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Tips On Minimizing Toys

We have way too many toys and I’m on the verge of purge. Before having kids, I promised myself before every Christmas and birthday, I would donate a handful of toys in the interest of giving back before getting. To date, we have done this and even a little bit more. Still, our home is OVERRUN with clutter. I perpetually tidy, and still the better part of each day our home looks like our cupboards and our toy bins have thrown up EVERYWHERE. Here are some strategies on minimizing and organizing toys as well as research on what makes for the best ones.

Despite my best efforts, we find ourselves overrun by toys from time-to-time. Here are some of my best strategies on organizing and minimizing toys including research on what makes for the best toys.


Techniques That Have Helped

    • I took large zip lock bags and smaller storage bags and categorized toys. As of now, the kids can’t open the bags without help. If they would like one open, they have to clean up what is already out.
    • I rotate toys – Whatever is being played with less, I put in our closets for a few weeks.
    • We donate.
    • We only buy toys on holidays, or special occasions.
    • We have several self-contained toys such as a giant Mr. Potato Head, Noah’s Arc, and a Fire Station.

Despite my best efforts, more often than not, our home looks like this:

Despite my best efforts, we find ourselves overrun by toys from time-to-time. Here are some of my best strategies on organizing and minimizing toys including research on what makes for the best toys.

On top of it all, I have the hardest time parting with my kids toys that were gifts. I can’t help but think of the generosity and thoughtfulness that went into prices ain’t the gift.

Recently, however, I revisited this resource from ZERO TO THREE on what makes good toys. My plan is to go through what we presently have and apply these general rules to minimize our toys.

What Makes The Best Toys and What Should GO

  • Choose toys that can be used in a variety of ways. Choose toys that are “open-ended” in the sense that your child can play many different ways with them… These objects can spark your child’s imagination and help him develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills. Examples: Blocks, interlocking blocks, nesting blocks or cups, and toys for sand and water play
  • Look for toys that will grow with your child. Examples: Plastic toy animals and action figures, toddler-friendly dollhouses, trains and dump trucks (and other vehicles), stuffed animals and dolls
  • Select toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving. Play gives children the chance to practice new skills over and over again. Examples: Puzzles, shape sorters, blocks, nesting blocks or cups, art materials like clay, paint, crayons or play-dough.
Toys to avoid or donate:

The toys for toddlers are ablaze with buttons, levers, lights, music, etc. are often marketed as ‘developmental’ because the toy has so many different functions. As a general rule of thumb, the more a toy does, the less your child has to do. If your child can sit and watch the toy ‘perform,’ then it is likely more entertaining than educational… The most useful toys are those that require the most action on the part of a young child. The more children have to use their minds and bodies to make something work, the more they learn.
The entire source is well worth the read! Now I have some work to do! 🙂


How have you kept kid or toddler toy mess at bay? Please share your tips! I need all the advice I can get 🙂


  1. It’s so hard to know just how to handle toys, isn’t it? I had very similar thoughts last year and my solution ended up amounting to getting rid of more. Always removing from the abundance, And not just the toys, all of our stuff gets gone through regularly. I can’t stand to have things that we aren’t using, which someone else could!
    My two older children are very good about letting things go now, but my youngest (3) wouldn’t be able to accept it yet, so we have to discreetly go through stuff. 😉 He never “catches” things missing, which means he really DOESN’T need (or even want) them!
    We keep presents down to a small amount each birthday and Christmas, and our family knows our desire to live with less so they also only get one thing for the kids each.
    Not to overload you with links, but here’s one I wrote a few years ago about encouraging minimalistic gift-giving and receiving.
    Have you joined any minimalist groups on FB? Those are VERY helpful and motivating!!

    1. Valerie, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I WANT the links so I can maintain motivation, and my family can live a more abundant life without an abundance of things

  2. P.S. Forgot to mention that my husband used to hold onto *everything*, but after years with kids (and a wanna-be minimalistic wife), he now happily donates things. SUCH a relief to have him on board now! 😀

  3. Alana, this is great. By nature I’m a purger. I take it too far sometimes, but I get so frustrated with junk-toys or excess amounts of stuff. I feel like it’s counterproductive. You buy stuff for your kids to play with, but they’re so overwhelmed with it all and usually only end up playing with like you said their favorites. I love your points here. Getting away from consumerism is hard, but so worth it!

    1. It think there’s no such thing as too far! And you’re right Melissande, getting away from consumerism is a battle, but one worth fighting when we can!

  4. I am with you! We have so many toys and so much clutter it makes me crazy! We’re giving away and donating all the time-and there’s still always more. We’re in the process of moving so we’re really getting rid of stuff now, with the exception of the favorites of course! Thanks for the tips! I now have fantastic reasons to get rid of the obnoxious sound making toys.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience with toys. When we moved, a lot of my daughters’ toys ended up in the closet to keep her room from being overrun. With very few exceptions she doesn’t remember or ask for anything in the closet.

    1. This is a good idea just in general Jen – pack them away and see what gets missed/ ask for. Whatever remains untouched can go! 🙂

  6. I recently cleared out the majority of toys from my home and it was more of an attachment to me than the kids. As much as I love having the toys in the toy room, I feel at peace not having to clean up so much.

    1. I appreciate you commiserating with me, and giving me hope. If I can get over letting go of them, everything will be fine! (I’m about 1/3 of what I’ve intended to do so far)

  7. We have a lot of Legos but I have pretty much stopped buying toys that don’t allow my kids to be imaginative. We purge several times a year. Great ideas here!

  8. It is difficult to figure out what to hold and what to purge. We have four kids, soon to be six. The older they get, the more stuff we seem to bring home. There are crafts and school papers too and that is another issue. I think the biggest thing that has helped me is to keep current. To purge, even daily. The task can become unsurmountable!

  9. Yes! We have toys everywhere! I figure it will be that way for a few years.. the playroom is bad.. but the garage is WORSE! I think every kid leaves their bike, scooter, footballs… etc in OUR garage only! 😉

    1. Hahaha. That was OUR garage when growing up. It seems like no matter how much I donate, or organize, they ALWAYS creep out and then spread EVERYWHERE!!!

  10. This is so great with such helpful tips. I’ve GOT to do this. I’ve been trying to sell/donate things for months but have struggled with time here lately. I really would love to sell things but it just never goes as well as I hope so I need to surrender and just donate. I hear you on the nostalgia part though. I’ve gotten rid of a lot, but there’s always more!!! Need to get on it! Thanks for this and such a great post, as always!

    1. I’m exactly, exactly like you. I can never clear out enough. With the kids stuff, I need to let go! Thank you for your great commentary. I have started on it,but there’s still so much more to do!

  11. I have the same problem! And I have tried all kinds of “tricks” to cut back and limit what can be played with, but none of them seem to last for long. I am raising tornadoes.

    P.S. Play-doh should DEFINITELY be on the “Toys to Avoid list” lol I hate that crap….it gets stuck EVERY. WHERE.

  12. This is all so true!! I do 4 purges a year. Once before Christmas and our birthday season. And then again a few weeks after the birthdays and Christmas. That way I can tell which toys have been “replaced” by the birthday toys. But I’m totally with you on the sentimental part. There are a few toys that I just haven’t had the heart to get rid of…even if they don’t play with them.

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