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Decluttering my kids' stuff

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

DDs are 4.5 and 2.  I was going through their rooms a while ago to declutter when I realized that this isn't really "my" stuff, and do I have a right to get rid of it?


How do you handle this?


MIL is really great about asking about gifts and such before she buys them, but they do end up with a lot of gifts.....   They also get some gifts from my parents, my grandparents, and 2 SILs.  Add only a couple from us and they end up with a lot.  Gifts are more important in DH's family then in mine, so I don't think I should be the person to stop them.  Any ideas on how I could redirect the gifts into less stuff?   I like experience gifts, but they seem to need to cost something.  As in a date with grandma and grandpa at the park isn't a gift, but zoo passes are.  I'm working on setting up college funds for them, but I was thinking roth IRAs in our name earmarked for them.  I'm wondering if they'd be more likely to get them funded as gifts if it was something ILs could do with less help from us that was more specifically all for the kids.  Even then, I know they want to give something physical to be unwrapped on the occasion.  So I'd also like ideas on how to reduce the stuff that gets to them. 

post #2 of 18


> DDs are 4.5 and 2.  I was going through their rooms a while ago
> to declutter when I realized that this isn't really "my" stuff,
> and do I have a right to get rid of it?
Yes. :) At least, that's my view. You don't have a right to sell it and go to Bermuda on the proceeds, but that's not the issue here.  The issue is that you are providing housing and storage, and you have only so much storage to provide. 
And I think that you're doing them a favor if you get their stuff down to a reasonable amount _once_, and then keep it that way with small, regular declutterings. Getting rid of a couple of toys before every gift-giving occasion seems less painful than getting rid of several boxes full every few years when the stuff has piled up to the point of being intolerable.
It seems perfectly reasonable to me for you to set up rules for the gift-giving family and for your family. Examples could be:
- Only one gift per occasion per child per gift-giving family. So Grandma and Grandpa, _together_, can give only one gift to Child, on Christmas.
- Any gift larger than a shoebox (or whatever size works for you) must be discussed with, and approved by, the parents.
- Every gift coming in means that something of roughly equal size must go out. That's not a rule that the relatives participate in, but it might not hurt to make them aware that if they give a physical gift, they're ensuring that the child has to give something away, while if they give an "experience" gift, that won't have to happen. I'd say that when the children are old enough to choose what to give away, if they want to give away the brand new gift rather than something old, they can do that.
And so on.
post #3 of 18

For physical gift ideas, think of disposable gifts such as art supplies and craft kits. They get used up quickly.  Or cooking/baking kits.  Or practical things that you need anyways like clothing, etc. (my MIL gives the boys a $50 stride rite gift card, which is something I would never spurge on, but then the boys get nice shoes, it's one less thing in my budget, and that takes care of most of her gift)  I also ask for books alot, because they don't take up much space, and they're the least painful to declutter for my kids when the time comes.

For decluttering, some will say to absolutely not touch your kids' stuff, but some kids take a really long time to grasp the concept that they can't keep every little scrap that crosses their path, and as the parent, you need to help them discriminate, and show respect for the toys/items they do have by having proper and ample room to store them and play with them.  Some kids are open to helping with the decluttering, by telling them it's for kids who don't have toys.  With my kids, I pack away the stuff they no longer play with, and if a few weeks go by without them asking for it, it's gone.  I usually try before bdays and Christmas to tell my boys they need to make room for their new gift by passing on some old toys ("now that you're 4, let's pass on your 3-year-old-toys to some 3 year olds")

post #4 of 18

I don't get rid of my kids' things but I do rearrange and rotate them so we don't have a ton of stuff out all the time.  They have a few core items they use every day, and everything else comes and goes according to interest.  I will say most of our toys are very high quality, and I plan to return to teaching once my kids are grown a bit, so I am reluctant to give anything away.  Otherwise I am a big time declutterer/donater - I use the box system for decluttering my own stuff - I put something in a box and once a month if I can't remember what is in there I take it to Goodwill.  I would do that for toys and such if not for the above reasons.


I terms of gifts I generally suggest art supplies or clothes.  My middle ds is about to turn 6 and one grandmother is giving him some blank notebooks for drawing, and the other is giving him some pajamas.  Oh, I also always have an Amazon wishlist for books too.  The Amazon wishlist is awesome.  You can put stuff from Amazon or anywhere from the 'net.  Also, you could send catalogs - have the kids circle things they like and then send it to the inlaws.  That way you can at least try to get things with some staying power, that you know your children will enjoy.

post #5 of 18
We have a broken rule. If it's broken it's gone. I also ask them to go through and get rid of stuff they don't want to make room for other things they may want later. DD1 wanted a drum set. There was no room in her room so she decided she didn't want quite a bit of stuff. She gave some to DD2. And she got her drum set. DD2 wanted a guitar and was worried she'd have to get rid of some things for it and DD1 told her that guitar is small and she wouldn't have to get rid of anything. Which was true. I'm all about keeping clutter down and about giving them the choice to declutter on their own. Since my girls can never be found in the house I put more effort in out door play. So when family asks what the girls want for gifts I give them ideas for outdoor stuff. A lot of it gets stored in garage when not in use but for some reason or another I come home from work and the back yard looks like I had a play group back there for over 50 kids. Hey I'm not stepping over it in the house and the dogs love to be in the play houses and tents.
post #6 of 18

Our kids are 4, 6, 8 and 10. I don't feel bad about having them declutter their stuff. At their ages though, I am able to have them do it with me. I think that your four year old could be involved in decluttering and picking what to keep and what to sell or give away.

post #7 of 18
Originally Posted by phathui5 View Post

Our kids are 4, 6, 8 and 10. I don't feel bad about having them declutter their stuff. At their ages though, I am able to have them do it with me. I think that your four year old could be involved in decluttering and picking what to keep and what to sell or give away.

my kids are similar ages to this post, thus the reason I have seen her so long on mdc....But, my kids are 51/2 and 91/2 so we are outgrowning the preschool stuff plus as they age, they like new things, need more space etc.


This past weekend, we talked about how xmas is coming so to make room for the new stuff they want, we have to move out the old. We went thru all the preschool style stuff and kept the kitchen set since the younger one and her friends still play with it. But some pretty german toys that make a rainbow, a few blocks etc plus a baby went next door to the 18 mo old. They loved bringing it over and her parents loved receiving it- esp the rainbow that can be played with for hours. A few other toys are going to a teacher at school and we said the stuffed animals must be decluttered and we took two bags of them to goodwill.


We cannot save everything and then have room for the new stuff.



post #8 of 18

With my parents and inlaws, I ask them a month before the gift giving occasion if they want any suggestions for gifts. They always do. I give them each a small list of things I know the girls will like and fits into our life (often lego sets). I have also asked for things like swimming lessons and dance classes. The girls understand what money is and how these classes cost money so when a grandparent pays for a class, they understand that it is a gift. They have never had a problem not getting something to unwrap. DH is also a big supporter of experiences over junky toys. So we try to give ideas, guide the folks, get rid of the extra junk as best we can. The girls enjoy picking out old toys to give to a younger relative, friend, or even charity. They know that we can't keep everything and it is easier to have fun with what you have when it is not cluttered up with everything else.

post #9 of 18

Well, I decluttered my 2.5 year old's stuff without talking to him about it. After 2 months, he asked me for one of the toys I had gotten rid of. I had to tell him that I gave it away. He cried, I felt horrible.

post #10 of 18

almost 4 year old DSD and i recently decluttered her room. she was great about it and i think she especially liked the idea that we were giving her old things to other kids. 


she doesnt have much stuff to begin with (her main toys are two big items: a castle and a drum set) but we got rid of over half of her stuffies and almost half of her random small toys as well as most of her clothes that were too small (or just revoltingly pink and sparkly lol).


with the toys and stuffies, i used an idea i recently read on here: i made a pile and told her she could pick three things from it to keep. she took a little while deciding, but kept it to three things and had no problem with me bagging up the rest. she was so good about it, i snuck a couple of toys that i thought she might still want back with the keepers. 


after the bagging, we took them right to the thrift store so she could help give them away. while we were there, i let her take home a toy as well as the usual book, explaining that we could do it because we made so much room.


i wouldnt get rid of her stuff without her okaying it. my mom used to do that sometimes and it was really irritating. i would make her buy it back from the thrift store though haha.


I havnt spent DSDs birthday with her yet and last christmas, she went with DP to her aunties for two weeks so i havent been able to observe what gift giving is going to be like. if its excessive, i will certainly request, or get DP to request that she be given swimming lessons, or craft supplies or the like (which she seems to treasure more than material crap anyway) for next time. im trying to find a pony to lease for her and teach her to ride on as a birthday present. i cant think of anything that would top that for her.

post #11 of 18

We regularly go through stuff. I won't go through someone else's things and get rid of stuff. However, my children do like me to help. They generally want me to sit there and hold stuff up while they make a decisions (keep, pack away, give away, trash). I think it's easier for them if they don't have to physically touch it and can be more analytic with their decision. They also feel more of a team if I "help." I figure sitting there holding up toys really isn't such a bad job. It declutters my house and helps them build discriminating skills while still be ing respectful of them as people.


We also have limited space, and my children know that when we decide to have something in our lives, it needs to have a space.They tend to be more discriminating because of that.


When relatives ask for gift ideas, we try to steer them to experiences, memberships, art supplies, well loved books, or even magazines. A lot of those ideas have back-fired with my narcissitic MIL. We no longer tell her books because she wrote inappropriate things in them. Art supplies backfired because she bought a big box of stuff that reeked of chemicals and we had to trash it. She refuses to buy memberships or experience type gifts. So, then we steer her to games (we're a big board game family), or items that the kids really want (and they don't really want much), LEGOs, etc. 

post #12 of 18

I go through it with the kids.  We talk about how our thrift store sells the things to donate money to charities, and they are happy.  When they were younger it was that the toys were given to kids who did not have any.  They like deciding what to keep and sometimes I will tell them "ok all your stuffed animals need to fit in this bin.  You can pick whatever as long as I can easily close the lid to the bin."  They take a long time deciding but are happy to feel control over the situation.  They also like selling some of their toys at the garage sale to make money.  Anything that is theirs that they sell, the money goes to them.  


AS far as relatives, I give them a detailed list of things the kids want.  They enjoy it because it takes the guess work out for them and then they know the kids will love it.  I even send them the links so they can click and buy it online and have it sent if they live in another state.  It is nice becuase it is things I know the kids want and that falls in line with what we deem appropriate.  This year I asked for barbie dresses.  There are homemade ones on ebay.  It works out better because if I said Barbie stuff, a big plastic house or more dolls would come and the girls don't need that.  They want outfits to change on them that do not look like a prostitute would wear them.  


The family also likes giving yearly memberships to zoos, museums, etc.  I make sure to send them pics throughout the year of the kids enjoying themselves there.  Kind of positive reinforcement so they will do it again the following year. 


clothes are always great as well.  Especially when the relatives send nice Gymboree etc outfits that I would never buy myself. 

post #13 of 18

I just dropped off two large bags of clothing to goodwill plus I gave a bunch of stuff to two mdc mamas who both have a girl. The dresses, boots, coats etc that my youngest outgrows can be passed on. My girls are very hard on their casual stuff so its not really good for passing on. I also passed on some toys and brought some stuff to our previous preschool which I knew they were looking for.



I did a similar thing with the stuffed animals, they all have to fit in a bin.


Once I did all of this, I literally went thru both of their closets and took stuff out. My younger daughter saw her cousin's walk in closet had her clothes and toys and she wanted a closet like that. We use the elfa (bought on sale and do bit by bit) so instead of buying new shelves and bins, I moved a shelf unit into her bottom part of the closet. I redid all her books there and put some of her toys in there as well. She opened it and exclaimed=- 'YES, this is what I want !!!!'  Didnt cost me a cent! nor did I have to build a walk in LOL


OTH, DD1 was not as excited about giving up a bunch of stuffed animals. After I re did her closet, she said, wow this is really organized! I also bought her some more hangers in fushia and a scarf hanger since she is getting into scarfs. So she is pretty excited about having 'bigger girl' or adult hangers and in a favorite color. So a few bucks to make it nice.



post #14 of 18

My girls have long memories and, especially my 5yo, they can find ways to play with toys long after they age out of them.  There have been tears over my prematurely giving things away.  I remember feeling this way as a child and so I am extremely respectful of their things.  Anything that hasn't been played with for a while goes in a box into a bedroom (or "messy room") closet.  There it sits until I decide they've forgotten it.  Many times they remember it and want it and even can end up playing with it for a months afterwards.  Sometimes I pass things on and often they remember but are OK with it (especially clothes).  It is an ongoing operation, so I never end up with bags and bags of things.  It just trickles out bit by bit.


My girls have their birthdays on either side of Christmas, so this time of year gets to be a bit of a challenge.  When did it start that family members feel compelled to always give gifts?  I guess as a grandaunt as well as a mother of 2 young children I have a nearly panoramic perspective on this, but it can be frustrating nonetheless.  I try to talk grandma into giving a membership to the children's museum, but she wants to get toys.  And she wants to spend a lot!  Ah, well.  At least they ask me now what they want.  I could let the extended family buy the presents and give them little things myself, but as a toy-lover I can't give up on this.  


Part of what contributes to the sheer number of possessions is that when I do buy toys, I try to buy ones that will have long-lasting interest.  And do they ever!  Toy house and wooden furniture and little food, a Playmobil chunky barn, given at my 6.5yo's 1st birthday and still played with daily.  To some extent, I don't mind the clutter, and have resigned myself somewhat to the avalanche of gifts.  That resolves half the battle, kind of anyway.  For her birthday I am giving my youngest that Children's Muuseum membership.  Slowly tools for everyday life creep in to their pile (a kid-friendly kitchen knife, a toolbox with real tools in it, a knitting kit, etc are all ideas for the near future.)


Good luck!  I'm not sure if I had any advice, but i hope my sharing has helped a little.

post #15 of 18
Originally Posted by dejagerw View Post

Well, I decluttered my 2.5 year old's stuff without talking to him about it. After 2 months, he asked me for one of the toys I had gotten rid of. I had to tell him that I gave it away. He cried, I felt horrible.

I went through that many years ago with my DD who is now 17....I tossed a soft toy that she loved and she took years to forgive me I think!

Definitely always check with them first I have realised or ideally involve them in the process. At least that way if they ask for it later you can say "don't you remember, you agreed to toss that one"
post #16 of 18

I agree it's important to involve the kids with these decisions. It's also a good learning opportunity for them. My boys are 5.5 and 8 and they had a lot of toys. Earlier this summer my youngest was looking around his room and he said he didn't like most of the toys anymore. Fair enough, so we went one by one, set by set and he chose which ones to give to who, which ones to sell and which to keep. We assembled everything into complete sets, photographed/bagged/labeled and then gave away the ones he wanted to. Then, we uploaded the pictures and listed a bunch of stuff on kijiji. He made $230 in 24 hours. We went shopping the next day for the one thing he truly wanted and he had enough to buy that plus save $ for next time. It's awesome to see that he sees the value in taking care of his toys, choosing toys that won't end up in the trash, and rolling over outgrown things into the next stage. The bonus is that my house isn't overrun by toys. Lego is an issue in my oldest son's room, yes, but not other toys and not anywhere else in the house lol.

post #17 of 18

Yesterday I threw out a small shard of plastic that broke off the lid of one of the Risk boxes which was part of a grand parade.  Today my 5yo put the two remaining pieces together and pointed out that the little piece was missing.  Oh, yes, I had seen it before and maybe it got pushed under something.  (We've had tears about stuff just like this before.)  That's just the kind of kid my daughter is.  


So I quietly sifted through the trash looking for it.  So far I didn't find it and maybe I won't be able to but I'll try anyway.  That's the kind of Mama I am....

post #18 of 18

We have a broken rule also. They know ahead of time. If it breaks - and they do not come immediately and ask for it to be fixed it, but I find it later broken, then in the trash.


As far as getting rid of toys and decluttering we do that as an entire family.  I gather everyone together. Explain that we have too many toys to fit in what we keep the toys in. Then I explain that there are boys and girls that do not have a lot of toys and that we should be nice and give what we do not have space for to other kids who are in need.

Then I pick up the toys one by one and ask if they want to keep it or give it away.  Every one has to agree on what is done with it. If they can't decide then we keep it in a separate pile then go over the undecided pile again, and see if we actually have the space for it. And if we still can't come to an agreement then we keep it. 

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