How To Minimize Toys

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I feel like whenever I listen to a minimalist podcast or read an Instagram post or what have you, people seem to not know how to minimize and declutter toys. I recently was listening to the Minimalist Mom podcast and they said they’re asked that constantly.

Now. I am by no means a toy-minimizing expert. BUT. You better believe I have no problems purging toys in our house, ha! There are a few things we do in our home to keep our toy-chaos a little more manageable. Again. I am not an expert. Different things work for different families!

For instance, one of the biggest things that helped was having a designated space for toys. Oliver and Zoey used to have their own room. Since we live in a 3 bedroom house, this meant the toys lived in their bedrooms and our living room. Shortly after Zoey turned 1, I hit a wall. I literally could not stand walking through our living room and just always tripping on toys.

Shortly after that, Dan moved Zoey’s crib into Oliver’s room, and her bedroom became the designated toy room. We even removed the closet door so they could have extra space instead of storing useless stuff. During the transition, we minimized SO MUCH. I wanted SPACE for them, not toy storage.

The point is- this worked for us, but will not work for everyone. Maybe you don’t want your kids to share a room. Maybe you have more than two kids in a 3 bedroom home, and can’t put them all in one room. Everyone’s situation is different, so I want to be sure to recognize that!

Whatever your situation is, I truly think going through these steps will help you minimize the toys taking up your space!

minimize toys

Broken? Byyyyye.

If a toy is broken or missing parts, it automatically goes into the trash can. (Yes, the trash can. No, I do not donate broken toys. Even people who shop at thrift stores do not want your broken trash.) Usually the kids’ bring stuff to me if it’s broken, but about once a month or so I’ll go through their toys and make sure we have all the pieces and everything is working. If it’s not, it’s a pretty instant throw away. The kids’ are used to this, and when they do bring me broken toys, they’re usually the ones telling me to throw it away.

I’ll disclaim that if it’s broken and not a safety hazard or doesn’t affect the quality of the toy, feel free to keep it. I know I’m a bit of a perfectionist for this. It also just gives me an excuse to minimize, so I think that’s my main reason for doing this…

Too old for that?

The mass purge of 2018 was the beeeest. I literally purged two garbage bags full of toys (yes, I donated those). Zoey had *finally* outgrown the baby toys, we had no more need for teethers, and all the singing-nursery-rhyme-toys could gooooo. We had kept almost all of this from Oliver, so if you’re still having kids or have younger kids, obviously don’t do this. But we knew we were done having kids, and I knew I was done with baby toys in my house. Don’t keep toys around once they’ve outgrown them! There may be some they can get use out of, but by 1.5/almost 2, Zoey was ready for way more open-ended toys than what we had.

This also might not apply to you if you’ve been a minimalist since before kids. We were not. We had all the obnoxious loud toys, and I was very eager to be rid of them. Dan and I have tried really hard to intentionally choose toys that can grow with Oliver and Zoey to hopefully eliminate the need for any more mass purges. We definitely don’t have anything they’ll outgrow in the near future! But when you’re first minimizing your toys, this can be a really helpful one!

how to minimize toys

Do they even play with this anymore?

If we have a toy that I haven’t seen the kids play with in a while, it goes in a garbage bag and goes into the laundry room (where they can’t see it). It stays there for a week. If in that week they ask about it to play with it, they can get it back. If they don’t ask about it, at the end of the week it gets donated.

Now. If your child is anything like my children….they won’t play with it for a month. But the SECOND you try to minimize, they’ll ask about it. This is why I’ve started letting it sit for a week. Honestly, this has happened with 1 or 2 toys. But the majority of the time, they don’t notice, and the whole bag gets donated.

I generally do this in the middle of the night when they’re asleep. And I do this for toys I know they’ll say they want to keep even though they don’t play with it. Some things are just better left with them not knowing…..

….but to contradict myself a little….

Treat ’em like a grownup!

If I’m trying to minimize before a holiday or birthday, I explain to the kids that we want to donate toys to other little kids who don’t have as many toys as them. I ask them to pick 2 or 3 toys they would be ok with giving away to another little boy or girl. Then I ask them how they feel about giving it away, and how they feel about the fact that they did something really kind. I want Oliver and Zoey to grow up knowing why we’re choosing to live with a little less. I really want them to understand the heart behind giving their toys, as well. While I know they don’t fully get it, they’re conversations that I hope to see shape them as they grow up.

The reason for the contradiction- I know my kids. I know there are certain toys, if asked about, that they will kick and scream and not be able to live without it. I want them to have some say…but they’re still 2 and 4, so they’re not going to get all the say. If you disagree with one of these, that’s fine. Go with the other one, ha!

Where does it go?

Everything. Has. A . Space. I’m a bit of an organizational freak, so this one is pretty fun for me. But I cannot stand loose standing items. We have a lots of cubes to hold everything- the shape magnets have a bin. The train sets have a bin. The cars have a bin. The puzzles have a bin (ok they have 2. We have a lot of puzzles.). I’ll spare the listing of everything, but just assume everything has a bin. We do have a big toy box for a few extras, like Zoey’s little purse and Batman. Our toy box used to be fullll of stuff. As we’ve given each toy a space, though, that box has narrowed down. The kids’ know where to get and put each toy. We always know what toys we have and where they can be found…which makes it easier when I need to purge them (kidding. Kind of.).

Just before the holidays?

I know it’s a big deal to minimize before Christmas. Everyone does it. But purge through toys more than that. Probably a good 4-5 times a year I really go through the toys and throw. stuff. out. Minimize often! Stuff collects. We don’t go to McDonald’s often, but somehow we still end up with some of those Happy Meal toys or dentist office toys or stupid things we don’t need in our house. Constantly be going through and weeding that stuff out. It is just clutter that you do not need in your toy room. And on that note…

Be picky

For the most part, you get to choose what comes in your home! Those sneaky little toys get in, and I realize everyone does holidays and birthdays different. But, generally speaking, you determine what comes in your home. Choose things that you won’t want to get rid of. We’re pretty particular about what toys we want for the kids. For the most part, all of their toys are pretty open-ended. And because we’re at a point where we don’t need many more toys, we’re choosing experiences and practical things for gifts instead of accumulating more toys. The best way to minimize is to not get more.

Determine what is best for your family

Last but not least. Everyone’s definition of minimalism in general is different, let alone minimalism for toys. Some families have a handful of toys, some families have room fulls. When the kids have everything dumped out, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and think of how many toys we have. In reality, right now, the kids’ favorite toys have lots of pieces. Legos and wooden blocks and train sets and shape magnets. All toys with lots of pieces. While that’s not my ideal, it’s what my kids play with. I feel comfortable that my kids play with the toys that we have and they all allow them to use their imagination. Don’t compare your minimalism journey to someone else’s. Figure out what you want for your kids and your family, and use the above tips to help make it happen!

how to minimize toys

There are numerous studies that show that having less toys is actually beneficial for kids. They get SO overwhelmed when they have lots of options, and this, in turn, leads to them not playing with anything.

Curated, open ended toys can lead to kids using their creativity and imagination, which is what we love to encourage in our home. Again, everyone’s standards are different. At the end of the day, you know best what will work for your child and your family. If you are just getting started, good luck, and just enjoy it! Don’t stress about getting rid of everything or too much! Just go through these tips and narrow it down. Minimize what you can, and I feel pretty confident that you’ll start seeing space free up in your home in no time!

(pst- if you want a throwback to when we first started purging, head back to this post. It’s crazy to see photos from even a year ago and how much we’ve gotten rid of since then!)

Also check out this list for some open ended toy ideas that our kiddos love!

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