Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Great Playroom Purge

Tis the season for an overloaded playroom. Christmas always dumps piles upon piles of useless crap toys upon our homes and clutters them to near bursting. As we have covered before, I hate clutter. I hear a lot from moms trying to figure out how to organize and tame the toy box, and I think in my self-righteous, judgmental little brain of mine, "Why don't you throw most of this crap away??!!" I regularly purge my playroom of unwanted, unused, or otherwise useless toys. I especially do it before birthdays and Christmas.

This year a couple of weeks before Christmas I did a major purge. And coincidentally, two moms I know asked how I go about doing it. So, I figured I'd blog about it and give you the method to my madness.

First and most importantly, do not form emotional attachments with your children's toys. You know what I'm talking about. You have to be honest and ruthless. Look at the playroom realistically. What are the toys your kids actually play with? Not the ones you spent a lot of money on. Not the ones you think are so cute and want your kids to love. Not the ones that are in style or all the rage. I mean, what are the toys your children play with on a regular basis? I'm not telling you to get rid of any toys that your children have emotional attachments to. No, those are the ones and the only ones to keep. (I adhere to this very strictly except in the case of the moose. When Chowder and I were on our honeymoon in British Columbia we bought a stuffed moose. This was going to be for the child that we just "knew" we had conceived. Over the next three years during the infertility treatments and the miscarriages, that moose comforted and tormented me. None of my children have ever loved it. No matter how hard I tried to force it upon them, it didn't stick. Now, I didn't get rid of the moose. I consider the moose to be mine and it lives in our nursery, permanently.)

Second, you have to do the purge while your children are sleeping or out of the house. If you want to do a serious purge, your children cannot be around. They will claim attachments where there are none. If it's your first purge and you don't if you have the swing of it yet, you can always put the toys in a box in the basement. If your child does not ask for any of the toys within a week or so, you'll know it's safe to get rid of them. You'll be amazed at how much they won't even notice is gone!

Third, give yourself some time. Be thorough. Have a box for trash and a box for donation. You can sell them if you want, but I think it's a big PIA so I just donate them. There are plenty of places that accept toys. Be sure to keep good records for your taxes. When I got rid of all our Little People play sets (my kids love carrying the animals around but never "played" with the sets. In a casual survey on one of the parenting boards I belong to, showed that the vast majority of kids do not every really play with them.) I was able to deduct almost $200 from my taxes.

Once you get everything out and are keeping what you need, rearrange and organize it all. Another great feature of regular toy purges, is you get to know what your kids actually play with and that begins to effect your toy buying choices for the future. Once I began to notice how much was just clutter, I really began to examine how I spent my money. I now refuse to buy something just for the sake of having something. We have begun to focus on quality over quantity. I know this will be too severe for many people, but each time you do it you will be able to cut out a little more.

Here are a couple of videos I made of my playroom pre-purge and post-purge. (Ladybug got a nice wooden doll cradle for Christmas and I got rid of the crappy plastic graco one. I also moved the Fisher Price Play and Learn house into the basement for now. Ladybug really doesn't play with it, but I'm keeping it for now to see if she'll play with it when she gets a little older.)


Jennifer said...

Did you read my mind, woman?!?! For now, our as-yet-unfinished basement is the disposal ground for toys that are only used occasionally. Then they go upstairs. But I haven't taken that last step yet.

One question: how do you know you're not throwing out a toy that was for an older sibling that the younger ones might get some enjoyment out of?

Jenni said...

Your methods are like mine. Thanks for sharing!

Oh, and btw I know a woman who loves TKAM so dearly that she DID name her daughter Scout. Would you believe that we were already planning to name this baby Gem? It's different, for different reasons, but still...close enough.

I had read the book loooooong ago in my youth, so reading it again was like discovering a long lost friend. *sigh* Wonderful.

Cakes said...

Jennifer~I know you what you are thinking. I guess it comes down to a couple of criteria.

Is it well made? There are some toys that are made to last and be passed down and then there is just junk. Generally, in my house that means wood. (We have the Pottery Barn doll house that Jellybean has not really played with all that often, but I'm holding onto it to give Ladybug a chance at it.)

How annoying is it? Which for me means how many pieces? and how much noise? If it's too much trouble and adds too much work to my life than I chuck it. (I happily threw away one of those metal xylophones. The tone they let off went right to the rage center in my brain. I replaced it with a calming wooden one.)

and to a lesser degree...Did your other child/ren play with it? If you have a toy that wasn't played with by one child, then chances are it won't be by others. But, not necessarily.

And then you have to think. "Will this poor second child really not have all of his/her own useless toys?" If it isn't a toy of quality, I chuck it. Because, I'll want to replace it with a quality toy. KWIM?

Jenni! I love the name Gem! I hope you stick with that.

julie said...

Oh, I love to purge. I am with you. I hate all that crap. I have finally gotten smart, took me five kids, and my little one has half the toys my other kids did and she is thrilled. She has no idea her brothers and sister were buried in stuff they never played with.

The after video looks great.

Happy New Year,

Mel the hoarder said...

OK, I am inspired. I am pathetically sentimental but I will be strong. I would love to turf the Advent calender that sings 25 different carols but it unfortunately a firm fave.