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I think most of us can agree that a lot of children in Ireland have too many toys, my own children included. There is so much choice over what to play with, that they don’t know where to start or they just can’t find what they want to play with as their drawers are over flowing with toys.
Well, spring is in the air and I’m gradually working my way through our rooms, de-cluttering. It’s something I really enjoy but which my children and husband dread! I’m very good at getting rid of ‘my stuff’ but there’s usually a battle when it comes to moving on their stuff. I’m learning on the job and so far, I’ve figured out five different ways to do it.
This technique was much easier to do when my children were smaller. They wouldn’t remember exactly what toys they owned and they wouldn’t miss whatever I decided to pass on. It was also easier, as I could do it in one swoop when they were napping and hide it in the car boot until it had reached it’s new home. To some degree, it was painless for everyone involved.
However, now that my children are older, they remember what toys they have and by the time they go to sleep at night, I’m too tired to consider spring cleaning and finding hiding places for the unwanted toys until I am near a charity shop. This technique still works for us when it comes to broken toys, very small toys (like what McDonalds give away in Happy Meals) and crafts/worksheets. I try and do a quick sweep of our play room every month or so with a black sack. These are things that are easy to dispose of in our bins as no one else would want them!
This technique works very well in my house at the moment. Basically, every month or so, I sweep through their playroom and take a box full of toys that my kids rarely play with. I put this box in the attic and wait to see if they miss any of them. If , after a couple of months, they haven’t asked for the hidden toys, I move them to the charity shop or to a relative or friend with younger children. If they ask for the toy, I tell them it’s in the attic and I get it down for them next time I’m up there.
Before you bring your unwanted toys to a charity shop/sale/fair, it’s worth just checking to see what they will take. Often charity shops get too many toys or just don’t have room for larger toys. If your toys aren’t up to a re-sellable standard, then the charity will have to pay to dump your toys, causing the charity extra expense.
This has also worked well in our house. Last October, I decided it was time to make room for the Christmas toys, so I asked my girls to put some toys that they didn’t want in a black sack. I told them, that for every five toys they didn’t want, they could choose one to buy in the Charity Shop when we were donating their toys. Both girls found five toys each that they were happy to ‘exchange’ and they enjoyed getting a new toy each in the charity shop. So much so, that as soon as we came home, my younger daughter found five more toys and the next day we went back to the Charity Shop and she choose another toy. This can work for charity jumble sales too. It’s inevitable that as soon as you go to one of these fairs, your child will want to spend lots of your money. You can make room in your playroom/child’s bedroom by paying them for unwanted toys and then they can spend it at the fair. It’s win/win as you’d be giving them the money anyway, and this way there’s room for their new toys. The only danger with this technique, and the next, is that your child may try and just get rid of very small toys (like what McDonalds have given them) or broken toys, so it’s best to set boundaries at the beginning.
Last October, the girl’s school took part in the Team Hope Shoebox Appeal. They were each encouraged to fill a box with gifts for a child in the developing world. We had to buy some of the stuff for this but were allowed to donate ‘as new toys and stationary’. Giving their toys away does not come easy to my children, so we spent some time talking about what kind of lives the little girls receiving the shoe boxes had and watched a YouTube video of children opening the shoe boxes in Africa. My eldest in particular got very involved and was extremely generous with her unwanted toys. This is one of many great children’s charities. Take time making a case for other children who have very little and I think your children might surprise you.
If actually passing your toys on is virtually impossible and none of the above methods work in your home, you could attempt toy rotation. Put a box of toys on a top shelf or in your attic for a month or two. Then take them down and they will be like ‘new’ toys for your child. Fill the box with other toys and put it away for a couple of months and continue this rotation.
The reality is that whether you enjoy spring cleaning or not, it needs to be done unless you have a massive house. And even if you do, there really is no point in keeping every toy your child brings into your house. I do, however, recognise that some toys should never leave our house. My kids play with wooden doll’s bunkbeds, that I played with as a kid and I wish my mum had kept my old doll house. I will keep some of these larger wooden items that my children play with, in case their children would like them. I will also keep some toys that are my children’s ‘favourite’ but everything else will eventually leave our house and be enjoyed, hopefully by someone else.
I know Spring Cleaning involves more than moving stuff out of your house – it involves cleaning and tidying what you want to keep. Unfortunately, I’ve run out of space to keep going on this topic, but hopefully I’ll address both soon.
Enjoy the Spring Clean!