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Getting rid of the clutter

Children come with so much STUFF. When they’re little, it’s nappies and wipes and cuddly toys, when their older it’s Sylvanian Families and lego and anything small enough to choke the vacuum cleaner….

The problem is that it is so easy to just let the amount of stuff keep on building up with more and more being added each birthday and Christmas until you are knee-deep in cuddly toys, barbies and toy trains.

Studies have shown that fewer toys actually benefit children, (children learn to be more creative with less toys whereas more toys limit imagination development and attention spans).

Children also learn to take better care of things when there is less of them and become more resourceful, less selfish and have a greater appreciation of nature (children will less toys are more apt to play outside)

So – with Christmas less than 2 months away, how do you ‘purge’ the toy baskets without causing a major meltdown over the loss of a favourite toy?

Here’s some tips to declutter the play-things without causing temper tantrums amongst the family:

  1. Take your child on the decluttering journey with you.
    • Explain that you need to make room for the new toys coming on Santa’s sleigh and if you don’t clear out some of the old toys Santa won’t be able to leave any new ones.
    • Enlist them in to help you with choosing which toys to keep versus which toys to give-away – that way you can’t be accused of going behind their backs and getting rid of a favourite toy.
    • Explain that there are lots of children with a lot less than they have and wouldn’t it be nice to give them some of the toys they no longer play with.
  1. When you ‘donate’ the toys, take the children with you so they are part of the ‘giving’ and feel good about giving away their toys.

eg if you are giving them away to a neighbour/friend or family member then your child will get to see the recipient’s excited expression when they get given them – a great way of teaching a child the importance of giving.

If you are giving to a charity store then take the children with you and get them to help you unload/ hand over the toys and unwanted books. Charity store workers are always quick to show their thanks and appreciation for given goods.

I normally then give my child a small amount of cash to then buy something from the same store. They love going around with their $2 choosing something to replace the piles they are giving away and makes them feel their sacrifice is repaid.

Alternatively, if it is older children and the toys are in good condition, you can actually sell them on Trademe and your child gets to save the money up for something they really want.

  1. Invest in a better storage system so their play area is nicer to play in and easier to clean up each day.

Boxes, shelves, bins make for a tidier play area and a nicer environment for your children to play in eg would they rather play here…

Or here……

clutterToo much choice makes children feel overwhelmed whereas a simple cut-back play area is a much nicer environment to play in. Plus better storage/ less toys on the floor makes it easier for them to keep the toy areas tidy going forward (meaning you can tell the kids that by doing a clear-out they will have less ‘tidy up time’ each day going forward – a massive motivator!)


  1. Have toy-free areas eg keep the lounge toy-free and keep all toys in the bedrooms (or the other way around), or have a room dedicated to all the children’s toys. By keeping all the toys in one area you will automatically realise how much stuff the children have as it doesn’t then run the risk of spreading out across every room and it is then a lot easier to manage.
  1. Allow the children to identify the toys that are important to them.

You don’t want to be accused of getting rid of favourite toys so by asking your children to identify their favourites you can ensure you keep the toys that mean something special eg special cuddlies/ or a special doll/ or things that have been handed down over generations Do this first BEFORE you start the clean up so you know which toys are the ‘do not touch’ pile.

  1. Declutter regularly. We declutter every quarter and they know when Mum’s on a mission to declutter they can either have a say and join in or not know what’s going to be thrown, so it’s in their best interest to help.

If you’ve got some good decluttering stories…we’d love to hear.

Check out our pinterest page for more ‘tidy play area’ ideas.


Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at