US children make up just 3.1% of the global kid population, but American families buy 40% of the world’s toys. Time Magazine, 3-23-15
When parents recognize the limits of their space and try to get the kids involved in purging, they often can’t get past the kids’ resistance to letting go — suddenly everything is precious. Here are some suggestions to keep the kids involved but meet the goal having your stuff fit comfortably in your space.
Let kids help, not lead. Involving kids in the decision making process helps them learn about limits but YOU need to stay at the helm. If you defer to your kids to lead the project it will rarely progress. If it’s an overwhelming situation it’s just fine, and often appropriate, to pull rank and make purging decisions without their input.
Have-to-Have vs. Nice-to-Have. Kids always approach the purging decision from the perspective of “do I like/want this?” When you have more toys than will comfortably fit in your space, “like/want” can be a first layer of purging but there will need to be a second layer of tough choices that is solely about space constraints.
Narrow the focus of decisions. For example, “We have room to keep 10 (pick a number) board games, pick out your 10 favorite” or “We have room to keep one box of little cars/planes/vehicles; here’s a box, fill it up with your favorites”. This way you are leading the process and setting boundaries on the volume but the child gets to make choices. Choosing one specific category to work on prevents overwhelm and distractions. It’s much easier to decide favorite puzzles, for example, if you’re looking at all of them at one time instead of randomly as you come across them.
Set specific timeline goals. For example, pick one category of toys per week to purge. Sample categories:
- Balls, bats, small sport equipment
- Action figures, character toys
- Board games
- Card games
- Electronic games
- Large environment toys – play kitchen, activity centers
- Building toys
- Art supplies: (easiest to do these separately) markers, crayons, pencils, paints, stamping, stickers, etc.
As a last resort. If you’re not quite ready to let something go, it OK to pack it up and move it to a garage or closet in “limbo” until a little more time passes and the attachments lessen. Date the box and commit to revisiting these items.
Let’s be clear – toys are all about WANT, not about NEED. When faced with an overflowing playroom we like to remind parents of the Little House on the Prairie story where the kids were thrilled to get a small doll made from a used sock each year. For centuries kids were perfectly content to entertain themselves with their imaginations and their natural environment. Our modern culture has shifted to pressure parents into providing an endless variety of “stuff.”
As we approach the gift-giving season, it’s the perfect time to re-assess the old and make room for the new. With fewer toys there is less clutter and less cleanup. It’s much easier to hold kids accountable for picking up when toys can be put away easily. The biggest bonus – more time to actually play with the toys you keep!