Christmas feels like such a long time ago and here we are in January – the month of detoxes and resolutions. But don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest we all give up chocolate or wine – that would be crazy! Rather, as mummy to a toddler, I’ve realised that the New Year toy cull is perhaps the most important detox of all.
You know how these things work with clothes: you pull everything out of your wardrobe, then everything you’ve worn in the past year goes back on a hanger and everything else goes on eBay or down to the local charity shop. Well, the theory of purging our homes of extraneous toddler clutter is just like… well…hmmm… nothing at all like that.
For a start, a year ago my son was mainly chewing things. Now he does puzzles and plays with trains and cars, loves to be read to (but the books have to have a real story these days – he’s not happy with endless ‘That’s Not My Whatever’ books anymore) and likes nothing better than running around and getting covered in mud.
So you can’t keep everything they’ve played with in the past year – that wouldn’t help with sorting out your chaos at all.
So perhaps we should begin decluttering toys in the same way that we declutter our wardrobes – by pulling out and rounding up all the toys. But then it gets more complex:
Step one: anything with broken parts or missing pieces goes straight in the bin or down to the tip – end of.
Step two: sort the toys into piles. Three categories should be enough: regularly played with; occasionally played with; rarely played with.
Things that are rarely played with can go: pass them onto friends or relatives for their younger children to enjoy, donate them to charity, sell them, or, if you’re pregnant or planning another baby, put them into storage.
Toys are for playing with. At this stage you should be firm with yourself and purge your home of just about everything that you’re only hanging onto for sentimental reasons, or because you feel you ‘should’ keep it! I’ve kept the small, smiley cloth sunshine that was my son’s first ever ‘friend’, and it’s gone into a box with other small items of baby memorabilia. But keeping a loud, space-eating monstrosity of a toy that’s rarely given a second glance by your toddler simply because it was a new baby gift from Great Aunt Beryl? No.
Occasionally played with toys can be looked at more critically. Get rid of anything that’s ignored because it’s been outgrown; hang onto things that are rarely played with because your toddler isn’t old enough to get the full benefit from them yet. Box up toys that your child isn’t developmentally ready for and bring them out again in a few months’ time for another try.
Regularly played with toys should stay, unless you hate them.
Step three: once you’ve chosen those toys that will stay and those which will go, you’re almost done decluttering toys. Get the toys in the ‘no’ piles out of your house asap, before they can be reassimilated into your home!
Now get a couple of toy boxes and divide the toys you’re keeping between them. Try to ensure there’s a range of toys in each box – not cars and trains in one and puzzles in the other, for example. Then either put one upstairs and one downstairs, or put one away and keep one out, and swap the two boxes around every couple of weeks. Refreshing your child’s toys in this way helps keep their existing toys interesting and could prevent you buying new toys because your child seems bored with the ones they have… thus rebuilding the toy clutter in your home!
By Vicky Scowcroft