Taking control of the toys

Friday, 5 February 2016


Sometime last year, I went on an extreme decluttering mission. (Fact: Priscilla Shirer was doing this way before Marie Kondo was!) Anyway, I started getting rid of stuff: lots of stuff. And it felt really liberating and freeing, which sounds like a very pretentious, 'rich person problem' to have, but it is true. None of our stuff is particularly expensive; we just have a lot of it. So I went on a major cull. I even got rid of bags full of books. Now, when I get a new item, I try and find something else to get rid of (and by get rid of I mean donate to a charity shop, not just chuck away in the bin).

All except Jellybean's toys.


Toys toys toys!!!

I find it hard getting rid of her stuff. Partly because it's hers, not mine. Partly because I have sentimental attachments to anything that is connected to her. And mostly because a lot of her stuff are things other people have kindly and generously bought her. I really want to make that clear: I appreciate how much people love her and want to buy her nice things. 

But I've allowed it to pile up, and it has become too much. Because we haven't been organised enough, she isn't appreciating what she has as much as she could be doing. It's a hard balance: I don't want her as she grows up to become materialistic and obsessed with obtaining more and more stuff, and I want her to make the most out of what she has already, but I also want her to be thankful and appreciative of the things that people give her.

I've noticed her attention span is really short when we have a lot of toys around. And we have a lot of toys around, because I'm running out of space to put them. She will flit from one thing to the next really quickly. So I started wondering if she is just a bit overwhelmed. I read a while back a few articles about how sometimes too many toys can actually have a negative affect on a child. (Here are some interesting articles about this: 1, 2, 3) Apparently it can cause them to become overloaded, overstimulated and then bored. It sounds like that shouldn't make sense, but it does: the less stuff that they have around them, the more they will actually engage with what is in front of them, and the more they get out of it. (I should say at this point I'm not a toy snob: I don't care if it's made of plastic and makes annoying noises and flashes a million colours, if it keeps my child occupied and sparks her imagination, I'm happy ...)

So I've decided to do a bit of an experiment. Today I have gone through Jellybean's toys and cut down the toys that are within her reach to play with by about two thirds in the hope that, by rotating them, she will start to enjoy them a bit more. Here's how I did it:

Step 1: Evaluate what is there. 

It's when you start counting toys that you start to realise how many your kid has. Jellybean is, I'd say, a typical modern western child. She has everything. Multiples of things, even. Sometimes the counting in itself is enough of a wake up call to make you realise it's a bit too much!

Step 2: Put aside the favourites.

Jellybean's absolute favourite things are her three cuddly toys that she keeps in bed with her, her Happy Land people and houses, and the flashing bouncy ball she got in her stocking this year. Obviously I want to keep these things around for her to play with.


You would not believe the amount of time we spend playing with these.

Step 3: Get three bags.

One for toys that she has grown out of (to go in the loft), one for toys that she plays with occasionally, and one for toys that I will eventually take to the charity shop if she doesn't miss them over the next month or so.

I was pretty ruthless with the second bag. I laid out everything that she enjoys playing with and then put about a third of that into her bedroom storage (where all the boxes are within her reach). The rest will be going into a big under bed storage box.


Now, Jellybean has a set of wooden blocks, her bouncy ball, and her Happyland stuff downstairs.

Upstairs, she has her nurses' outfit, her baby and its accessories, her Aquadoodle set, and a few other bits and bobs that she got for Christmas (but so much less than she had before). Also she has her kitchen and all the bits that come with it to play with. This is after I'd cut it down so it shows how much there is!

Step 4: Rotate.

I plan to keep things the way they are for a month or so. I want to see how Jellybean plays when there is less around to play with: whether she engages more, or gets more out of her toys. Obviously I'm not expecting her to sit around and play with the same toy for hours - she's only two ;) but I want to see how it goes. And then, after a month, I will swap the toys in her bedroom for toys that are being stored under the bed. And I will get rid of the charity shop bag if she doesn't ask for anything from it.

I've also organised her little toys that we bought to keep her occupied on the plane last year into bags, so if I'm going somewhere where she needs to be kept quiet, I know where they are and can grab one to shove in my handbag.



We'll see how it goes. I wouldn't ever take the approach of taking all the toys away (although some people do that - this is an interesting read about how a family coped with no toys). I don't mind having toys around, because I think a house should have some evidence of people living in it ;) and children are only children for a short time. I have really fond memories of my own toys as a kid so I know how important they are. But, I felt that if it was becoming too much for her then something needed to be done. I'll do a follow up post in a month or so and let you know how we get on.



Annnd enjoy the peaceful feeling that comes post-declutter.

I'd be really interested to hear how you keep on top of toys with your kids - are you a ruthless declutterer or do you have toys spilling out of every cupboard? How on earth do you cope with the toys of multiple children?! Let me know in the comments. I'm always up for hearing organisation ideas!

Linking up with:
A Cornish Mum
The List

16 comments:

  1. We have toys spilling out of EVERYWHERE! So far I haven't got rid of anything in four years! #picknmix

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    1. Haha glad I'm not the only one with a house full of toys! Thanks for reading x

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  2. My daughter turned 1 today so I took the opportunity to fill one of her foldable, canvas baskets full of blocks. Then I went through her old toys saying goodbye to the broken, part missing etc toys. #TheList

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    1. It feels good, doesn't it? I got rid of some broken toys or toys that don't quite work the way they should. Always nice to have a sort out :) Thanks for reading x

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  3. I've only managed to box up one load of toys in nearly 4 years, though haven't managed to take it to a charity yet! Everything seems to have a memory attached to it, I really should do some more de-cluttering. Be interesting to see how you get on. #PicknMix

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    1. Thank you! I will update in a month or so to see how we get on ... so far she hasn't noticed that anything is missing. I'm really sentimental with her stuff. I've kept all her clothes too with the excuse that we might have a second baby - but I dunno what I'll do after that! Can't bear to give away her tiny sleepsuits :( x

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  4. We have just had a big sort out of toys too, they get so many gifts and I agree it's hard because you don't want to seem ungrateful! #thelist

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    1. That's the hardest bit! I'd never want to be ungrateful for it but it definitely needs to be managed somehow ;) thanks for reading x

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  5. I'm exactly the same about being sentimental over the kids' toys. I have always used this method for exactly the reasons you state though - I always put out some of the toys each day, and I rotate which are out every few days. Precisely because it helps them focus more on playing actual games and not being overwhelmed flitting between things. & bonus that it also helps with space & keeps the toys in better condition for longer! We have a load of the box storage units too so that is how I store toys. I have some I keep in living room & some in bedrooms. I put toys of the older one that are not currently suitable for youngest in her room and then one of us plays with them up there with her while the other watches little one. #picknmix

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    1. That sounds like a really good system. I didn't think about the wear and tear on the toys, that's a good point! I like the idea of playing separately - gives the kids a chance to spend some one-on-one time with you and you don't have to worry about the little one getting hold of something they shouldn't! x

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  6. Some really great tips, thanks for sharing! Like you I'm not too bad at decluttering but struggle when it comes to the toys. We are lucky enough to have an under the stairs cupboard that we can use for toy storage as well as the children's rooms and I do have a tendency to just chuck it all in, then feel sad that they don't play with everything that they have. They definitely play better with fewer toys, I've seen the occupied for a whole week on holiday with just a bag of Duplo, a few cars and some pens and paper and they occupied themselves beautifully.

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    1. Thank you! :) It's definitely more difficult to sort the toys! I think if I had room in my cupboard under the stairs to put toys in I would end up shoving it all in there at random and hoping it doesn't spill out. Funny you should say that about holidays - when we went to Devon last year we were in a little caravan and Jellybean pretty much played with her wooden blocks and a couple of toy dinosaurs all week! She was so happy x

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  7. AWesome tips! And as a side note I love your IKDEA boxes - are they from IKEA or are they a different brand? I love that they have handles, I need to get some new ones for our section of 4.
    We are doing KonMari at the moment and Toys are next! I've already packed up 1,5 boxes that are going in storage because I'm not sure what to do with them. But at least everything now actually fits in boxes hehe...

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  8. Thank you! They're not Ikea ones actually, they are from Argos, and annoyingly, I didn't realise until after I bought them that Argos don't actually sell the right sized boxes for them! (Which is ridiculous really). Had to hunt for those boxes on eBay. What a pain in the bum. We've got the Ikea ones in our living room though and really like them.

    In storage is better than all over the floor I say ;) good luck with your decluttering! x

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  9. Ha we always had toys everywhere when my two were small, no matter how much I tidied - they were too fast for me ;) Eek that feels like a very long time ago!Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

    Stevie x

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