cull and prep, invite your child to show you all of the toys they still play with and help them to find the perfect place to store each, while encouraging use of the “sell/giveaway” pile. Letting go of toys is hard sometimes, but try to keep things conversational and the pace moving so the decisions feel lighter. I found that telling Petra how much another little girl would enjoy something she no longer plays with, just like she loves her craft table from her older cousins, was helpful in the process. Not perfect, but helpful. For gifted toys Petra agrees she’s outgrown, I’ve been known to sell them on the local Facebook buy and sell page and then put that money in her piggy bank— an exciting prospect for a four-year-old.

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Once the toys that are truly in rotation are stored tidily, revisit the bins, sorting your “trash/recycle” into just that: SARCAN accepts electronics for recycling and worn fabrics can be recycled through Clothes The Loop program by bringing them to The North Face Prairie Summit Shop. For your “sell/giveaway” bin, there are options galore including getting some cashola through a Facebook buy and sell page, Kijiji, or Once Upon A Child, or donating them to a charitable organization. Choose the one that’s right for you and your family.

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Feeling ready to take on the challenge? Sometimes all you need is to drop everything and fire the starter pistol. Let me kick things off. On your mark, get set…