Monday, December 22, 2014

How We're Keeping Toy Clutter to a Minimum: A Simpler Christmas

It's every kid's dream.You wake up Christmas morning to stacks of presents so high you can practically swim in them. You open them to find toys galore. And in those glorious morning hours, you play and play next to the Christmas tree to your heart's content.

In reality, half of those toys will be shoved aside, hardly used, and clutter up valuable real estate in your home. I can tell you that Totally Hair Barbie (my Must. Have. Toy. in third grade) lasted about a week (if that) before she was set aside. After all, how many different ways can you style Barbie's hair before it gets old?

Also, you should definitely check out the commercial linked above. Pure 90's cool. I'm pretty impressed that I still remembered the jingle over 20 years later. Great marketing, Mattel!
But I digress...

So, how DO you keep the toy clutter to a minimum? These are the tips and philosophies that I've found work best for us.

  • Save the toys for Christmas, birthday, and Easter. When Kiddo was little and we had next to nothing, I purchased several toys at yard sales. Since then, however, I limit toy purchases to special occasions.
Grammy loved buying him toys for his firs "big boy" Christmas.
  • Don't buy (many) toys.
    Leave the toy-buying to doting grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We try to limit ourselves to one gift per special occasion, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a toy. 
    On a related note, try not to buy something just because it's on super-sale.
    The deal might be tempting (who doesn't love the rush of paying pennies on the dollar?), but I always try to ask myself this: will it be used or will it be clutter? No matter how amazing the deal, if it brings mess and chaos to my home, it's not worth it.   

  • Purge regularly. I try to go through our play room a few times a year. As I notice a toy that is outgrown or neglected, I pack it away to donate, sell, or save for baby girl.
  • Think quality, not quantity.
    It's better to give one really great-quality toy that will stand the test of time than to give a bunch of inexpensive toys that won't hold up. For example, this Christmas, I knew I wanted Kiddo to have a nice set of large wooden blocks to replace our very worn yard sale-purchased alphabet blocks. After looking online and reading a boat-load of reviews, it became clear that our best choice was to go with this Melissa & Doug set. It certainly wasn't the cheapest option, but knowing that it's a timeless and well-made toy that should hold up to a lot of abuse made it a worthwhile choice. The best part is, after much deal-hunting, my mom was able to pick the blocks up for half price on Amazon last week. (Score!)
  • Add to an existing collection.
    I picked up this tip from Jen at I Heart Organizing and it's been wonderful. If your child already has a themed toy that he or she loves, add to the collection. Her example was legos, but for us, it's been Kiddo's Thomas train set. My parents have been adding track pieces and trains for Easter, birthday, and even a special reward for being potty trained. :-) The great thing about this is that I don't need to find a place to store these new toys - they just go into the bin already designated for that kind of toy!

  • Go with a useful "big gift."
    This goes along with the quality vs. quantity example. Sometimes, if you have the space, a bigger toy can have a huge impact. Past big toys included a play kitchen, t-ball set, art easel, and bicycle. This Christmas, Kiddo is getting a trampoline from my in-laws to help him exert some of that abundant energy on cold winter days. 

  • Think outside the (toy) box.
    Kids can get just as excited about non-toys as toys. Last year, Kiddo was tickled to open his own kid-sized shovel and snow boots for Christmas. Books, stickers, art supplies, and play dough are always well-received. And I can't tell you how excited Kiddo was to get a gift card to Chick-Fil-A for his birthday. Experiences, lessons, and memberships are also great options that we are keeping in mind for the future. 

Putting his boots and shovel to good use after last year's big storm.
Ultimately, on Christmas Day or any day, your child's joy will come from receiving things they really love and will cherish rather than just the sheer abundance of toys, which may be exhilarating but short-lived. Gift-giving is a display of love, and certainly not a competition (even with yourself) to go bigger and better each year. If we spend more of our time and money on traditions and togetherness, we are doing what really matters. We can express our love by giving gifts, but we must also make sure this motivation isn't lost in the "to-buy-list" frenzy. After all, at its core Christmas isn't about quantity; it's about quality--the quality of time spent together and the thoughtfulness of our gift-giving.

Unless you don't have children, or you get rid of your child's toys, there is no way to completely eliminate clutter. I'm by no means an expert on toy storage and clutter. Our play room is currently in need of another purge, and there are days when toys are left scattered on the floor, a total cluttered mess. I also know things will get more complicated with the addition of baby #2 this spring. However, with the above plan in place, I feel confident that our toy situation can be managed effectively without driving Hubby and me crazy!

How do you handle the toy clutter, especially around the holidays? What was your favorite Christmas gift as a child?

I'd love to hear from you in the comments in the comments below!

 This is a part of my series on A Simpler Christmas.


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