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How to Declutter Toys (And Know Which Ones To Keep)

Simplifying your kids’ toys helps to make your life easier, less stressful and saves so much time picking up each day! These simple steps will show you how to declutter your kids’ toys easily and without any tears being shed.

a picture of 3 IKea toy bins stacked on top of each other with a stuffed green dragon leaning against them. text reads: how to declutter toys, and keep it that way

You know when your kids say they’re bored immediately after dumping out all of their toys and you wonder why you even have toys for them if they aren’t getting played with?

Chances are you have too many toy options, they aren’t organized well or you have the wrong kinds of toys. Or a combination of all three problems. We’ve all been there at one time or another! Its just time to do a toy declutter, and make it all make sense.

Its not hard to see where all these toys came from. We have two days every year where we’re “required” to shower our kids with more toys. Birthdays aren’t birthdays without gifts and it would be a very sad Christmas morning if that tree wasn’t surrounded with new stuff.

There are Grandmas who love to spoil, party favors, Easter basket trinkets….the list goes on and on. Like I said, its not hard to see where all these toys came from.

But how to declutter some of these toys? Where do you even start? Over the years, having six kids, I’ve gotten a good system down to simplify the toys we have and avoid accumulating the kinds of toys that just get dumped out without ever being played with.

Are you ready to get started? Lets jump right in!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Get my full disclosure here.

two clear plastic toys bins with sorted and organized toys in them

Why You Should Declutter Your Toys:

Simplifying and downsizing your kids toys reduces stress, saves time and space and will actually allow your kids to play better!

Less Toys = Less Stress

Being a mom of little kids, stressful situations are bound to happen. There’s no way to live a completely stress free life while parenting. But there are ways to cut down on that stress. Having less clutter in your home is a great way to make those hectic moments less stress inducing and more manageable.

Its easier to focus on the logical steps it will take to keep your household running well when you aren’t tripping over toys left and right. When everything has a proper place, its easy to reset your space in a matter of minutes.

Save Time and Space

An obvious result of decluttering your kids’ toys is that you will spend less time picking up toys and have more room in your house. Instead of spending hours sorting through random toys your kids never play with and searching for a place to put them, you can get it done in a matter of minutes in an organized way.

When you have less, its easier to have a place for everything. Your kids will know where everything goes and where they can find what they want. No need to dump out every toy box to find that one special toy. They’ll know right where it is when there is less to hunt through.

Improved Independent Playtime

This one might surprise you. While kids do need toys to be happy, they don’t need a lot of toys. They need the right toys. Clutter can stress your kids out in the same way it stresses you out!

Imagine trying to cook in a kitchen where every utensil you needed was buried beneath a whole bunch of things you never use. It would get frustrating and you’d probably give up on cooking pretty quickly.

Its the same way for your kids when they’re trying to play and can’t find what they’re looking for because there is just too much random stuff in the way.

Research shows that kids can easily get overwhelmed by to many choices and that narrowing down their options will increase their independence.

three kids playing with magnet tiles

How to Declutter Your Kids’ Toys

Step 1: Watch and Take Note

Don’t rush into decluttering without watching your kids at play for a few days or weeks.

  • What toys are played with the most?
  • Which ones are never played with?
  • Which toys are dumped out for no reason at all?
  • What frustrates your kids while they’re playing?
  • Which toys are played with for 5 minutes or less at a time?
  • Which toys are played with by more than one of your kids at a time?
  • What toys are enjoyed by both boys and girls?

Toys that aren’t being played with, are adding nothing but stress and clutter to your home.

Step 2: Categorize

Next step is to work on one toy category at a time. Here’s a list of basic toy categories:

  • figures: action figures, animals, princesses
  • building toys: legos, blocks, magna tiles, k’nex, lincoln logs…
  • play kitchen toys: foods, cookware, dishes
  • vehicles and tracks: car tracks, train tracks, cars, tractors
  • games: board games, puzzles
  • craft supplies: crayons, pencils, coloring books, glue…
  • baby specific toys: shape sorters, rattles, pull toys…
  • role play: costumes, jewelry, hats, crowns…
  • dolls and accessories: dolls, plush toys, clothes, cradles, blankets…
  • doll house: people, furniture and accessories
  • random: anything that doesn’t fit in the other categories

Pick one category a day so you don’t get overwhelmed. Gather it up in a garbage bag or box and carry that category off into a separate room so you’re away from the regular playing area.

That way it all stays together and you can more easily see what all you are dealing with in that category without the distraction of other types of toys.

Step 3: Declutter

Working one category at a time, divide it into piles:

  • trash – obviously broken things or overly used things that are not worth repairing, or donating
  • broken items – broken items that are worth fixing either to sell/donate or keep
  • donate/sell – nicer items that are not useful in your home
  • keep – items your kids play with on a daily or weekly basis that add value to your kids’ lives
  • store for later – toys your kids have not played with for a while because they have outgrown that phase.

Tips for Deciding What Toys to Keep and What To Let Go Of

  • keep in mind your observations from step 1.
  • a lot of the time with sets like train tracks, car tracks, doll house sets, there are pieces included that aren’t really ever played with that are only added to rise the piece count to make it sound like a better deal than it it. Don’t be afraid to add these pieces to you “donate” pile.
  • try not to keep multiples of the same toy unless they work together. How many dolls and stuffed toys do your kids actually play with? Variety is a good thing but less is also more. One good quality toy is better than three that serve the same purpose.
  • set yourself a number or space limit for types of toys. For example, 2 dolls for each girl, one bin full of legos, 5 tractors for each boy….
  • Opt for open-ended toys over close-ended ones.
  • Be very selective about what you are deciding to store. Ask yourself did my kids play with these things often? Do we have multiple items that serve the same purpose (example: rattles, shape sorters, play mats…

Step 4: Let Go

Letting go of the toys you’ve decided aren’t worth keeping is sometimes pretty hard. Especially if you have an emotional attachment to them. Just remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing this:

  • we spend too much time picking up
  • we don’t have places to put all of these toys
  • my kids don’t actually play with a lot of their toys
  • Christmas is coming and we don’t have any room for the toys we are going to be gifting our kids!
  • my kids don’t like playing when everything is unorganized and clutter overwhelms them
  • less toys = less to clean, store and keep track of
  • if toys aren’t serving my family, then they are bringing us down

Here are ways to get rid of the toys you want to declutter that won’t feel wasteful:

Sell Them

There are so many ways to sell your kids toys to make up some of what you paid for them in the first place! Have a garage sale, join a local Facebook garage sale page, list them to Facebook marketplace, eBay, sign up to sell at a local consignment event.

There’s no shame in trying to get back some of the money you spent. Its being practical and looking out for your family’s budget.

Donate Them

There are thrift stores everywhere that are happy to accept your used toys at any time! Knowing that someone else can choose your old toys for their kids feels pretty good.

Offer Them To Family and Friends

Now remember, you don’t want your problems to become someone else’s headache. Let family and friends look through your toys you are letting go and don’t be pushy. If they take some, then yay! Ad if not, just move on to another option in this list.

3 plastic ikea toy bins stacked on top of eachother with a stuffed green dragon leaning against them

How To Keep Toys From Piling Up Again After You Declutter

Now that you know how to declutter your kids’ toys, here are some changes you can make that will help toys stay under control in future!

Organize What Toys You Have

Simple toy organization is the best way to keep on top of the toys you have. It helps you to have a clear idea of what you already have so that you know what to buy or not to buy more of.

The simpler the better

You want toys to be easy to keep track of and easy for your kids to understand so that they can pick up after themselves.

Keep sets together

so that your kids can get the full potential out of their favorite toys, and also so that you can see when sets are getting out of control.

Smart Toy Buying Habits

When it comes to buying toys in future, remember what toys were bringing your family down by just adding to the clutter in your home. Avoid these types of toys, no matter the discount or how trendy or cute they look.

Adding to sets that your kids love and play with on a daily basis, can help expand their play and allow them to explore their creative side. Open ended toys are the best ones to add to.

I like to ask my kids what they want for Christmas or a birthday, well in advance and ask several times. Th point of this is to see what your kids are wanting long term. Not just something they thought of on a whim or because someone at school has it.

If they repeat a gift idea from one month to the next, chances are, its something they will play with for quite a while.

Choosing toys that can get “used up” is also a great way to keep the toys from piling up again. Think, crayons, coloring books, play-doh, craft supplies…They serve a purpose, but they don’t end up as clutter.

Set A Limit or Budget For Birthdays and Holidays

Do you have a Christmas and birthday budget or number limit? If not, you should! We have a $50 per child Christmas budget. It allows for some really great gifts that are well thought out, but not too many to where we don’t know what to do with them after Christmas.

Cutting your Christmas budget can seem mean, or unfair to your kids but just think about the benefits it will have on them long term. They will learn to appreciate what they’re given, more. They’ll be happy with less as they grow up. They will learn the value of the dollar. They will take better care of what they are given.

I know a lot of people use a system like this one to keep gifting under control. Its a great way to keep yourself in check when buying gifts and help you to think of alternative gifts that aren’t all toys!

a clear plastic toy bin full of magnet tiles

FAQ About How To Declutter Your Kids Toys:

What About My Kids’ “Treasures” and Special Keepsakes

In our family, each of my kids has a box we call their “treasure chest”. Its kept in their closet and they are allowed to keep anything in there. The only rule is, it has to stay in their room and they cannot overflow the box.

This has worked really well for us over the years! My girls love to pull out their treasures to look through when their brothers aren’t around to mess with them.

What To Do About Family Who Gifts Too Much

I have been in this situation and it isn’t easy. Some family members express love by giving gifts, and its hard to ask them to stop.

There are a couple solutions for this problem:

Let Them Give The Gifts

Accept their gifts with gratitude and let them live in your house on trial. If your child plays with them, then by all means keep them! Toys that your kids love, are serving your family! But if after a month of having them in your home, they are just becoming another toy to store and keep up with, then let them go.

Ask Them Not To Give So Many Gifts

Sounds mean, ungrateful and hard to do? It might just be your only solution though. If your family members love you (which I’m sure they do) they won’t want to cause you any unnecessary stress.

Let them know how much it means to you that they love your kids so much as to want to buy them so many toys. But be honest with them about what having too many toys does to your family.

Give them an alternative such as taking your kids on a date, having them over for a sleepover, or buying them a pass to some fun place. Tell them about specific toy ideas that you know will be well used by your kids.

In the end, you have to look out for your family. If your family members aren’t willing to respect your boundaries, then its ok to offend them. (too harsh?)

for help with family who gifts too many clothes, scroll to the end of this post

How To Keep Your Kids From Complaining About Having To Declutter Their Toys

Kids don’t always know what’s best for them or what they really want. The more toys the better in a lot of kids’ eyes! Its a good idea to work with your kids when it comes time to declutter their toys.

Explain the process, why we’re letting some things go, how some other little boy or girl will love these toys that just lay around un-played with at our house.

I like to do any toy decluttering before a holiday or birthday because “we have to make room for the new toys” is the most convincing argument I know of.

You can try sneaking toys you think your kids don’t care about, and hiding them in a box to see if they realize their gone. If after a month or so of them being in “quarantine” your kids haven’t missed those toys, you should be safe to donate them.

A method I use with my older kids, is to give them a number of toys they need to try and “let go” of from their room. It gives them the freedom to decide and helps the kids to recognize what is actually being used and what isn’t.

How Do You Do Toy Rotation?

In all honesty we don’t do a legit toy rotation. Maybe its because we have 6 kids all at different ages and stages and they all use a variety of toys. We do keep certain ones that I’ve noticed get played with every single day, out at all times. While we keep sets with tiny parts in bedroom closets to be pulled out when they’re requested.

The older kids have their own toys in their bedroom so that they’re safe from their younger siblings.

If you are looking to do a real structured toy rotation, this post has excellent information and help.

Saving Baby Toys For Memory Boxes?

When it comes to baby toys, like rattles, stuffed animals etc. I like to be very intentional. If one of my kids had a stuffed toy they showed a real attachment to, I keep it in their memory box to pass down to their kids or at least pull out from time to time for memories sake.

Other baby toys, I’ll store for future babies, but really making sure not to hang on to multiples of the same toy. Babies only really need one stacking toy, one rattle, one play gym. You can end up with multiples from your baby shower, but babies really don’t require as many toys as we think (or as many as the baby magazines would like you to think).

What Are Some Good Toy Storage Containers/Bins?

As far as toy storage goes, simple is best!

You want it to be as straight forward as possible so that its easy to keep things organized and easy for your kids to help tidy up.

Choose function over style

I can’t tell you how many cute baskets we’ve gone through only to end up with basic plastic containers. Kids are rough. They’ll punch a hole in your pretty woven basket just because they were hyped up while playing! You’re best off finding the thickest most sturdy containers you can find and calling it good.

  • clear plastic zippered pouches like these are great space savers for puzzles and games. They’re durable and hold up better than the box the puzzles come in.
  • stackable bins are great space savers too. These crates might not look like anything special, but they are sturdy and hold a good amount.
  • for bigger toys these large buckets are amazing! We have one in the garage for balls and jump ropes.
  • for sets with small pieces such as legos and playmobil, these bins are nice because they can slide under the bad and they make for easy searching without the kids having to dump the whole bin out.

What Are Some Great Toy Options That Will Last and Be Played With On Repeat?

Here are some toys my kids play with almost every day. All of these toys have held up great too!

  • magnet tiles are the number one most played with toy in our house. This brand is our favorite after trying a few types.
  • 18 inch dolls and accessories. My girls each have one 18 inch doll that they play with every day. We prefer this doll brand over American Girl since their hair never gets frizzy (I’m serious!)
  • playmobil has been a favorite in our house for years now. I love that its not gender specific, so my boys and girls can play together. It a great set to add on to each birthday.
  • puzzles are always a good idea in my opinion. They don’t take up much space and my kids will sit quietly listening to music or stories while they work a puzzle together.
  • board games are another way to bring all of the kids together. This Richard Scary game is the most played one in our house and is fun for all ages.
  • marble tracks are something I played as a kid and my kids have enjoyed too. But those little marbles always seem to end up where they aren’t supposed to. This Christmas my boys are getting this set since it will work with their magnet tiles and the balls aren’t quite so small.
  • play food and kitchen toys are always a hit. This brand is my favorite because its a thick plastic that doesn’t chip or crack like wooden play foods do. Great for creative pretend play.
  • when in doubt, buy a book! Books are educational and don’t take up much space. Win, win, win.
a large white bucket full of stuffed animals

More Decluttering Posts you might find helpful:

If you found this post helpful in decluttering your kids’ toys, you might enjoy these other posts on the blog!

Pin these steps to try later. Tag @athomeontheprairie on Instagram to share what you’ve made with us!

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  1. Wow, what an excellent post. Kid’s toys can be so overwhelming. I try to implement some of the things you offer, but there’s some new ideas I’ll have to try. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Soooo helpful Elizabeth!! I can’t wait to go through our toys before the holidays the magnetic tiles are a favorite at our house too. Thank you for all of the good info, this is amazing!!

  3. Love this post!! We already implement pretty much all of it, and it has made such a big difference in our home! And all the favorite toys you mentioned are favorites at our home too, except the marble one 😉

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