Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Adventures in Tidyinghood: Toys

:: WRITTEN BY JESSICA GEARY-CECOTTI ::

I want to start by giving you all a quick update on my clothing category situation (read my previous blog, Adventures in Tidyinghood: Kid’s Clothing, if you haven’t already). My dressers are still in stellar shape and I’ve found my folding groove while indulging in Outlander late at night after the boys have gone to bed (hehe). Yes, all is well in the land of laundry. The KonMari folding techniques are here to stay and I’ve even done the buy/sell routine a few times at Once Upon a Child. Toys, however, have been more of a challenge. To be honest, the clothes category wasn’t my true weakness. Sure the dressers were overflowing pre-KonMari and the laundry was out of control, but toys...they are my true arch nemesis (see Lego meme for emphasis).

First let me walk you through my process for this category. As you can see, we have a lot of toys, but I did it...I really did it. I gathered (with the help of my oldest) every single toy we own into one huge pile on the basement floor. We put everything, I mean every toy in this pile. I got in the car, checked under beds and searched every closet looking for stowaways. Even super special lovies that my kids sleep with every night (which we knew for sure we were going to keep) went into the pile. I wanted to follow the Konmari method to a T. Then, we (I) proceeded to spend 3.5 hours trying to feel if things like PJ Mask figurines and 74 different Hotwheels sparked joy for me. I tried to get my boys to help, but within 15 minutes (squirrel!) they both had lost all enthusiasm for participating in the task at hand. Which, is actually probably better, because I was able to discard many items that I know weren’t special to them but if I had asked, they would have said keep it all. So I was on my own.

Just the visual of this huge pile had a significant impact on my understanding of how many toys we actually owned (kinda the whole point of this step). It’s hard to really know what you have when toys are endlessly traveling from room to room, like nomadic tribes of Lego people and herds of plastic dinosaurs in search of refuge from the vacuum, only to be tossed into random boxes and bins, left to be forgotten for weeks or even months. So as daunting as it was, this pile was sort of a reckoning that needed to happen.

Long story short, I was able to thin the pile down by about half. Lots went to Goodwill, but there were some items that were still in good condition and likely worth taking the time to sell. For those toys I:

1. Cleaned them up, if needed
2. Made sure all of the original parts for the toy were bundled together in a clear bag
3. Said “thank you for all the joy, memories and imagination you gifted my kiddos”
4. And finally, took them to Once Upon a Child to sell or donated them to Goodwill

NOTE: Try your best to remove the sell/donation toys from the house as soon as possible. True story: I left the bag in the house for a week or so while I gathered more things to sell/donate. This totally backfired when my kids found the bag and, as you can probably guess, (some of) my hard work of decluttering was in vain. With a look of disbelief, my older son asked in horror, “Is this the GOODWILL pile?!”

If you read my first post about this process of selling clothing to OUAC, then you know the drill, but the basic idea is to only bring in well organized, clean and “popular” toys. You can check out their website for what they buy and if you’re on their mailing list, you’ll get emails that mention their “most wanted items.”

Then I like to take advantage of the 10 percent off when you buy and sell in the same day. So I let my youngest, who was schlepped along for this errand, pick out one new toy (that sparked joy) in exchange for the huge lot he partially agreed/was partially unaware that he parted with. I did a little wardrobe replenishing and let my youngest decide what he wanted. I doubt they encourage kids to play in the back with all the toys while parents shop, but it was innocent enough and we did actually buy a toy when it was all said and done.

After the pile was halved and out of the house, I spent the next day finding “homes” for everything. To me, this step is crucial with toys. I mean isn’t that the epitome of kids’ clutter? When things don’t have a place of their own, they become clutter. Even though Marie negates the need for storage solutions, I feel differently. So I went out and purchased some bins and got to work categorizing toys and completing this arduous toy category. The hardest part was physically getting all the toys in one place but after that  was done, it was easy to transfer the keep pile to bins and ultimately into their final “new homes.”

Sigh... as I write this, I’m feeling a bit disappointed that I don’t have any major toy\KonMari\organizational revelations to bestow like I felt I did for the clothing category. Even after I painstakingly complied with Marie’s orders, the toy situation still befuddles me a bit. But despite the fact that my desire for keeping toys picked up and in perfect order (probably an unrealistic expectation) hasn’t come to fruition, I do have some tips that I’ve found helpful in this department.

Tips for the Toy Category:

Create a limited number of toy categories.
For example, I combined all of the Hotwheels, race cars, motorcycles, airplanes and trucks (essentially vehicles) into one bin. Same goes for balls and athletic items, all types big and small go in one bag. It’s just not going to be practical to sort toys down into super specific categories when they’ll just end up getting mixed up again anyway.


Get creative with storage.
There will always be those random toys that just don’t seem to go anywhere or that are so small they’d get lost in a larger bin. For these little buggers I like to place them on shelfs like this one that I found at Gooodwill for $2.99. Or you could create a little art piece like this for tricky things such as buttons and badges that are sentimental but that your kids aren’t really going to use. You all have time for this type of thing, right?


When in doubt, I say part with it.
I know it’s easy to say that when they aren’t really my things in the first place, however,  I’m the one who usually (always) picks them up, so I surmise that I have a closer relationship with the toys than my kids! And this leads us to the next tip…

Make sure your kids know where the toys are suppose to live.
This is like when Cesar Millan walks a new dog around the house on a leash. Taking them into each room and around all the furniture so they know the lay of the land (not exactly sure if this totally relates, but you get the idea). Show your kids where all their toys are now housed. Be very clear and explain out loud that this is where they need to be returned when they’re done using them. This way, the responsibility is now on them. I make it a known fact that if the toys aren’t put back in their homes at night, they will go to a child who loves them more and who will put them back in their home. Voila! Only good can come of this (famous last words, I know). Theoretically, they either immediately scramble to put the items back in their home or you just decluttered your house that much more. (Fisher Price mic drop)

Here are my parting words: I’m gonna let my kids be kids, it’s not fun to keep toys in just one room (a Konmari rule) and there really isn’t a “start” or “end” to playing with them. Remember my famous last words? I’ll just say it, I forget, I cave or just get plain tired of hounding them. I still find myself spending precious time (albeit far less than before Konmari) returning toys back to their homes (maybe I could catch up on Poldark while I do this?). But in the end I would much rather they make a mess while playing with their toys rather than watching TV, telling me they’re bored or fighting each other, even if it does throw a toy wrench into my quest for a tidy home.

It can be a messy world. Good luck out there and I’ll see you on the tidy side.

Stay tuned for more “Adventures in Tidyinghood”!

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Jessica Geary-Cecotti is the Social Media Manager for Montana Parent and owner of her own graphic design studio, Flora Fauna Designs. Nature and animals have always held a special place in her heart and continue to be her most profound source of inspiration. She is the mother of two wildly awesome boys and borderline believes in mermaids.