The toy room, toy cupboard or toy basket in a family home is an area that can descend into utter chaos from almost the minute it’s set up. And for a bunch of parents, it can be a source of stress.
Decluttering Queen, Anita Birges says it doesn’t have to be this way!
"If it's causing that type of anxiety, it's a project to be taken care of," she counsels. Anita is the founder of Mise en Place, and she helps families declutter the entire house to help them feel more relaxed.
Listen to Anita on Kinderling Conversation:
Ahead of December’s festivities (and a new influx of toys!), now is a particularly great time to clean up the play room. So where to start?
Anita gives us her top tips for tackling the toy heap.
1. Leave the kids out of it
Particularly when they’re younger, declutter when the kids aren’t home. Don’t leave your decluttering things about so kids can try to claim things back.
"With toys, you want it out of your home. Far away from the children!" Anita says.
As soon as you declutter, know where it’s going and get it out of your house.
2. Know where the toys are going to go
Pick a day you’re going to do a blitz, and make sure you have the means to give it away at the same time. Anita has these ideas if you’d like to keep a few things out of landfill:
- Charity shops (who will not accept stuffed toys unless in original packaging)
- Your daycare
- Toy libraries
- Pet stores (for stuffed toys)
- Doctors' or dentists' waiting rooms (they love puzzles)
3. Use big containers for sorting
Start sorting and decluttering by using big containers. A washing basket is great for this (especially since you already would have at least one at home), or grab some 32 litre or 52 litre containers.
Don’t use garbage bags for stuff you’re getting rid of. Instead use those chequered laundry bags you can grab from a two-dollar shop, as they’re sturdier. There’s nothing worse than seeing everything tumble out the bottom of a weak plastic bag!
4. Invest in clear plastic containers
"A toy box is terrible," Anita cautions. "I never recommend it because all they’re actually ever going to use is that top 20 percent. Whatever goes to the bottom stays there forever. I mean, you saw it in Toy Story."
When re-sorting toys into their new homes – make sure you can see the toys from the outside, and that kids can reach the containers.
"If we can have a system where kids can reach it, they can see it, it's labelled and it's not cluttered, they will enjoy it so much more," Anita explains. "I've seen it. I'm living proof of it and I'm telling you it is amazing. The less they have, the more they play."
5. A cube system is great
"I do love the Ikea Kallax. I mean, anyone who's worked with me or been around me knows I do love that for toy storage," says Anita. "The cube system’s friendly. It's easy to label."
Anita also recommends against using cloth cubes, but instead opting for clear plastic boxes that kids can also pack away easily.
Using inserts to divide up boxes is also helpful to store different kinds of toys in the same place.
6. Label each box
Anita recommends labelling each box, but use words instead of pictures or diagrams, no matter their age.
"I still think using words is the best way to do it. They pick it up really, really easily," she says.
Use bright coloured labels, as kids are attracted to these as opposed to plain black or white.
7. Keep decluttering
Decluttering once does not mean you’re done for life. With kids’ toys, it’s a constant process. The Duplo that was once great for your toddler is not so enticing to them later on.
"You have to keep decluttering," Anita says."With children and their toys, every year they're growing, they are changing."
As kids get older, you may think you need to add more storage, but Anita says this is a common misconception.
"Children have less toys as they grow older ... you're up to that Lego phase when they’re five. Then they start to become more digital. That's the way it is now."
So, beware the storage trap!
"Once you're set up, just stop adding storage. You'll realise that if you keep decluttering, these big, bulky toys end up leaving your home forever."
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