Toy Clutter Confessional

Why is it easier to get rid of my own things and so hard to get rid of my 17 month-old son’s?

I’ve purged and pared down Henry’s toys a few times now. It was easy for me to toss things I had purchased him, the BlaBla fruit and veggie rattles he never took to and a shape sorter after we received a similar gift at Christmas. But anything from a Grandma or Aunt/Uncle/Cousin that is still age appropriate has stayed.

I know there are kids out there with a lot more toys than this. And I know that most children in the world get by with a lot less than this. But I’m having trouble finding a happy medium for us. I want less but I can’t seem to reduce in this area. It concerns me that I will be no match for a verbal Henry with an affinity for toys.

Fact: almost every child’s toy in these photos was a gift.

Fact: most of the children’s books were gifts too.

While my book collection is at six I want a good amount of books around for Henry. We read a few books every day and yes, we could get more from the library, but he’s rough on books. He eats them. He tears pages out. When he’s a bit older we will try more library books. For now he can rip up the ones we already own.

Sentimental sabotage: some of his books are from his older cousins. I love this. I love reading books that his cousins chose from their own collection and gave to him. I love that the My Little School Bus flap book his cousin enjoyed is now being loved and enjoyed by Henry.

So, I need some honest opinions. Especially from those of you with older children. Do I need to cut down now? Relative to other first world kids, is this a lot of toys? Am I dooming myself by not scaling back even more now?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Like this post? Share it:
  • I never felt guilty about selling all of my kids toys until after the fact. We had received bags and bags of hand me down toys. Our basement was just flooding with the stuff. However, we also got rid of most of the gifts too. In hind sight of the hundreds of toys we got rid of I think there are about 5 that the two oldest remember and are disappointed about. However, not that disappointed. Lets face it, kids are resilient.

    • Yeah, if you move out of the country (like you did) you have to be pretty harsh on the toys. If we ever move out of country *wink* *wink* I am sure I whittle this collection down to nothing. Nothing meaning the guitar toy H is obsessed with, his shakers and the shape sorter + cubes he is figuring out.

      • Looks like you’re doing great. Great thoughts from others.
        A few more from me as we just recently relocated overseas and downsized to almost nothing. We also don’t have access to an English-speaking library or many toy stores. Here’s my two cents:
        1. Keep others up on what your priorities of simplicity are,
        2. experience-based gifts are always most welcome
        3. I rotate the toys only keeping a few out at a time creating less to clean up (developmentally appropriate, too).
        4. Created a swap group or a toy and book lending group
        5. I’m big on owning more books than toys; it shows a priority and I personally stay interested more!
        6. Equal (if not more) passive to active toys
        7. Take pictures of the toys when you get rid of them
        8. When they get older have them take part in giving toys away; also read “Too Many Toys” book

        Keep up the good work

  • Hi, I’m delurking for the first time! I do agree that it is hard to get rid of your children’s toys (I have a 2 and 4 year old). A word that I noticed in your post was “age-appropriate”. What if you committed to getting rid of toys that were too little for your son? There is a lot of turnover at this age. And with him being hard on books, it makes it easier to getting rid of items that he has.

    From looking at the pictures, he has the right amount of toys, not too much, not too little. But I’m not a minimalist.

    Oh, and thank you for this website. I am now thinking of the (multiple) boxes of stuffed animals packed in the basement that my girls never really played with. Now to convince the husband….and you’re right, they don’t miss them at all.

    • Thanks for de-lurking! =)
      And thank you for the positive comment on his toys. I am taking a few to a swap meet this weekend. I’ll keep refining as he gets older and we see what he uses most.
      Boxes tucked away: we all have them. I’ve really cut down and we now just have one box of baby clothes/items (down from six). If we have another child I’ll be happy with a lot less now that I am into simple living.

  • I think the sooner you get rid of the unnecessary toys and let relatives know what type of toys/books to get for Henry, the better.
    Lots of toys are sold under the magic word: “educational”. However, I think everything and anything can be educational, if the child plays with it. If we let kids play with simple toys, they will use their imagination. If we give them ready made, complex, single-function toys, they loose interest in the toys easily, and will want the next toy. After a while, they won’t even be able to play with toys that do not “do someting”.
    We have “core-toys”, and we and relatives can add to that at birthdays, Christmas etc. My two boys, apart from their teddys have:
    1. Duplo/Lego
    2. wooden train tracks with trains, people, animals, bricks, Noah’s ark
    3. a toy garage and matchboxes
    4. dress-up costumes & one till each
    5. books
    They have been playing with these toys since they were very little. Initially our core-toy collection started with a Duplo car, a few wooden bricks, a silk and some books. I tend to read waldorf/steiner educational sites, they have great ideas on toys and children.

    • Thanks for the list from your toy box. It’s helpful to hear exactly what other parents have kept and what their kids play with.
      My mother and MIL are very generous and love shopping. I am taking a gentle approach and continue to ask them not to buy things outside of birthdays and Christmas. They are getting the message (and they do read this blog).
      I’ll do some research so I have ideas for them for gift giving.


      • how in the world do you get them to actually follow through on that rule? i married into a family of shopoholics whom i love so so so much, but they buy my kids too much stuff and i always feel guilty paring down. i’ve instituted a 3 toy rule for bday/xmas, but they always go over and they buy presents for holiday like valentines day and st. patricks day! ( i know, right?) and now i am over whelmed by it all and so stressed out…like your post about wanting or needing a vacation….i NEED it……. help!!

    • re: “and let relatives know what type of toys/books to get for Henry”
      This is the absolute biggest issue, especially in the US. We all feel the need to BUY a gift, one that can be unwrapped in front of others and some folks (who absolutely do not understand minimalism) even are somewhat competitive with their gifting. I’ve seen waaaaaaay too many parents smile and say “wow” when a big boxed gift is offered. I have long been the one who will — yes — buy books, because they can always be passed on to others, but also buy gifts of experience.
      Feel free to say “we’re drowining in toys, please consider a photo of yourself when you were spending time with Henry that I don’t have” or a season pass to zoo/science center/children’s theatre/whatever, or simply take the kid on a “you and me only” day out, or get creative in some other way. I’ll bet that most relatives are up to the challenge.

  • My kids are 15, 13 and 9. My husband loves to buy them things so they always had an overabundance of toys. As my two older ones grew I taught them to donate things as they lost interest and they now have a reasonable amount of things and we still purge every few months. My 9 year old still has way too many toys so this is the one area in our home that I am always working on. I’m hoping he will be better able to get rid of things as he gets older like his sisters have been able to. Your son is still very young so you have the opportunity to set the limit early. I like the idea of children having 3 medium size bins of toys and when new things come in they can get rid of some to make room. You could decide how many bins of toys you are comfortable with and then do one bin of books. By your pictures you already have way less toys than most families I know so I think you are on the right track. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Kathy. My goal is to just have what fits on the shelving unit. As there are a few empty spots I think I am close. I’m going to reduce the stuffed animals and continue to monitor what he is actually playing with.

  • I agree with both B-Man and swynedig! Our oldest, at four years old, might have complained if he’d seen me putting some of his rarely used (and crazily blinking) toys in a box for donation, and so I did that when he was sleeping. He’s never said a thing. And I’ve noticed that the ones we saved – the hands-down favorites – are the ones that made no noise. They are the toys that encourage imaginative play. Since we’ve organized our toys in cubbies, the children tend to take things out one at a time and engage in deeper play for longer periods of time.

    This was not the case when there were Legos and Lincoln Logs mixed in with Mr. Potato Head and stray puzzle pieces.

    (Rachel, I love your new page! It’s beautiful!)

    • Should be taking advantage of these mostly nonverbal months and getting rid of more =)
      Loving the page too. Now I get to learn a bit of html and install widgets and things. Fun!

  • Great post!! I’m interested in hearing peoples answers as well, my son also has a lot of toys & books & I find it hard to get ride of his stuff. I recently got ride of some of his books but he still has a LOT. I was reading recently though that kids that have lots of books have a higher I.Q. so that is making me feel better about all the books=) Some friends think my house is quit minimalist but I am always looking for ways to pair down & simplify our life.

    • Thanks, Steph. Some great comments here. I’m learning a lot from parents of older children.

  • As B-Man says, kids, don’t get attached to many toys. They don’t even notice if occassinally toys “go missing”. It is me who finds it harder to sell/give away some toys that were gifts. But as I said earlier, family does know now what toys to get, and that one little pressent wil do, so no need to get rid of gift toys. Also, lately they have been giving ‘experience’presents. (trips to the zoo, seaside picnic, cienma etc) instead of toys, and the kids love it!

  • I wrote a similar post along these lines last month. I’m having a terrible time getting my six year old son to thin out his toys. Like you, most of the toys he has are gifts (his grandparents go a little overboard for special occasions).

    When he was younger, it was easier for me to donate the toys he didn’t play with. Now that he’s older, he has become attached to his belongings. His packrat tendencies combined with the influences he is exposed to at school are creating more clutter than I’m happy with. And he always seems to wants some”thing.”

    I’m more lenient with his book collection since I think it’s important that he have some favorites at home to read. He’s good at keeping them organized on a bookshelf, so they don’t contribute to the clutter.

    Like swynedig, we’ve been encouraging experiences for special occasions instead of more crap to clutter the house. We also have a newly implemented one-thing-in, two-things-out (of equal or greater size) rule.

    Also, Tanja from minimalistpackrrat is getting ready to write a book about this very subject!

    • Experience gifts are the best! We have an Art Gallery pass that was a gift.
      Tanja from Minimalist Packrat is great! Just read her post about kids clutter. Love that she is writing a book about it.

  • Hi Rachel,

    Although I am new to the minimalist movement I have always tried to live with less. I have twins and a single, all of them boys. They are now 20 and 15 years old. When my husband and I had our twins we lived in a 900 square foot flat. I learned early on to ask only for things we needed. It became necessary when all the boys really wanted to play with were laundry baskets, and containers filled with sugar cubes. Can you see where I’m going with this? We adopted the “one new item, one donated item” rule. I included all of our boys at a young age with purging. They also got to decide what charity got their “stuff”. Salvation Army, Goodwill, Variety Village, or just the drop boxes in the plaza parking lot. At times I did feel a bit wasteful, especially when it came to giving other people’s money away. Having said all of that, I am sentimental, and will always allow for keepsakes which are kept in a box for each of them. Your “doing good” Rachel, so don’t be hard on yourself. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    • Recently my son has become fascinate with our kitchen and pulling things out of drawers and banging pots and pans. Why do I even need these toys?!! =)
      Glad you are inspired. I’m getting a lot back from writing here and getting comments and suggestion from other families. Win win!

  • I used to feel the same way about getting rid of my kids things that they don’t play with anymore…I always felt bad about it like I was removing things that they desperately needed. Let me tell you with them 7 and 5 now I have learned my lesson on this one.

    People buy them stuff, cousins hand things down and not to mention the barrage of Christmas gifts they get every year. I found myself this year with bins of toys in their rooms that they literally NEVER play with!!

    On our big downsize and de-clutter move that we just made I committed myself to applying that to their toys as well. Here is what I did…

    1. Observe: check to see what your kids really play with. I actually came to find that my daughter plays mostly with her dolls and my son with his “building” toys. The plethora of things they have that they literally NEVER touch was immense. So what do they need it for?

    2. 6 month rule: kids develop at a rapid rate and change their interest in toys often. My rule is if they haven’t played with it in 6 months its gone.

    3. Include them: With older kids include them in the process of selecting what to keep and what to donate. My son who is 7 initiated all by himself going through his toys and donating to other kids who don’t have toys (awe….mama’s heart melted).

    4. Organize: I find the biggest thing that needs to be done with toys is organization. Find the most suitable way to organize their toys so it doesn’t feel like they are cluttering. My kids have two huge toy boxes and they know that they are allowed to take everything out but they always have to put everything back. When everything is strewn around the room it LOOKS like they have too much but it all nestles back into their boxes.

    As far as sentimental toys go…I had kept their first toys/stuffed animals and then one day I thought to myself “when they are 30 are they gonna keep schleping this around too”…let’s face it the answer is no…so I donated it to charity.

    They both still have their most prized possession toy but that is really all they need. They are happy and have everything they could possibly need.

    • This is a great list for downsizing toys. Thank you.
      Also, I agree with getting rid of sentimental toys. I kept my favourite blanket for years and then when I moved away to college I tossed it. It was tattered and gross and not the “blankie” from my childhood.

  • I agree with the above comment that kids develop at a rapid rate. And right now at 17 months you are at a really great stage that you could purge a lot of the toys in the pictures and replace them with toys that he can use now and will hold his interest for a year or more. Purchasing a wooden train track with trains and a large collection of wooden blocks will be a very worthwhile investment. My boys still play with our wooden block set and they are 5 and 7. Of course how they play with it is different than when they were 1 1/2 but clearly it’s a worthwhile investment. And it opens their creativity to become whatever they want it to be. Get rid of the guilt of getting rid of gifts, we all do it. :)

    • Thanks for the pep talk, Gretchen. It is about guilt. I worry friends and family will ask or look for a toy that was a present. Need to remind myself that they barely remember what they give him.

      • Amen! I rarely remember what I’ve given in the past, so I’m sure it’s the same with everyone else. The only exceptions are some toys or books my grandmother gave us that belonged to my dad. Those I will never forget, nor part with!

  • That’s not a lot of toys, no, but if you started doing “one in, one out” now the amount would stay reasonable too. In any case it’s good to keep weeding out toys that are not played with and books that are never read. I should actually go through the books, there are some that we read over and over, and some that she has no interest in. We live in 6oo sq ft and it’s plenty of space if all of us just have what we really need and want. Much of the time DD likes to draw or play outside or play with some non-toys. You notice what toys are loved and used and those that are not. It would be very easy to get rid of toys for us and she would never care, the only problem is that she likes to watch photos and she will see an old toy and the picture and ask about it.. ooops. She is two but we have taken trips to donate to charity shops many times and I always explain to her that we are giving away things we don’t need so that other people who need them can use them. It’s good to get them involved.

    • Committed to one in, one out rule except books. If they are gifts we will keep them for now. I have a few shelves free, right? =)
      Will watch for the toys in photos issue.Thanks =)

  • Great Post and comments!

    Books are so important that you really have to think about how to give the child tremendous exposure to the books. If you read “The Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease you will learn that having books in the home is tremendously important. My suggestion is don’t shy away from the library. Get in the habit of having that be a weekly outing list. Our library has toddler, pre-schooler and older kid story time with crafts, song and dance – PARTICIPATE! Read to him every day and use the library books. I had a book eater too so let him chew on the six he has and just read the ones you bring home then keep them safe. Also, many libraries have annual book sales of donated books and often sell some donated books every day. I saw a lot of board books for 25 cents each at the library – of course I saw when my kids were too old!

    I think you have the right amount of toys for a child of 17 months. Don’t forget that if you are having a 2nd child that you will need those baby toys again. If you have a good thrift shop in your area look for gently used items. They have had a resurgence in our area and are very busy places. Also, rotate one bin of toys every two weeks. This keeps them entertained longer with less.

    Simple things are very interesting to kids. A big box he can decorate and play in. A bowl of water and items from nature to see if they sink or float. Measuring cups and bowls or pots and pans with a wooden spoon.

    Keep in mind your real goal and example you want to set. For example, I don’t want to have my kids feel deprived, yet I want them to be sensitive that not everyone is as fortunate as we are (hence learning to donate items). I also want them to understand that the great outdoors provides a lot of free play and wonderful exercise.

    My kids are 4 and 6 – the best gifts/toys are: Arts and Crafts materials, building materials, open ended imaginative play and sports equipment.

    I hope this helps. Truly you are doing great and really shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. I wish I was in this frame of mind when my kids were little. I am still getting rid of stuff. At the end of the month someone is coming to pick up a truck load full after I have already done this twice for 2 other families. UUGH! Live and learn!

    • Books: we go to the library at least once a week for free storytime and songs. After we walk around the library and play in the play areas. Henry loves to pull lots of books off the shelf at once so I have to pay close attention to him.
      Before I had a child I had no idea there were so many free resources at our library. Puppet shows, family story time, stories in French, etc. Lots of available to us.
      Thanks for commmenting – great to hear from someone with a bit older children.

  • I think you are doing well, as others have said the communication on what you ‘want’ or ‘need’ will really help cut down on the unwanted stuff you get from others.
    As my kids are older, I keep a small amount of baby toys around (the sentimental ones I want) that friends kids play with when visiting, and I can easy keep in a small box when not. This way we can all remember a few precious ones, but the rest get donated.
    If you keep a set amount of space for toys (we have 2 bins) then it sets the stage early that once they no longer fit, you need to purge. This really helps set bondaries (for you and others).

    • Thanks, KT. I am hoping to stick with what will fit on that shelving unit. Both for books and toys. I think we are close right now. The exception is the ride on/push toy and the popper thing (doesn’t fit). I like the concept of telling a child they have X amount of space for toys and letting them make a choice of what will stay and what will go.

  • I think Henry’s toy selection looks great! His book selection looks good too – I totally know what you mean about waiting until he’s older to take out more books from the library, my youngest is 2.5 and we’re just now getting to the stage where I trust he will respect the books that aren’t his and not destroy them. :) The amount of toys we have varies, but I try to stick to one laundry basket (max) of toys, and no more than that. We currently have a ton of stuffies and I would like to get those to about half, since the kids hardly play with them. Otherwise, we’ve pared down almost exclusively to just Playmobil with a few Hot Wheels cars thrown in for good measure. I know how hard it is too to control what toys are coming in as gifts – we didn’t get our kids any toys for Christmas and their toy collection doubled overnight. I ended up donating everything as it turns out they weren’t really into any of it anyway – well, they were into the rock band set (with electric guitar and drums), but I wasn’t so into it myself. :)

    • Rock band: hahaha! Were you tempted to try it?
      It’s nice that living downtown we have a lot of options for our kids to go play in parks or at drop-ins. The VSOCC drop-in even has crafts. H is still way too young for it but I love that it is there.

  • I have a 1 year old and a 2 1/2 year old, so I am SO with you on this one. I have the exact same shelving unit also. My rule right now is that everything for both of them has to fit in or on the unit. Exceptions are: books (which are currently on shelves in their bedroom. The toy shelf is in the living room), the “bigger” items, like the ride-on toy, a standing play table, and my older daughter’s play kitchen set. So for 2 with very loving grandparents, I feel like I’m doing pretty good!

    My youngest is having her 1st birthday next week and to combat the over-gifting, we decided to give just a few ideas to the grandparents and everyone else is bringing toys for us to donate to the local children’s hospital (this was on the invite!). I’m excited about less presents! LOL!

    • We had a joint birthday celebration for Henry’s 1st birthday with some of his little friends (they all have birthdays within weeks of each other). Instead of getting each kid a gift, or even a present swap, we each donated $20 to a cause. Way less stress, less clutter and it felt good. Oh, and the kids are way too young to understand presents.

  • A one thing in one thing out rule would help for the future.

    I’m not a minimalist, but I am working on de-cluttering… My kids are both very sentimental so I don’t get rid of things impulsively. When the kids were younger I would take toys that I *thought* they didn’t play with and put them away for a month or so just in the event that they missed it. Of course not all kids have memories like my kids do, but it did happen once or twice that a toy I had designated for the second hand store was really missed and brought back into circulation.

    Toys my kids (4 and 7) love:
    Duplo (and Lego)
    Littlest Pet Shop animals

    They have cars and trains and dolls too, but these are the ‘best’ toys in their opinion.

    Recently my daughter’s friend gave my daughter (7) hand me down toys (that we didn’t need!). I told my daughter she had to find toys that she didn’t play with to do the “one thing in one thing out” policy with. She was really concerned at first, but did a great job finding toys of comparable sizes to trade. She also decided that a lot of the hand me down toys she didn’t even want to keep.

    I have also held out two stuffies and said “Which one do you want to keep?” knowing that while one was cute it wasn’t very sentimental to her. She has a hard time letting go of things so I’m trying to gently help her along…

    • Inspiring to read about your seven year old making choices about keeping just what she really wants. I’m hoping to do the same for Henry. Making these habits at a young age will do them well in life. Thanks =)

  • Hi Rachel,
    It is amazing how little kids play with. With each of my kids (there are three) I let go of more and more. My youngest had very few toys, and I tried to keep them open-ended – playsilks, dress-up, and wooden blocks are always a hit at any age and gender. It doesn’t look like you have too much, and I think keeping it contained to the one shelving unit is smart.
    Two things to try (now or in the future)
    One is to swap toys, if you have a space to store a bin. Every two or three weeks, put away the toys on the shelf and swap out the ones in the bin (or do two toys at a time) It keeps it from becoming overwhelming and it adds interest. After a while, I started to see that my kids didn’t even notice half their toys anymore. If I thought those toys had value of some sort and didn’t want to donate them, I swapped them out for a few weeks. When they were introduced, the kids noticed the change and played with them again. Something to keep in mind anyway. We did this weekly when I worked in toddler childcare and it kept everyone interested!
    Also, as my kids outgrew toys but didn’t want me to get rid of them when asked, I simply packed them away for a few months (I have space in my house to do so though) If they asked about where the toys were in that time, they could have them out again to play with for a while, but if not, I felt much less guilty about passing it on!

    As I try to get more and more away from plastics (Lego excluded as it is my son’s lifelong obsession)I have thought ahead at birthdays and christmas,etc, and suggested wooden, collectable toys for the kids as group gifts from family members. Wooden barn and animals, Train tracks and trains, wooden dollhouse and furniture, things like that. They have the added bonus of being more attractive in my house (to me anyway!) and also many of the “heirloom” type toys are played with by all three kids for many years. More bang for the buck so to speak. The big downside I am noticing now, though, is that I want to keep all those heirloom toys for my grandkids! Which means storing them for a heck of a long time!!!

    That’s my Friday morning ramble…

    • Thanks, Bonnie.
      Toy swap outs: I’ve heard of this before in relation to Montessori. That you split the toys in half and rotate them every few weeks. Our daycare does this and also moves the furniture and play area around in the room. Thanks for the reminder =)

  • Be ruthless!
    1. Teach the kids EARLY that just before Christmas, there is a toy clean out and toys are handed over to a charity shop (otherwise Santa will assume they don’t need more toys – works everytime)
    2. Teach the kids EARLY that just before their birthdays there is a toy clean and toys are handed over to charity shop (so there is more room for new toys)
    3. If you are unsure whether a particular toy is loved, put it out for a day and see how much it is played with.
    4. Parents need to be in control of toy volume, not kids – kids will ALWAYS want more.
    5. Toys have an educational value for only so long, after that they become junk. (Apart from collectors items, have you ever seen a 14 year play with a shape sorter?)
    6. Minimise the amount of time a child needs to play with toys. Give experiences instead.
    7. If they are really hankering to play with toys, go to someone’s house with HEAPS of them and left them run wild. See which ones they actually play with before purchasing.

  • I think your scale back is fair. I know your focus right now is on minimalism, but you should keep clear in your head that minimalism is not about making yourself feel guilty.
    The only thing I think you guys should get rid of or store is the crib, if he doesn’t use it. Olive sleeps in our bed, and I have her crib disassembled and put away until she needs it as a toddler bed.

    With toys, my personal way to keep paring on the over-abundance is to always keep in mind how many toys I would expect Olive to be able to pick up herself. Or even how many I would want to pick up myself at any given time. Then I keep it at that or a bit less.

    • Thanks, Julia. You’re right, this isn’t about making myself feel guilty or bad about what we do have.
      Like your thoughts on picking up after toys. Right now this is pretty easy to clean up, just a few minutes to put it all back on the shelves.
      Crib: it switches to a toddler bed so we are keeping it for that reason. I’ve thought of taking it apart but, I don’t really have a spot to store it. And Henry does sleep there when my mom babysits and sometimes we start him out in it at night.

  • I think the amount looks reasonable… could be less without feeling deprived but isn’t excessive. If you’d like to have less, maybe you could adapt P333 for toys — pick a number of toys and/or books and pack up the rest and see how it goes. You don’t have to get rid of anything right off the bat – so you don’t have to agonize over the sentimental value of gifts ands hand-me-downs just yet and you can always pull out or swap out other toys and books if you need to.

    I used these guidelines for toys (books I am terrible about thinning)
    – nothing that makes noise independently and/or had lights, basically nothing that requires batteries (flashlights excepted)
    – has to be played with regularly
    – has to fit on the shelves (a few exceptions allowed)

    I have a 4 and 5 yo, a boy and girl respectively. I would like to get rid of a bit more but we just moved with very little notice and am not looking to stress my 4 yo, who also had to change schools, any more than he already is. In addition, they are at pretty different levels of development, so we have more than if they were at more similar levels.

    I don’t let the gender difference dictate toy choices, which is difficult because the princess cult has claimed almost all girl classmates and girl relatives… Okay, it may be more correct to say that I primarily limit us to what I consider gender-neutral toys that many would consider boys’ toys because they are not fairy-themed or that garish pink and purple.

    I count myself lucky that my kids really aren’t into toys and never have been. In other words, it wasn’t anything special I did. Though having them definitely contributed to the clutter, they are a really good example for minimalism: they do a lot of things with relatively few toys.

    • P333 for toys – love that idea! Hmmmm maybe we could do a challenge on here…
      Sorry to here about the quick move and hope the kids are adjusting. Having familiar things and routines helps with that so I understand keeping toys for that reason.
      Toys with lights and batteries: yeah… we have a lot of those and they were all gifts. Henry loves the guitar that makes noise but he mostly likes turning it on and dancing to it. The rest of the toys he is not so attached to. I’ve marked them for donation/sale.

  • Oh, I count the fact that they have toys at daycare/school so I am not depriving them of cognitive/sensory development opportunities. I first used that as an excuse to stop with the play dough that I was so tired of cleaning up but then it dawned on me that we didn’t need the barely played with doll house, any play food or kitchen stuff, etc., etc.

    • I count that too. The daycare has a play kitchen and tunnel/slide and they do crafts there. We also have two local drop-ins that run almost every day. One drop in is a gym and has big toys including a bouncy castle, the other one has smaller toys and crafts.

  • This one is hard for me too. But kids, especially younger ones, have a short attention span. I think enough toys are needed for them to be able to stay occupied and move from thing to thing. I also thing that a (small) variety of toys is good for developmental reasons.

    That being said, I don’t think you have too many or too few toys. More books are needed I think because I agree that small children are hard on them. But my son loves to read and so I will take having too many books over too many toys!! Plus, I am a book lover too and hope he grows up with that appreciation.

    • Hoping to pass on the booking loving to my son as well. Might be hard to see in the photo but we have about two dozen books. Half of them are board books which we will donate in a few years.

  • My 3 y o son has too many toys. In fact, we have a toy room just for his toys, and they still tend to tumble out into the living room. And I am an avid purger. Purger, is that a word? Every year at his birthday and again at Christmas, a bunch of his toys disappear. He has gotten used to this phenomenon, this past year he told us that Christmas was the time when Santa takes away your old toys and brings you new ones. Last fall, he had an exceptionally bad day and we packed up all of his toys except for the ones that could be considered educational or imaginative (coloring books, books, puzzles, legos, easel with chalk board). There were very few of the packed toys that he missed. All that weren’t missed went to the resale shop. Unfortunately, Christmas happened shortly there after. So he’s been fully restocked and then some.

    • Purger is a word in my books =)
      Just keep trying on the purging. If friends and family are buying all the toys for birthdays and Christmas, gently ask for experience gifts.

  • We have too many toys. I agree, before they are 2 year old it is pretty easy to get rid of toys. When we got rid if the pacifier at 20 months, it went to the “babies”, he was not attached to clothes, those went to the babies so did some of the toys. Now at 2.5 year old, we can give it to the babies, but he wants them back! Smart kid.
    I do hide toys for a few days and then donate them, especially the noisy ones. We have about 50 books in two langauages and that is our weakness.

    • Books are a good weakness for kids. It’s smart to embrace your true hobbies and not be too hard on yourself about keeping things for them. For me it is kitchen stuff.
      If you’re reading the books then they are being used. And that is a great reason to keep them.
      Love the giving the pacifier to the “babies” trick.

  • I would say that is NOT a lot of toys.

    We have a playroom, and two kids each with their own room. And we are overrun. This is actually the area where I just can’t seem to simplify. Partly because my children have very generous relatives, and partly because of my own issues.

    In my experience, kids are sort of hoarders. You can model as much as you want, but I would be surprised to meet a 4-year-old who’s going to willingly part with too many of their things. And that’s a big part of the problem, for me. I can clear things out, but to get things really pared down would certainly involve a lot of tears each and every time. And it’s not easy to face that.

    • Thanks, Amber. Nice to hear an objective opinion from a mom with two children. It helps that a) Henry is still young and b) we live in a smaller space.

      Agreed, who wants to deal with tears each and every time. I’ve already changed/ been broken of a lot of the ideas I had about parenting because of tears. In a lifetime, it’s really only a short time that your home will be overrun with little people and their toys.

  • Hi there, I popped over ‘cos of the link… and I have to have to comment!!! We have two very generous grannies and two very generous friends… Who way “over gift” our kids!!! But we have eight kids in a two bedroomed house so minimalism is a way of life rather than a choice!!! I have gotten our friends to gift the kids with consumables… crafty stuff/bath bubbles/baking ingredients… Our one granny thinks the more you spend the more loved a child feels… I need to take that into account!!! The other granny thinks the more gifts a child gets the more loved the child will feel… I have to take that into account… Basically we have a couple of toy collections they can choose to add to and that seems to work. The Big gifter is discovering that our kids are just as happy with the money she would have spent on an a gift as an experience… it is not often that a child in a family of eight gets to go to the theatre!!! The “many gifter” is a harder nut to crack!!! She thinks our toys are too pricey so she buys heaps of junk and wraps everything… (it sends me insane for the same money she could buy something really nice!) I just realized the other day that she gives each of our kids a book every birthday and Christmas… that’s 72 books a year!!! Madness!!! My kids know that they can pick something from the gifts she gives but most of it will be donated… Now she knows they will have to donate the stuff that there is just no I am thinking it isn’t very nice of her!!!

    The easiest way to for your kids not to have a lot of stuff is to have a “home culture” of not a lot of stuff – just don’t bring it in… don’t buy it. Get your relaxation from something other than shopping… So each of our kids has a shelf of books and a shelf of stuff. More than that and they have to choose to donate. It is the way they have always lived and they have no problem donating stuff that see it as an opportunity to gift someone… so it is done with enthusiasm rather than drama.

    • Just checked out your blog – WOW!
      Seven children + parents in a two bedroom home. That is amazing.
      I like that you have created a home culture of donating and that your children are enthusiastic about it. I’m hoping to do the same.
      Cheers from Vancouver,

  • Well I think I qualify as having older kids (mine are 22, 24 and 26)so I’ll delurk myself and post a few comments.

    1. It doesn’t look like an excessive amount of toys – yet!
    2. Kids enjoy their toys much more if you just let them have one or two at a time and hide the rest.
    3. Plastic toys are never as interesting, fulfilling or creative than access to the elements…water (a pool, or a bowl), earth (a sand pit?) and air (balloons, kites etc).

  • I don’t think he has too many. I just purged my 3 year old and 9 month old’s toys.

    This is what I donated:
    stuffed animals that don’t get played with
    noisy baby toys
    uninteresting puzzles
    weird wooden truck we got as a gift
    plastic animals

    What we kept:
    wooden blocks
    wooden cars my daughter likes to play with
    wooden kitchen with play food
    wooden puzzles
    a few organic stuffed animals that get played with
    wooden doll stroller, doll, ergo doll carrier
    baby shape sorter and some other baby toys

    They do play with these, but what they want to play with most is play dough, flashlights, beans, and some educational apps on my iPad.

    I highly recommend changing toys out every week or so. I have 2 bins of toys that I swap out and my 3 year old doesn’t even ask about the ones that are away.

  • Henry’s toys look sensible to me! Have done both the kids rooms/toys this week. One thing stands out, it’s easier for me to rationalise and purge my Son’s than my Daughters – fact! Not sure what’s going on inside my brain when I do it, but I must be more emotionally attached to Leah’s toys myself – without getting too deep I am wondering whether it was the lack of such things from my own childhood, and having to hang onto old toys and hand me downs. I’d like to help and offer some advice, but actually it’s a battle I am currently losing! My sentimental hoarding issue probably overlaps into this area!

  • Would you share details of your book collection?
    I’m not sure I could get it down to just six.
    I could try…
    A good Cookery book
    Current fiction
    Work text books, at least six on their own
    Bird identification guide
    Craft books

    I could reduce to six if it was just fiction, but not non-fiction as well.

    • Sure. We live a few blocks from a great/large library so it made it easier to part with books. Cookbooks: I sold all of mine. I was mostly getting recipes from blogs and websites like Epicurious anyways. Rarely cracked my pretty cookbooks open.

      1. 2 copies of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Chris gave me the first copy on our second date, he gave me the second copy when he proposed (it has a cut out where the ring was)
      2. The Rattle Bag (an anthology of poetry)
      3. Brewster’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – family copy, kind of sentimental but I also occasionally use it
      4. One Day My Soul Just Opened Up – Iyanla Vanzant
      5. The Boy in the Moon – Ian Brown *was a gift from my brother, have read it and will be giving it back to my brother when he returns in May

  • I have a toddler and am always asking him “Can we give this to another baby?” with books and clothes and now he says it himself! I have no limit on books as they are not ugly when shelved by colour and are at least made of paper. I go second hand shopping weekly and the amount of toys is ridiculous. Lots broken and with missing pieces which will never be bought. Giving old toys away is not enough. The planet is more important than my kids’ toys, so I have told everyone to give clothes, books or wooden toys. I don’t want plastic, period! I’m sure we all remember experiences as kids, not every toy we had. Toys do not make a childhood. Sorry to sound harsh, but I hate the massive amounts of useless garbage all toys become! Can we please think about the bigger picture?

  • Delurking (love that word!) for the second time.

    If, as you and others declutter, you feel the need to replace toys with activities or non-toy toys, here’s an idea I’ve recently come across… and I love it: toddler and preschooler activity bags. First encountered this on Hobo Mama in this post, and then clicked on to a bunch of other blogs and marveled at the simplicity of these things until I was convinced I needed to make some:

    Fill a few bags with different items, like pasta shapes for sorting and counting, various container lids, playdough, recycled paper with crayons, etc. (the list goes on), and pull them out at different times. Or make “stations” at your home with several bags spaced apart, so your child can move on when interest in one activity is lost. Playthings that don’t need to come from a store!

    I agree that it’s hard to direct loved ones when it comes time for birthdays and Christmas. We’ve set a “one gift per set of granparents” rule for each occasion (having witnessed the complete ridiculousness of Christmases with our son’s cousins, thanks to the grandparents) and for birthday parties with friends, we’ve declared that gifts are not necessary, but if they really wanted to, we’d prefer something recycled from their home.

    • Love this idea! I’ve just started getting creative with “making” toys: rice in a tupperware for a shaker and just letting my son mess around with safe kitchen items.

  • Lots of great feedback here. I am having the same problem, especially while TTC another. I don’t want to get rid of toys that the next baby might enjoy, but I also don’t want to keep EVERYthing!

    My mom sold a lot of my stuff at garage sales while I was at my dad’s for weekends. It irritated me at the time, but I (mostly) got over it. I think it may have created trust issues, though, and it definitely did with my sister!

    Definitely try to switch to those toys that have a broader “age appropriate” range. And as for books – have you checked for board books from the library? That is almost all I’ll get for Sasha because she is rough on them, too. I couldn’t even get those for a while because she would eat them. She is 18 months as of this week.

    Sentimental toys – it is hard to pick what will be sentimental, but if you get rid of something now, it won’t *become* a sentimental item. Honestly, he isn’t likely to remember a toy from now in the long run. And while there is nothing wrong with being sentimental, keeping a toy just because it might be sentimental seems like sending the wrong message, as a minimalist.

    I have a small rubbermaid style tub and I’m trying to limit myself to that tub for sentimental stuff (other than photos). Come to think of it, there is stuff in there I could toss. Some of it is being saved for my kids, though, like their hospital bracelets. I’m still not sure what I think about that. It isn’t an area I’ve given focus with my minimalist brain just yet.

  • I’ve just started my new minimalist life. The reason why, is that we moved momentarily to a different country and I had an unexpected baby meanwhile. That’s very challenging and I am trying to limit our stuff especially baby-related items. I posted in my blog a picture of toys I am planning to get for the next coming 4 years or so… I still think that’s too much.

    I’ll be glad to read your comments

  • Your son’s toys look great. My children’s toys looked good at that age, too. I have two girls that love dolls. The grandmas said if they like dolls then they MUST have a stroller, beds, cradle, changing table, ect…. for those dolls. O’ it is hard to say no, or get rid of after the buy. My girls did not play (more than the 15 minutes the grandparents were there to give the in item) with any of those very large items. They were happy with the doll and the outfit it came in to dress and undress a million times. The grandmas also wants to buy all the American girls doll store. Again, my children did not know the price of this items and were always happier with the $10 or $15 doll. My girls are now 9 and 11 and all the big stuff that know one played with is gone (grandma is not happy), but the dolls they have loved are just in the rooms. This same principle applies to kitchen food verses the whole kitchen place world. Keep it simply.

    • I do not mean to sound ungrateful for all the toys. I just watched my girls play with the same small things over and over. I did offer the toys back to the grandparents for their own houses or to give to cousins and the grandparents did not want them back.

  • That doesn’t seem like too much. My dd has two boxes of toys and a shelf of books.

    For her birthday party, I put on the evite “Your presence is present enough, ie no gifts” and we still got 7 gifts!

    I try to be selective with the toys and go for quality over quantity. But…..

    And, since I had put this on the evite, I have NO guilt over getting rid of the stuff I don’t like!

  • As a mom of 3 ranging from 7.75 years to 8 months, I think this is a perfect amount of toys. I’m a minimalist-in-training, and would love for any one of my three kiddos to have this amount of toys. Getting there seems to be the challenge.

    I did make a big move when I was 7, and my mom did have to purge A LOT of our toys. She still regrets getting rid of a few things….almost 30 years later. If something is that precious, it’s precious.

  • I would love to read all the replies, but I don’t have that much time! Anyhoo… I’ve begun purging things here and there to clear things out of the house, out of my HEAD. Fewer things to trip over, fewer things for the kiddos to fight about.

    I have two children, and the oldest is only 3, but it’s amazing how quickly you can accumulate things. I just dropped off a bunch of toys, clothes, and gear at a consignment store; anything that doesn’t sell with be given to friends or donated. When I went to pick up the bins the toys had been packed in, my daughter saw some of her old things and got excited; I had already explained to her that we were getting rid of extra toys so other kids can enjoy them. Why not get your kids involved in the process?

    I believe kids learn through their play, and though they can be creative with anything (think pots and pans, some rocks and twigs), I still like them to have things that are their own – play kitchen, dolls, cars, etc. Also, I think the more books the merrier. Books are so much better than television or computers! And when young kids read, when parents read to their children, they pick up the building blocks of language and learn to read on their own. I hope to homeschool, and am excited at the prospect.

    Deciding what to get rid of is definitely a challenge. If my kids didn’t or don’t play with it, and it’s unlikely they will do so in the future – gone! They don’t need to have the same things, so duplicates go. Sometimes I just put things away in the basement, and bring them out later; if they aren’t really missed, I decide we don’t need it around. I also swap toys back and forth with a close friend.

    My husband’s mother has so many toys at her house from when her kids were growing up, and later when she babysat for a number of other children. Now, they entertain the grandkids. I don’t want to forever store my kids’ toys, but I like the thought of saving favorites for another generation. If you truly think you’ll regret giving something up, then hold onto it for a while.

  • Great post, something we are constantly struggling with as we live in small place with two children (7 mos. and 3 years). Our struggle is that we are not sure if we are having a third baby or not, so we don’t want to sell the baby stuff yet (including toys) but the clutter is driving us crazy!!!! I love your blog!!!!

  • For our little guy (21 months) I have one shelf of our bookshelves (that we are still in the process of unloading/decluttering/donating) devoted to books for him to be looked at/read under supervision (so he won’t tear them up). He also has a small basket of board books that he has free reign with.

    Besides that, he’s got about 6 stuffed animals, a baby doll (to teach him gentleness), a Buzz Lightyear and a Woody (those two were hand-me-downs from a young uncle). In the closet I have a plastic tub that after a recent declutter is about half full of various toys (half of which he doesn’t play with much), a Fisher Price Learn and Move Music Station (the other part is attached to our TV), and a little toy wagon. He also has a whack a ball toy he received for his first birthday and a very little plastic toy kitchen.

    Out of all that, we will prob further weed down the books by half (most were bought in a bulk Craigslist buy)…and sell on Craigslist the toy wagon (since he’s really outgrown it) and the Music Station (since we are selling our TV and entertainment system in our quest to minimize and economize).

    Most of his things were bought second hand or were gifts as well (the Fisher Price stuff we received for free for hosting a House Party last year)…and truthfully that makes it EASIER for me to weed out.

    Truthfully he spends more time playing with the sensory tub of old beans and pasta that I set up for him, coloring with his pack of crayons and colored pencils, playing with homemade playdoh, pretending to hoop with his toy hulahoops (which is kept with my hoops that I use for fitness, so I don’t count them in with the toy count), running around the yard, playing with his learning flashcards, and “helping” his Papa with the yardwork…than he does playing with his toys!! Oh yeah…and he loves to “wash dishes” and to pull pots and pans and plastic containers out from the cabinets as well!!

    I plan to implement a rule where future toys (gifts or otherwise) must fit into certain specific categories…such as matchbox style cars, legos, pretend play (such as play food and dress-up clothing), and a max of 2-3 other categories…and keep it at that. Since we plan to live in an RV in the future, toys WILL be kept to a minimum!!

  • Hi Rachel – I’ve just recently discovered your blog and have started my massive PurgeFest. I am probably more of a minimalish type of person but you do inspire me!

    I am a mother of four (11-year-old triplet boys and a 7-year-old girl), married to a frugal architect, I work full-time as a librarian and we live in a bungalow outside of Chicago.

    I agree that toys get out of hand. Just wait until Henry gets older and wants legos! I’ve finished a PurgeFest in Maddie (my daughter’s room), I’ve done the upstairs bathroom and I’m working on our bedroom now. The boys room is next and it will be a humdinger! Wish me luck.

    As far as books go – I have very strong feelings about books. Even though I check out most of my current reading materials from the library, we collect old books and have at least one book case in every room of our house. My husband and I were both English majors and we love books (especially classics). When I purge books it is usually the paperbacks I got for free or as a gift and I still haven’t read yet and can check out at the library. My kids have a lot of books – they are voracious readers. It is REALLY important to expose young children to books and reading (starting at birth) because it helps them develop early literacy skills which gets them ready for kindergarten and a successful academic life. We do weed through their books regularly and donate the ones they really don’t love or read to the library. Their very favorite books we keep. I have books from my childhood that they are reading. I’m not advocating that everyone should have as many books as we do but I am advocating that they are important to have in your home.

    Books, Dansko clogs and yarn (I’m a big knitter) are my weakness.

    I’m an old fashioned girl I guess. Ebooks and Kindles etc. just don’t interest me. I would rather spend @20 on a real book than an ebook. Ebooks and Kindles just make me feel too tied to my computer. I started blogging last year but it was too time consuming for me. I do think it would help me stay on track with my PurgeFest though.

    Anyway, I ramble….. thanks for all of your great ideas and inspiration!

  • I have to agree that the toy situation does get out of control. It doesn’t look like you have to many toys. I wouldn’t worry about it now. When he gets older and wants the train table or the play kitchen area or a playhouse, then that is when it gets complicated because that stuff is so big. I have a 3 year old and I just went through his stuff. I get rid of the things that he has outgrown. I am also a minimalist mom if you’d like to see my blog it is at
    I am so glad that I’m not the only one out there! ha ha

  • Toys- what a tricky subject! We have two little guys who have very opposite interests. We want to have enough toys to keep them occupied, but not too many where I’m constantly cleaning up (although it feels that way anyhow). I often worry that my preference for less stuff will in turn create future hoarders. Creating that balance of feeling like you have what you want but not more than what you need is a hard line to draw with kids and their toys.

  • I have two small children and two toy boxes. Our rule at home is that when the toy box lid gets difficult to close, the eldest child (four years old) and I get to work choosing the things that we are going to give to charity shops. She’s used to the routine and doesn’t complain. We have a small collection of books, but borrow everything else from the library, which keeps things interesting for everyone, and we joined the local Toy Library so that we can borrow toys and then give them back again instead of storing them forever. We live in a small house, and I don’t want a bigger mortgage for a bigger house, so in my mind, this is the way it has to be. We do the same for our clothes, kitchenware, collectables, and anything else that needs a place to live in our house. It’s just too exhausting living amongst clutter!

  • My biggest issue by far is getting rid of the stuff that was given. I am the oldest, and I appreciated all of it, I just feel guilty getting rid of it when, if my sisters have children, it could all be used again. Its my attempt at keeping them green, cause they will buy new (not necessary) if no one has it already.

    Then I dont know how many toys I have bought my daughters.. not many, maybe 5 -10 in their life. But they get spoiled… and not to complain but its ALL junky plastic toys. I am trying to get rid of that stuff, if nothing else at the moment.

    Someone told me a few weeks ago, that guilt is a useless emotion. I agree, but then I know other people dont agre and thats my issue.. then I just look heartless. haha.

    I wish I could minimalize my families input to my life.

  • Awesome blog!! My husband and I have just started a small business in Vancouver, which may be a great solution for minimalist families in the Lower Mainland of BC. We are a toy rental company and are launching our business on January 2, 2012!

    We live in a wee condo in Vancouver with our wee baby boy and are constantly trying to de-clutter! By renting toys, families can try different toys, challenge their children and enjoy playing with new and interesting toys while avoiding all the clutter. An added bonus is that renting saves time and money. We deliver right to your door for free!

    We invite you to check out our website (going live on Jan 2nd) or follow us on facebook at



  • Oh, your little one has way more toys than that! There’s the plastic bowls in the kitchen cupboard, wooden spoons, the stickers that came in the junk mail, the sand and pine cones in the yard, the empty baby wipes container, the blankets and pillows to make a fort out of, the water from the tap with the funnel and cups, the empty egg carton….. well, you get the idea, and all these REAL objects ARE educational. No, I don’t think he has too few toys at all.

  • Just discovered your blog and I find this discussion really interesting. My kids have/had way (way) more toys than this and, amongst my friends, our ‘collection’ wasn’t excessive at all! Sad but true. I grew up very poor and I know now that I was pretty much happy to accept everything everyone gave us because of that (I did buy some but most of it was given to us by overly generous relatives). Now, however I am more than happy to purge, purge, purge!! We still have too much but I am finding that as they are getting older (9 and 6) they have outgrown so much that it is quite easy to let it go. I have been squirreling unused toys down in the basement for awhile and then, if they don’t ask for them, off to the charity shop they go. My eldest is quite happy to purge herself but the youngest, not so much. I am slowly, slowly whittling down. I have to say that I don’t feel guilty one way or the other though! I will get there in the end and if the worst problem I have at times is my kids having a few too many toys then that is still a very good day.

  • I just found your blog via your guestpost at Be More With Less.

    I am trying to declutter, simplify, become more minimalist, partly because I just love the idea of having a clutter free space that doesn’t constantly need to be tidied, and partly because I want my children to grow up with less consumer/”getting more stuff” driven values. But I should have started when my first child was a baby, instead of waiting until he was perhaps 7. It’s a lot harder to get rid of his stuff now!

    I am having a little more success with the grandparents these days, though not enough (just the one, really, is the “problem child”), but I am going to try the technique of suggesting “experiences” as presents instead of more plastic crap. Unforunately, I suspect the one who buys all the plastic crap will be the least willing to make that shift, but we’ll see…

  • I love eliminating clutter. . .I go through the kids’ toys every few months and get rid of anything they have outgrown (I also try to throw away anything we get from certain fast food restaurants immediately before it is noticed). We have designated places for toys, and most of what we have fits there. Part of me looks at the “playroom” and their bedrooms and can’t wait for the day that those places can be neat and free of daily messes. But, then I realize that my 6 and 4 year old will be 12 and 10 in a few years and will be happy with a Smartphone and an XBox, and I will have the rest of my life to live without toys. Or I watch my 4-year-old get out every silly superhero he has ever collected and create an entire world out of the most random characters. Or we have a friend spend the night, and I am so thankful that we kept the box of beads our child got for her birthday because now the kids have something to do for an hour or so. Honestly, I think as long as you don’t get overly sentimental about toys when the kids outgrow them or you don’t keep tons of toys you don’t have a place for, the toys will take care of themselves as children get older. Gifts as toys also connect children to their family members, and I think that helps nurture those relationships. As someone just leaving those years full of huge plastic eyesores, and as our toys naturally dwindle in size, I realize I was sometimes too bothered by the mess. I really do appreciate the comments and advice about keeping things down to a minimum; I just think having a few extra things around the house for a rainy day or free play can create wonderful memories too.

  • Hi there!
    We are just back from an inspiring holiday in Fiji and I’m determined to rid our home of the clutter! Not really sure where to start – esp with the kids toys. But I have planted the seed with them today and hope by the time I work my way from my room to their rooms they will be excited to free up some space and help with the clearing out process.
    Thanks for all the information on this site and for everyone’s comments – it really helps!

  • I just went through this dilemma. I have to say, I don’t think you have too many and you probably have the same amount I have after purging so I think you are doing well.

    Here are a few ideas I came up with for my own self.
    I had a nice wooden food set which included a few items from each food group and a few wooden pots and pans. I got them thinking it would be fun to practice the words for each item but then I realized I have most of those in my real kitchen. I came up with the idea that there are tons of things to play with in the house that are not toys so I got rid of the fake food, pots and pans and put my own pots, pans, and safe for baby utensils in a low cabinet or drawer. She loves them way better than the toys. As for food, we play with the real stuff. She loves tossing oranges with me or rolling them across the floor and chasing them and we eat it for snack when we are done. Daddy also juggles the fruit which is a huge delight. I kept some of her toddler sized (larger than normal) legos but not all maybe 10 out of 40 pieces. She loves stacking (and subsequently knocking over) so I kept her cardboard stacking box set with the alphabet on it. It nests into itself so it is space efficient. I kept a few toys that would do double duty, i.e. were good for playing with in the living room and in the bath tub. I kept one riding toy and that is the only big toy I kept. I got rid of her standing easel that has chalk board on one side and white board on another and got her a portable one that I sit up on a small ottoman and that gave me the idea of always looking for smaller versions of an item. I take her to reading hour at the library on Thursdays and we check out a new round of 5 board books each time. I keep those up a little higher so she has ask for them. She asks for them throughout the day and I will bring a few down and return them safely to the higher book shelf when we are done. Of books we owned (about 40), I kept her 5 favorite and keep those in her reach so she has access to some books at all time and can chew on them. Then I got rid of her entire book shelf and incorporated her books onto my small bookshelf freeing up a whole wall in our 700 sq ft apt.

    Here is a list of what she has of her own
    small portable easel with chalk and markers
    coloring book and 5 crayons
    ride on toy similar to yours
    5 books (which we change out every once in a while at the thrift shop)
    riding toy
    a few puzzles
    10 larger leggos
    a truck (all girls should have a truck)
    a little set of eggs that she adores
    her set of cardboard nesting blocks
    a sorting toy
    a ball
    a few cherished stuffed animals and a doll (all stay in her bed most of the time)
    —I observed her for a while and really took note of what she plays with and so far she has not become tired of the above list when including the below list.

    Things around the house she uses as toys
    Mommies extra make-up brush (cleaned for her), and hair brush.
    Things in kitchen set low for her including – pots, pans, utensils, small cutting board, small butter spreader, plastic tupper ware, some canned food in smaller cans like tuna sized, my melamine outdoor plate set, plastic cups, pot holders (she looooves walkiing around with the mitts on her hands)
    mommies yoga block – this one is awesome, so simple and yet she loves it!
    blankets and pillows
    I am sure there are more but these are the popular around the house items for her.

    I also make it a point to take her out and about to the park and to every play date imaginable so she gets to play with all sorts of other items. At play dates and at the gym daycare she gets to play with tons of toys without us having to own them. And because we don’t own them, they are fresh and exciting for her.

    The last idea I have which I haven’t tried yet is to ask my play date friend if we can trade a batch of toys every couple of weeks (not for keepsies). That way, you can still stick with a small amount of toys but get exposure to a lot of them.

  • I would say pare down as much as possible while you still have all the say. :) I have a 9, 7, 4 and a baby and its a lot harder to get rid of stuff once kids are buying it with their own money, etc.
    One thing that has helped us is to ask relatives to buy experiences for our kids instead of gifts per se, so instead of a pile of junk from the dollar store, we might get 20$ earmarked for special ice cream, or tickets to a concert, etc.


  • I am still working and decluttering our home, I have involved my 3yo from the begining. She really loved the pots and pans cabinet, and the tupperware (matching up the lids to the proper bottoms) and she has even gotten into it with her toys. She saw a stuffed frog she really wanted while we were running errands and I told her that she would have to pick a couple of toys to donate. she ended up filling a 13 gallon trash liner! Since then I have enforced the 1 in 1 out rule. I have been careful to tell her that the ‘out’ has to happen before we can go back to the store and get the ‘in’.

    I saw in the comments about a first toy/ stuffie. My mother kept my favorite “Miss Kitty” stuffy toy from when I was a kid. She opened a seam and unstuffed it and packed away only the ‘skin’. When Alice was born I pulled it out of the small memory box I keep, restuffed it and she has been playing with it ever since. Miss Kitty is 35 years old! Recently Alice brought her to me with some thread bare spots, I crochetd a few flowers and we attached them together (I love kid needles!) Alice was thrilled with the result and Kitty, who had been played with a little less recently, is back at the top of things to play with. I will probably unstuff her and pack her away with the hope that maybe someday Alice with have a child that would like to play with her too. For a visual, Kitty (unstuffed) came out of and will fit back into a sandwich sized bag.

  • Hi I am wondering how you go about birthdays and Christmas? I am tired of toys building up from these holidays, but what do you do for them? If there is a post about this I apologize in advance :)

    • Hi Megan, We do a few things that help: give family ideas for clutter-free gifts when they ask, let them know we are trying to have fewer toys and such around the house, and we donate or give away gifts that we don’t use. Yes, this means a gift from grandma may be opened on Christmas day and wind up at a charity shop a few weeks later. C’est la vie. I have decided that I can be a gracious and thankful gift receiver without keeping the gift 😉

  • We have begun to ask our parents to buy our kids passes for different activities, money towards paying for things they like to do, for example, my oldest daughter has been attending a horse camp on her birthday week for the last few years, we ask for family to pitch in money for that. My 3 year old has received passes to the indoor playground and local science centre. We also embrace craft supplies and I know that one of my girls is getting a small sewing machine for her birthday, she’ll be able to learn a great skill.

  • I love your ideas and way of living. I have always admired those that live with less which = less clutter! I am a clutter bug and hate to get rid of stuff, one being toys of my sons toys. He is three years old and doesn’t play with half the stuff we have. I do run a family daycare in my home but even then we don’t play with all we have. We have stuff right from his infant years. I only hesitate to get rid of those toys and bouncy chairs etc because if we have another child it would mean buying the stuff again. I do wonder though if I got rid of the stuff even infant that we may be able to do without it. I would love to get rid of a lot of stuff but it’s hard to let go! I envy those that live with little cause we spend a lot of time moving things from place to place and spend too much time trying to organize stuff we don’t even use anymore but are attached to the stuff. I keep thinking we will use it one day when in fact I don’t think we will.
    Thanks for a great site!

  • We are moving to hawaii next year and are having some trouble really whittling down everything, I decided that each child could have one tub of toys, they can pick what they want to go in it everything else is getting sold/donated.

  • As an American mom I am frustrated at times with the guilt others try to put on me about my daughter’s toys. We have very little compared to the average American but I don’t use the average amount as my goal. We have pared down and it’s been hard on her because she has a sentimental nature and a good memory…not a good minimalist combo in a 7 yr old.

    We now have a new baby in the house so we are trying to keep everything under control. Here is what I came up with, I took all the toys out of my daughter’s room and let her keep only those specifically hers and put the others in “community bins” that stay in the living room and will be shared with both her and her brother.

    We also don’t have t.v. in the house which greatly helps. Not to mention I request that she not be given lots of toys from family members, though this has proven unreliable because people seem to just want to buy buy buy. I have found that my daughter seems happier when she has very little in her room and the toys that mean a lot get played with more.

    Here is what is looks like:

    Daughter, 7 yrs old
    -twin bed
    -plastic cart with 6 drawers that hold her “American Girl” clothes/accessories and a tea set (all gifts from Grandma)
    -child’s guitar (freebie from a friend!)
    -2 Ameican Girl dolls (gift from Grandma)
    -small basket with 8 stuffed animals (some were my old toys and others were gifts)

    Son, 6 months old (still in our room)
    -small basket with various baby toys (resale buys)
    -metal truck, tractor and little cars (vintage toys passed down through the family)
    -baby carrier
    -baby swing

    Community Toy Bin:
    -toy horses (8 of them)
    -Little People brand toys (15 of them)
    -doctor kit
    -wooden blocks
    -plastic Duplo blocks
    -kitchen play food

    • You’re doing a great job! Love the community toy bin.

      My son is 13 months old. We have 1,000,000 toys and 2,000,000 books (I’m OK with lots of books). Our neighbors on either side of us have multiple children and much less space than we have. Between their families and ours, there are 6 kids aged 1-8.

      Since we have so much space and so many toys and books, I made a rumpus room in our unused finished basement. I text the parents next door and invite their kids over to play all the time. Everyone has so much fun together. Most of the play is imaginative play (older kids) and learning (younger kids). Great way to use all the bazillion gifts my son has received in the past year.

      I am, however, going to donate some of the toys he doesn’t play with to Big Brother Big Sister. Even though we will have another child in the next year or two, we don’t need to hold onto these for little bro or little sis.

  • It is mid-November and my mother in law (lives on the other side of the country) has already sent my 1-yo son more than a dozen toys for Xmas (I’m supposed to wrap them). Some of these toys I wanted for him (I put them on an wishlist) but there are also a lot of toys that we neither need nor want. Some of them aren’t even age-appropriate for my son right now.

    I’m glad she shopped early and had them shipped to my house, because I am going to donate 1/2 or more to Toys for Tots this week. There are kids in my area whose families can’t afford toys. There are kids in foster care who don’t have families to give them any gifts at all.

    I know that my MIL won’t be looking for these toys next time she visits because she buys so many gifts for so many people at Yuletide, she can’t remember what she gives.

  • I think as the kids get older, you start to see their interest more so its easier to focus on fewer toys. When my boys were under 4 years old, we had so many toys, the house was swamp and you could barely walk anywhere, even if we had a dedicated space for the toys (playroom). as they got older, we started seeing the favorites being used and many could then be donated as they were no longer being used.. all the while reducing any new toys coming in. I am happy to say that we have donated more than half the toys we had a year ago to those in need but i still consider that we have way too many and expect this purging process to continue in the next several months.

    My goal is to eventually have a couple of bins of favorite toys for each child and try to focus more on experiences such as joining a baseball league, swimming classes, skating, etc.

  • I am moving steadily towards minimalism in my life … and I run a home daycare. (Five children, aged 1 – 4 years.) Oh, the toys! Still, I suspect I’ve had minimalist tendencies all along, because I have fewer toys in my home than many of my clients have for their one child at home! Parents are often surprised, but the children never feel the lack.

    My tips:
    – stick with the classics: books, blocks, puzzles, toys to enhance imaginary play (play food, dressup, dolls, animal figures)
    – one soft toy per child
    – no toys that require batteries (I mean that! Absolutely none, even ‘educational’ toys. There is *nothing* they will learn from that LeapPad that they won’t learn sitting on your lap with an alphabet book, or doing an alphabet puzzle together, or tracing over letters you’re written on a paper, or making letters out of playdoh… And LeapPads don’t have nice, soft laps.)
    – store in shallow boxes. The deeper the box, the more you’ll put in there, and the more they throw around trying to find the one perfect item in the very bottom of the box. The shallower the box/tray, the easier for them to see what goes where, when we all put toys away. (Yes, even the 1-year-olds.)
    – some toys are always available for play (blocks, books, puzzles), but some toys I rotate in and out, to maintain novelty and to stimulate/challenge. And even the blocks, books, puzzles are categories, within which I rotate individual items.

    Though I have fewer toys than many single-child homes, I would still like to pare it down. I have a small home (1200 square feet), without a lot of storage space. Space is at a premium! I am still working this one out.

  • The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that most people who donate/gift things to you will not feel bad if you pass them on to someone else. They would rather see you recycle your gifts and pass them on instead of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of clutter in your home. Just think how you would feel if you gave someone a gift(s) and it became too much stuff. What would you want them to do with it?

  • I have two girls 6,&7 and two boys 4&4mo, I recently cleaned out their toys and left only-

    1 American girl doll with one bag of clothes (their favorites) for each girl

    Shoebox with a couple of barbies and clothes-I threw out the little stuff like shoes


    Duplo legos

    Regular legos

    That’s just what he loves!

    I also have a wooden kitchen with some soft food in a basket.

    They are so happy with this set up.

  • In my humble opinion, you can never have too many books for a child… Never. As for toys, I’ve gone the route of puzzles (around five) and DUPLO blocks. We have a LOT of DUPLO blocks, but that’s it… we stay away from battery operated toys and we try and make the toys he does have “open ended” so he has to use his imagination to use them.

Comments are closed.