5 Simple Ways to Cut Down on Toy Clutter

How to choose what to keep, what to give away, and how to get rid of things!

cut down on toy clutter
Got a lot of toys at home? Easy ways to get rid of the toy clutter. Thanasis Zovoilis/Moment/Getty Images

If you've got a little one at home, chances are good that you have a lot of toys and a lot of toy clutter. And why not? For little kids, toys are the tools in which they explore the world through play and learn important life lessons: taking turns, cooperation, and social norms, among other things, as well as how to explore and use that growing and awesome imagination that all preschoolers possess.


But the thing about toys is that they take up a lot of space. If you find yourself constantly tripping over toys, if your preschooler is having trouble cleaning them up, (and they should be able to clean up their own mess by this age), or if you dread holidays and birthdays because it means that you will be getting more toys than you know what to do with, then it's time to start to start to declutter. 

Decluttering toys does not have to be an emotional process where your kids cry and worry what you are going to get rid of next. Nor does it have to be a sneaky escapade where you work under the cover of night, getting rid of things while your kids sleep and hope they don't notice the next morning. If you work with your preschooler, decluttering toys can be a good experience, one where everyone is happy. Here's how:

  1. Be honest. Explain to your preschooler what needs to happen. Point out the overflowing toy bin or the closet that doesn't close. Talk about why it is important to take stock of what you have and do a clean out.
  1. Identify. Ask your preschooler to point out toys that are their absolute favorites. Ask them to show you the toys they don't really play with any more. Make it clear that you aren't going to get rid of everything right away unless they are ok with it. If there is something your preschooler is on the fence about, set it aside for a few weeks. Do they notice that it is gone? 
  1. Do a clean out. This will be the hardest part, for your preschooler so if you think that he or she can't handle it, consider doing it while your preschooler is asleep or in school. If you do work with your preschooler, be prepared to compromise! There will be some no-brainers: baby toys, broken toys, and toys that are missing pieces are easy things to put in the discard pile. As for others, be patient and work together. 
  2. Figure out what do to with the toys. Once you go through and identify toys that your preschooler is ok with getting rid of, you'll have to decide what to do with them. Should you host a garage sale and your kids get the proceeds? Maybe you donate everything. You could also participate in a toy exchange with other families although with that one you'll want to establish some rules so you don't wind up with more than what you started with -- for example, for every 20 toys donated, maybe your preschooler gets to pick one. Whatever you decide to do with the toys, make sure your preschooler has a say in it. It might be easier for her to give away things if she knows it is going to a local preschool or to kids who don't have a lot of toys. 
  3. Set rules for the future. Now that your toy room is decluttered, you'll want to establish some ground rules for keeping it that way. Maybe for every new toy your preschooler gets they have to donate an old one. Instead of getting toys for birthdays and holidays, maybe you can ask your family and relatives to give experiences (tickets to the circus, a trip to the movies, etc.) in lieu of "things." If new toys are super important for your child, consider enrolling them in a toy rental subscription service where toys can be exchanged each moth. Whatever works for you, do that!