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Michele Vig, Neat Little Nest Owner + Chief Organizer

Hello! Here I share my passion for creating both beautifully organized + designed spaces. I hope you find some inspiration.


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decluttering with kids | toy's edition

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

The playroom - the place where children's joy and parent's frustration often meet up. So many parents desire a clean and organized playroom because the clutter and constant disarray causes them angst. The reality is that a messy playroom can also cause anxiety in children making it challenging for them to focus on play. Yes, it is true.

With the holidays around the corner, now is a good time to think about decluttering + organizing your kid's playroom or toy/play area so that you are prepared and have dedicated space for anything new that arrives in the month ahead.

This post combines my own experiences as a parent along with my experience as a professional organizer working with many other parents and children all with the objective of sorting, storing and simplifying the toy mayhem.

To that end, below find Neat Little Nest's top tips for corralling all the "toy" chaos.

begin with the end in mind

Getting clear about the role you want toys to play in our children's lives is an important first step in the decluttering process. When you are clear on how much space you have and what can be done to optimize it, you can be significantly clearer on what you need to do make the space work best. If you are lucky enough to have ample room, you might want sports toys to take top priority and, in turn, build a sports court in your home or yard. You might want dress up toys and props to take center stage and create a platform with a place to hang up costumes and stash accessories. Whatever matters most for you, your kids, and your family using the space available is what you should keep in mind before you start decluttering + organizing. By being intentional you move forward in the process with the end in mind.

involve your kids

I recommend you involve your kids in the activity of tackling the occasional overhaul from the time they are very small. Even a 2-year old has the ability to decide what they would like to keep and what they no longer use and could donate to another who would find joy playing with it.

When you engage your children in the decluttering + organizing process, they eventually learn how to do it themselves by modeling you (and any siblings) and they can carry that life skill with them once they are grown. Managing what you own is something everyone needs to do throughout their entire life, so consider it a gift to teach children of any age how to do it ideally beginning when they are young.

lead the process, but yield decisions to the kids

I find it most effective when parents lead the decluttering process, but allow the children to make decisions. What this means is that the parent preps the project, bringing in donate, trash, and recycle bins before everyone gets started. Guide your children to review items one at time and make decisions about whether they stay or go.

put toys in subcategories to simplify decluttering

To me, the easiest way to declutter any space is to quickly get "like" items together so that it's easier for the brain to decide what you/they love, what you may have duplicates of and what should go. The same holds true when you are decluttering toys. If you start by grouping like toys together into smaller categories like cars, trucks, board games, electronic games et al. it makes it much easier for your children to make decisions about the ones they love and the ones that need to go. Depending on the age of your children, you can delegate the task of getting like toys together by labeling bins or sections of the floor and making a game of it.

If you get easily overwhelmed by decluttering or the thought of doing it with kids seems like an arduous task then start with one subcategory. If a checklist is easier for you, feel free to download Neat Little Nest's free home decluttering checklist and hone in on the toy section.

a few ways to help them decide

Just as it's difficult for parents to sort through their own things, it is obviously similar for kids. Below are a few things to consider if you run into roadblocks:

  • Pick your favorite - If your kids are having a hard time with a certain category of items (like stuffed animals for my daughter when she was little), have them start by picking their top 3 (or 5 or more depending on the overall volume). Once they have their favorites out of the way, then ask them to see if there are any in the pile that is not their favorite that could be donated.

  • Give to __________ - sometimes, just like adults, if we know where our cast offs are going, we have an easier time parting with them. For my son, it was easy for him to say goodbye to some of his baby books when he knew they were going to his cousin Riley. I would hold up a book and say "Would you like to keep this one or give it to Riley?" The "who" it goes to could be a donation place, a neighbor or a cousin. Just make sure that if you're giving it to a relative that you have asked them beforehand if they would like the items.

  • Let them keep the money - One thing I've done with my children as they have gotten older is letting them decide if they'd like to sell the items they no longer desire to keep, rather than donate them. If so, they can keep the money for something else they have their hearts set on. It's a good learning experience.

involve the kids all the way through

Once you have decluttered, make sure that each toy that is left has a designated “home”. That way when you say to put it away – each item has a specific place to go.

Decluttering is the first part of the process, but making sure that all of those items that need to be donated or sold or taken to the trash are the final steps. Please include your children on those steps too so they learn them. Have them come with you to drop off at goodwill, or let them see the smiling faces of someone familiar to them being handed their donated toys. Not sure what to do with the items you no longer want? Check out our Neat Little Nest post on 50+ ways to donate, sell or recycle your stuff!

Do a quick purge before celebrations. Prevent clutter creep from building back up again by scheduling a good clean out before birthdays and other gift giving holidays. And, when you're ready to get those spaces organized, check out our favorite organizing products on our Amazon shop.

Neat Little Nest, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to All opinions are of Neat Little Nest and not the affiliate.

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