How To Declutter Toys: Practical Tips To Save Your Sanity

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Toys, toys, and more toys. We all have them, and we all wind up feeling overwhelmed by them at some point. The best thing you can do is know how to declutter toys.

But then you also need to know how to control the toys so you are not overwhelmed by the mess over and over again.

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As a mom myself, I know how this all goes.

We all start out with just one child and a few toys.  And in the beginning, we are very good at picking them up and teaching our little one to pick them up too.  But soon toys start to take over your house whether you like it or not because of toy math…

If you do the toy math, it looks a little something like this:

1 child = 10-20 toys

2 children=100-200 toys

Each additional child = another 100-200  toys

Each year with Christmas and Birthdays = 1000-2000 more toys

So in total, you have about 5000 toys in your home!!!  You know I am exaggerating…(at least I think it’s an exaggeration! 😉

But any way you look at it, drowning in toys is way overrated.  If you learn a few tricks on how to declutter kid’s toys you will be able to re-claim your house in no time.  

And if you stick around till the end, I will give you some tips on how to keep toy clutter to a minimum. 

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how to declutter toys

4 Tips To Declutter Kids Toys

Tip 1:  Pay Attention

First and foremost, if you want to make sure you know what to keep and what to get rid of, watch what your kids are and are not playing with for a week or two before you plan to declutter their toys.  

This will help you gain a little insight. If you are still not sure about getting rid of something they are not playing with (because you may think they will start playing with it eventually) then try putting it in storage for a while and bringing it out at a later date.

Then if they are still not into that toy, it is time to find a way to get rid of it.

Tip 2:  Find a Babysitter

Depending on the age of your kids, there are many reasons you may want to set up some child care when you declutter toys.

If your kids are really little, you may need to set up a sitter just so you have the time you need to do the decluttering.

But if your kids are a little older, then you may need that babysitter so your kids don’t see you getting rid of their toys. Because the tears are real. Our kids form attachments to these toys and when they freak out, you will be tempted to keep toys that really do need to be gotten rid of.

Tip 3: Declutter The Toys With Your Kids

Another option is teaching your kids how to declutter toys on their own. And this could be just what you need.

Talk to them about the benefit of having experiences versus things if they are old enough to understand.  

Teach them that there are children in the world with no toys that would love to have just 1 toy to play with…and that they can give that to this other child.

Talk to them about placing value in friendships, family, and love instead of in things.

Teach them about giving instead of getting.

You can also set up bins in the toy room to place toys that become broken or your child decides they no longer want. They just place the toy in the bin and at the end of the month you can donate or put them in the garbage can.

how to declutter toys

Tip 4:  Choose a Place To Store Toys

It is tempting to just let the toys fill all the space in your home…because that seems to happen kind of naturally when you have a ton of toys. But if you want to know how to keep the toy clutter to a minimum, then I suggest designating a few spaces in your home to house the majority of your toys.

If you have the space, this can be an entire room that you dub “the playroom”.

Or it can be a space within a room, like the “toy corner” that is where you keep the toys in your living room.

Other ideas are having a cabinet or bin in each room where you keep the toys. . . and where you kids know those toys go when they are finished playing with them.


Step 1: Choose where to start

Choose where to start decluttering by picking a small space. If you have a lot to declutter, it helps to work in batches. Do a small area one day for about 15-30 minutes. Then do another small area the next day and so on.

When you make an overwhelming space more manageable you will be able to get more done without quitting or getting exhausted.

Step 2:  Divide Into Piles

You will need 4 piles to divide the toys into:

  • Trash
  • Donate
  • Move
  • Keep

I like to use these bins when I declutter because they are sturdy and can hold a lot of clutter. But you can also use cardboard boxes, garbage bags or even laundry baskets.

Anything that will help you contain the piles and move them quickly from the room when you have finished decluttering the section you are working on.

Here are the criteria for each category:

Trash:  Anything that is broken, torn, discolored, toxic toys, does not work how it should, fast food restaurant toys, or is just plain trash that has made its way into the toys somehow (like candy wrappers).

Donate:  Toys that your children have not played with in a long time and no longer seem interested in.  They still work and would make some other child happy.

Move:  Items that do not belong in the toys…like mommy’s phone or kid’s clothing…things like that.  Also, items that are for the older kids toys, but may be harmful to the younger kids, like choking hazard items.  Those should be moved into the older child’s room.

Keep:  These are the toys that you are going to keep and place neatly back in an orderly fashion so your kids can continue to play with them.

how to declutter toys

Step 3:  Move Things Out

When you have decluttered all the toys in the section you are working on for the day, it is time to move things out of the space. 

Immediately take the trash pile to the trash and run the donate items to the donation center.

Then…you already have 2 piles out of your house!

Then, take the pile of toys that you feel you need to move to a different location and get that finished.

Step 4:  Replace The Keep Pile

Knowing how to declutter toys is only part of the challenge of toy clutter. The other part is putting things back in a way that promotes keeping the space clutter free. Which means using a toy organization or toy storage system that works in the space.

So the last step in the process of decluttering toys is to replace the toys you plan to keep for your kids in a well organized way.

If you are decluttering toys in batches, then reserve this step for after you have finished decluttering the ENTIRE room…so this may be days or even weeks after you start your batch decluttering sessions.  

Here are a few options for organizing your toy clutter…

Option 1: There are shelves that have slanted plastic bins designed to help you organize things like children’s toys.

These shelves and bins are geniously created to also allow the child to see what is in the bin before taking the bin off the shelf.

Option 2: A cubical organizer is a great addition to any toy area when you want to keep the clutter out of sight. Add bins to this cubical organizer and you will have great categorized organization that is hidden from your guests.

Option 3: An all in one storage system. This particular storage system is small, but will contain all of the books, toys, and games your kids love.

But if you want more ideas, check out this related post.

How To Declutter Children’s Toys When Your Child Is Sensitive or Emotional

My son has a hard time with change, therefore, he becomes very attached to the things that are around him.  Since he is a kid, most of what is around him is his toys.

I learned a long time ago that I needed to have patience if I was going to get rid of anything of his.  

When it has been a while since he has last played with something, I will put it through a long step by step process before it leaves our house for good.

  1.  Place it on the back of the counter top for a few weeks.  It is there, he can see it, but more than likely, he will not ask for it.
  2. Move it into a cabinet.  It is out of sight, and therefore out of mind.  If he again does not ask for it for a few weeks, it gets moved again.
  3. The third move is into a black bag in the basement.  At this point, I know he is probably not ever going to play with it or even remember it.  But I keep it because there have been a few occasions when he did ask for it after months and months in the basement.  I normally keep the bag of toys for at least a year.
  4. That bag of toys finally gets moved out of my house.   I normally take it to a donation center if all the toys are in good, usable shape.

I know this sounds like a lot, but if you have a sensitive child, you know this is the best way to declutter toys without guilt or tears!

how to declutter toys

How To Manage Toy Clutter And Keep It Gone

One In One Out Rule

With this rule, every time you bring a new toy into the house, your child must part with one toy. 

You can make this process easier for them by teaching them about children who are less fortunate and need toys.

Toy Rotation

This is a great way to keep toy clutter to a minimum and also make every week feel like Christmas for your kids.  

As a mom of a 10 year old and a 13 year old, I have been through enough Christmases and Birthdays to know that most kids play with about 2-3 of the gifts they receive.

The rest are completely forgotten about.

So one way to make sure they play with all of their toys is to do a toy rotation.  Place 2-4 bins in a closet (I like these bins so the kids can’t see inside).  Mark them with week 1, week 2, and so on.  Place toys in each bin.  

Then during week 1 of the month, they play with the toys in the week 1 bin.  During week 2 they play with the toys in the week 2 bin…and so on.

This keeps them engaged, interested, and they get use out of all of their toys instead of just a handful of their favorites.

Toy Trade

Instead of buying new toys for your kids all the time, what about a toy trade with family and friends.  

A toy trade will allow your kids to have new toys to play with, while getting your old toys out of the house on a rotation.  Keeping your toy clutter to a minimum.

Set a Limit

One of the best ways to avoid having to learn how to declutter toys is to set a toy limit.  If you know you will always only have 20 toys at a time, then you will never have to go through the painful process of decluttering 5000 toys!

Stop Buying Them

The best idea for how to declutter toys, is to not buy them at all.  Instead, try buying experiences for your kids.

Some toys are fun, but so are experiences.  Buy tickets to a play, buy passes to the zoo.  Take a weekend trip to the mountains.

Time with you and fun experiences are what your kids will remember, not what toys they had when they were 4 years old.

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Outgrown Box

Keep a box in the toy room or somewhere nearby.  As you notice that your child has outgrown a toy or stopped playing with it, place it in the outgrown box.

This box allows the toys to stay in the house in case your child decides to play with them again, but also gets them out of the way for when they are finished.

When the box is full, donate the toys and start the box over.

Keeping The Space Tidy With A Routine

Be sure to clean up every day in order to keep your newly decluttered toy space tidy.  Here are some ways to keep up with your clean space:

  • Be sure to have a dedicated time each day when you AND your children clean up the toys.  This helps teach them the importance of cleaning up after themselves, and it gets them ready for preschool and elementary school, where they are expected to clean up the messes they create each and every day.
  • Make it fun by having a fun cleanup song that you sing or play each day.  If you children are older, try making it a race, or a game so they have a good time cleaning up your decluttered toy space.
  • Teach your kids how to declutter toys by teaching them how to part with them regularly.  Each month, tell them they need to add some toys to the giving box so they can give to children in need.
how to declutter toys

How To Declutter Toys Without Guilt

If you have been holding on to toys as keepsakes and memories of your child’s youth, that is okay.  Unfortunately, the clutter problem starts when we begin to hang on to ALL of the toys and do not get rid of any.

In order to keep the memories alive, without the toys, my suggestion would be to take pictures.

Take pictures of the toys you are currently holding onto.  But also, as your kids play, take pictures if them playing with the toys that they love.  

Believe it or not, you do not need the actual toy to remember all of the good times your child spent with particular toys.

If you are saving some of the “special toys”, that is fine.  But keep them in a labeled bin in your storage area so you know exactly where they are.

In Conclusion

Learning how to declutter toys from time to time can have a huge effect on how your home looks. And having a clutter free house can make your home happier.

Happy Decluttering!


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