How does asking your kid to choose toys to declutter go over? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 02-08-2010, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
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For anyone who's asked their child(ren) to choose toys to pass along, how does that go? Do your kids gladly comply? Do they make decisions easily? Do they feel fine about it later or do they ever regret giving up something they did?

Also, how much do they willingly part with? (Yeah, I know every kid will be different, but would love to hear your stories). Did anyone ever push/encourage a kid to give up more than they initially selected? Do you ask them to give up a certain number of items or just to review their toys and set some aside?

My kid is 4 years old. So far I've just decluttered her toys myself, with her not around. Very, very, very few things have been noticed as missing. However, she has occasionally gotten upset at seeing something in the trash (those times were more things that were actually broken or just extremely cheap and never played with, things that I didn't really think twice about chucking) and I know she is aware that I have made some toys disappear. I don't think I've created a problem yet, but clearly I need to be giving her control from now on. I'm not sure quite how to give her the task, though. Maybe give her a specific pile of toys and just ask her to pick out some that she would like to give to another child? And not be concerned with the number of toys she chooses? I don't have any idea how she'll react, but I guess there's only one way to find out. Just hoping for some stories to keep in mind.

As a kid I was not really too attached to many toys, but even so, one time when I was pretty old (like 12) my mom cleaned out the basement and gave away pretty much all my toys (which I wasn't playing with anymore) during some weekend I slept over at a friend's, and I felt pretty betrayed. Like, she couldn't have told me before I left, so I could just sort of look one last time? Anyway, it wasn't THAT traumatic, but I do understand how it could be, and want to handle this well. (FWIW the next year she also gave away a cat without letting me say goodbye either ).

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#2 of 20 Old 02-08-2010, 08:13 PM
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Sorry about your cat!

My son is five and asking him to declutter goes over like a lead balloon. He is starting to get that we throw away junky, broken toys. That is easier now than it was. At first he just wanted to donate the broken stuff and nothing else.

As you say, I used to declutter for him but he is old enough now to notice and he is very attached to his "stuff."

So, sometimes he can pick one or two things. I don't force the issue. We have a new system where we box up stuff that hasn't been played with in a while. We are in the process of a major declutter because our daughter is about to start crawling and we have to create play spaces where she can be and not worry about choking hazards (my son is a lego nut).

He is very open to storing away his toys. I'm not thrilled about just storing them but it does get them out of the way. When he's a little older we'll go through them and see what he doesn't want anymore. He is also pretty open to selling some of his older stuff so he can buy more new stuff. Consumerism, ugh!!! And, he is also really great about giving his baby toys to his sister.

We're working on implementing a new rule that when new items come in old ones must go out. I figure the older he gets the more we'll encourage/require him to get rid of more things.

I'm glad you started this thread and I'm really interested in others thoughts. Especially if you've got older kids and they "get it" now - how'd you do it?
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#3 of 20 Old 02-08-2010, 11:03 PM
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My DD is 8 and will be 9 in March.

First - We started around age one. She helped clean up her own toys before naps and bedtime. (It was in a game-type, fun atmosphere.) I'd go through one area of toys with her awake and around and we'd (I'd! ) talk through the process. Obviously, her participation at this point was minor. However, my reason was to teach her at her level from the get-go. I already knew what she played with and didn't play with, but I'd dump out that particular basket (or items on a shelf or whatever small area of toys) and let her play with them. I'd talk to her as if she understood me. I'd aim for three toys being passed along, but it was just a guide.

Second - I gradually let her make more of the decisions on what to give to other little girls and boys. About your (above PPs) children's ages, I think she was fully able to pick 3 items from any given area on her own with my guidance of "please choose three items from this area to give to another little boy or girl." If she only had one, I'd encourage her to go through a second area to find two more. After two areas, though, we were done for that day and it didn't really matter if she got to three or not. The point was to learn the concept, as far as I was concerned.

Third - There was a point (age/stage) where it did go over like a lead balloon! Sometimes I took on the task of overcoming the reluctance and sometimes I didn't. The frequency at all other times than this stage was generally three times a year (before Christmas, before her birthday, and one random time during the Mar - Dec timeframe). We'd get through all her toy and clothing zones during each of those three times. During the challenging phase, I only insisted before Christmas and I encouraged before her birthday and I asked for three items from each area, but didn't push it at all.

Fourth - What generally worked best (and still does to a certain degree) is the following:
~ I declutter some of *my* stuff first and talk her through my decision-making process. (The amount of discussion is greatly decreased now and it is generally child-driven beyond the "oh, I went through the bathroom cabinets today.")

~ At the younger ages, I would pull out the items to be organized and potentially passed along. We'd play a little game and sort items into "I love this and play with it often" and "I like this and might play with it again" and "I like this, but maybe it is time for someone else to love it". She'd make up her own categories, too, and they get more and more creative! The items potentially ready for giving away would sit out for a few days in a bag or basket or something where they were visible, but not in the middle of her play areas. If she got an item out of there and actually started playing with it again, I'd let her keep it and we'd find something from the "might play with it again" pile (remembered in my head) in exchange. If she wasn't ready, then I would let it go, but she was usually okay with trading (except during the challenging phase).

~ Clothing was a game. We called it "dress up" long before she was old enough to play dress up like most of us know it. Over several days, I would (later she would) put each and every item of clothing on her and "model" it for fun. It was a way for me to see what fit and didn't fit. It also has turned out to be a time when I discover WHY she doesn't like certain clothes, which helps me with future purchases. Only during the challenging phase did this become a struggle and I only did it before Christmas and for very short periods at a time. Otherwise, she LOVES this game! At some point, I mostly gave her the choice and I only had "veto power".

~ We always have a bag at the bottom of my closet for charity items. DD knows exactly where it is and puts things in there on her own now. She'll usually let me know she is doing it and ask if it is okay for certain things (clothing or important gifts). We all add things there and she goes with me to drop it off or she has helped put it outside for pick-up. She has also gone to thrift stores for shopping.

Lastly, age 8 (started at the tail end of being 7 around here) was another challenging phase. The three times a year decluttering still occurred this time around because she is just used to it. The clothing game got renamed and we did what we could to make things fun. For the first time in quantity, I let her give away clothing that fit her perfectly well but she just didn't like. (I'd done this in the past with a few items, but this time was an entire bag.)

~ ETA: I did this to purposely let her feel what it was like to have a very small wardrobe of clothes she really liked. She went for months like this (July - December) and has a greater appreciation for her usual wardrobe size now (about two weeks worth). ~

She requested those items go to someone she knows, so I offered them to our playgroup and one mom came to get them. DD LOVED this! It really made her feel good to give her friend clothes she knew her friend would like even though DD didn't like them at all and was VERY happy I let her get them out of her closet. (These were mostly NICE clothes!!!) In essence, I guess you could say I have gone from 99% me making the decisions at age one to 10% of me making the decisions at age 8. As a starting point, one could plot that out and place their child's age on the timeline and see if that percentage worked or not???

All of this is, of course, our experiences and your mileage may vary.

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Teresa

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#4 of 20 Old 02-09-2010, 01:47 PM
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When I was growing up, we were required to go through everything when we got out of school for winter break and summer break. My mom didn't monitor how much we got rid of, but we were expected to keep everything in some type contained space - shelves or drawers.

With my own kids, I haven't been that great at it. DH and I will toss things that are broken. DC got into a habit, though, of believing "Daddy can fix" anything, so they started a pile of things for him to fix, which never happened. I eventually tossed the pile.

Right now I started going through their room, got halfway through, and realized they have far too many toys. I'm stuck there, though. When I mentioned getting rid of some things, DS got very emotional about it. His solution was that we simply go buy new things for any boys or girls who need toys - not give them his! So that's as far as we've gotten.

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#5 of 20 Old 02-09-2010, 01:51 PM
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My 7 year old loves everything as soon as I mention getting rid of things. He doesn't want to part with anything.

My 3.5 year old will happily pitch everything.

Right now, we compromise and just get rid of broken toys. I do think this summer, we'll go through again and donate some. They'll both have bdays by then so we'll need to clear some stuff out.
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#6 of 20 Old 02-09-2010, 03:51 PM
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#7 of 20 Old 02-09-2010, 09:21 PM
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I'll just add that I wish I'd handled this issue better with my daughter. She's my first and is 15 y.o. now. She was 3 or 4 y.o. and I was still decluttering when she wasn't looking and she started to notice. She asked where things were and I wasn't going to lie to her, so I explained that I'd given them away to charity. She was pretty upset about it and she didn't trust me as much with her stuff. For a while she didn't even want me to throw used tissues and scraps of paper away.

Obviously not all children react this way!! For example my 10 y.o. son doesn't have this issue at all. He does not have a problem with me giving things to charity. But I also handled it better with him from the start.


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#8 of 20 Old 02-09-2010, 10:54 PM
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My kids are four and five. We have two scenarios that constantly happen:

1. They will find something broken, a piece of trash or a bit of a toy that they can no longer find.

2. They offer up something of their sibling's.

Welcome to the Real World she said to me, condescendingly, take a seat. Take your life; plot it out in black and white.
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#9 of 20 Old 02-10-2010, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Savoir Faire View Post
2. They offer up something of their sibling's.
My eldest is notorious for that too.

âAdvertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy stuff we don't need.â
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#10 of 20 Old 02-10-2010, 01:23 PM
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My daughter is 4. Little items (I mean like Happy Meal sized things she has picked up from who knows where - since we don't do Happy Meals) that I don't think she'll miss, I have tossed. Maybe a total of 5. And I put them down in the garbage so that she won't find them.

Otherwise, I include her in the decluttering. If she says she wants to keep it and I know she never plays with it, I'll remind her of that and she may then say, ok. Otherwise, it stays. She has offerred up some items I didn't think she would be willing to part with.

As for clothes, we just release whatever does not fit anymore. No problems there. Since we went through a terrible phase of her not wanting to wear what I bought, I now include her in most clothing purchases to avoid having things in her wardrobe that she won't wear without a fight. Pretty much everything gets worn, now.

The items that are going to The Salvation Army are in plain sight and occasionally she will rescue something . . . to send to her baby cousin instead! We have been sending many of her outgrown clothes to this little one, so, I think my daughter decided C should have some of her toys, too. My SIL is the supreme declutterer, though. She has put so many of their things on Craigslist, my brother has joked that he is likely to be next!

Mama to a dd 10/05; ds 3/09, dd 2/15 and two angels. Expecting another miracle 7/16!
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#11 of 20 Old 02-10-2010, 11:54 PM
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I also experience feeling somewhat betrayed and also struggle with finding that balance of how to honor my children and their wishes, and how to get rid of those toys that are just too dirty/old/broken/duplicates/excessive/large/loud to be worth keeping. We still do it all for our 4 year old (and baby, of course!) but here’s some of what has worked with our now 7 year old:
•She has a huge attachment to stuff. We started off by just allotting her only a limited amount of space: when it’s full, she can’t add more to it.
•During our weekly chores, she regularly organizes one of her areas, and we encourage her to chuck things that are no longer useful (such as: an old spelling test; half-completed artwork; crumpled stuff; candy wrappers; even the occasional broken toy). She doesn’t throw much out, but it’s a start.
•We started pointing out to her what she wasn’t playing with: “my, you haven’t played with your littlest petshop in some time, should we donate it to someone who wants to play with it more?” This often results in her playing with it (and enjoying it) more for a while, but after several of these comments she’s usually ready to part with it.
•For Christmas we made a policy to get rid of one thing for everything that was coming in. We did this in the weeks before the holidays. I remember debating with dp about whether or not her used, gross, cracked paintbrush-rinsing cup counted. To me it does, since she decided for herself.
•I then sat with her and we rotated a ton of toys down to the basement, again, to make space for the new stuff coming in. I assured her she could switch something out of the basement if she wanted to later.
•Next step? To bring most of the basement stuff over to the city-wide swap! But yes, I did plan to let her know about it and if she must rescue some toys then she can switch something. I’m ok if not everything makes it out of the house, but do anticipate most of it to go.

It’s been quite the process but she’s really getting it now. She even walked her large set of Littlest Petshop stuff into our therapy place so they can use it at their new location. As well as a much-coveted princess castle that came from my sister-in-law after we offered to donate it. It wasn’t easy for her, but she did feel really good about it and the effusive “thank you” really helped her also.

So that’s what’s been working for us. I hope some of these ideas are helpful for you!

Oh one more thought, I’m currently reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne has some helpful advice around the need to declutter and around what toys to get rid of and keep. No advice for how to get your kid on board though.

Married to DH since 2006.  Adoptive mom to DD1 (June 2002), DS (Jan 2006), and bio mom to DD2 (May 2009).

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#12 of 20 Old 02-10-2010, 11:58 PM
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Overall, my kids do really well decluttering their things. Rarely do they come to me and say they want to get rid of something, but most of the time they have no problem getting rid of something when I suggest it.

Generally, I don't do big purges of their stuff. That prob helps it to not seem overwhelming, and I don't ask them to go thru their stuff with the sole purpose to get rid of things.

If I notice something hasn't been played with in a bit, or has been outgrown, or is not being taken care of...I ask the owner if we can pass it on to someone who would use it. Usually, it works out the way my minimalistic self wants it to. But, I have been surprised a couple times and they always get the final say.

Sometimes, its as easy as just asking, but other times it takes a conversation - why I think it should be passed on/gotten rid of (space issue, no interest, boken, missing pieces, have another item similar, etc.) and some feedback, as far as their reason for wanting to keep it - usually reasons I never would have thought!

I think going thru the process, talking it out together, helps them understand/grasp the whole concept of keeping only what you need, love and use - rather than think mom just wants them to get rid of their stuff!

One example was shortly after Christmas this year, two of my boys had gotten an Xbox 360 so I asked them if I could donate the Xbox my brother gave them when he got a new system. At first, they said no. I reminded them how nice it was to have the old one to play and wouldn't it be nice if someone who didn't have a system at all got to play, since they now have the 360. They then told me they still wanted to play those games, so I reminded them the old games worked in the new system. And then they were okay with it leaving.

At this point, I've been hard core decluttering, and now maintaining, for three years, so I think they are used to it as our life.

Off to read the other replies...
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#13 of 20 Old 02-14-2010, 09:17 PM
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My son has picked out things to take to consignment stores since he was 6 or 7. He always got the toy money and I got the clothes money. Now we use Craigslist to sell his stuff but we have the same deal. We have also sent things to his cousins - when we saw them last month both boy cousins were wearing old shirts of DS's it was nice to see them again. My DS's interests have changed so much that he doesn't miss most of the toys - he is 13 now. I am the one that can't bear to get rid of some things.

Married to the love of my life, mom to DS :
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#14 of 20 Old 02-14-2010, 11:58 PM
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My son is 4, and he's very good about giving up his toys. But I can't just tell him to pick things out, because he'll pick out anything, even something that I know he plays with often. He has absolutely no problem though if I ask him if I can get rid of something. I do honor his wishes if he says he doesn't want to get rid of something, because he's so good about it.

My two year old daughter is a bit different, especially if it's clothes. I threw out a pair of holey, stained sweat pants the other day, and she cried and cried because she wanted her pink pants back. She doesn't have many toys that she's particularly attached to, it's mostly clothes. I threw out all her pretend jewelry awhile back, because of the fear of what they are made out of, and she hasn't noticed. That wasn't really negotiable though.
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#15 of 20 Old 02-16-2010, 12:27 AM
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I do the purge by myself when they're gone until they're about 7 or 8. They don't really notice when something is gone, since I only get rid of stuff that I know that they don't use. I go through my 10 yo's room with her. She doesn't have much trouble getting rid of things that she doesn't use.

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#16 of 20 Old 02-18-2010, 01:32 PM
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I'm REALLY struggling with this. I very much want to respect my daughter and her stuff, but she is 7 and has like willingly given up - maybe 4 dolls in her entire life. It's very, very difficult. The baby toys were put in boxes and I'm pregnant again, and wanting to only keep certain things. But every time she sees a toy she wants to pull it out and start playing with it. I think her father has a hoarding problem, so I think part of it might be genetic.

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#17 of 20 Old 02-18-2010, 08:48 PM
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We had an incident the other day. DD 4 1/2 was crying because she couldn't find her stuffed fawn. She apparently saw a picture of in in her photo album and wanted to recreate the photo. I gave that fawn away two years ago and she never missed it!

I have always taken the items she doesn't use and put them in my closet. After a month or two if she doesn't ask for it (longer for certain items) then they go to the thrift store our church supports.

Now that she's turning 5 I think it's time to start to involve her more in the process. (past attemts = lead balloon)

Thank you for the insight from those of you who had bad experiences as children! I would never want to cause my DD to have trust issues or become a hoarder because I give away her toys.

I like the idea of letter her swap something back in if she changes her mind! With her upcoming birthday I'm going to help her pick one unused item for each person who will be giving her a gift. We'll make a pile and then after her birthday if she wants to she can trade one of her new gifts for one of her old toys.
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#18 of 20 Old 02-18-2010, 10:07 PM
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DD cries and sobs and in an Emmy-award -winning melodramatic performance swears vehemently that she loves ALL her toys, even the broken ones she hasn't played with in 10 months that she forgot she had until I dug them out of some hideous pile in teh back of the closet.

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#19 of 20 Old 02-21-2010, 01:09 AM
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As long as my kids have remembered we have both given things to others and gotten things from others and overall they seem to be pretty comfortable with our revolving stuff door.

Sometimes I ask their help in de-cluttering, and when I do I try to honor their wishes even if it means getting rid of a nice toy I wanted to keep rather than a junky gift I never liked.

Likewise I try to honor their requests when they want to save something from the give away pile, however I often keep the pile out of sight to avoid triggering that last minute impulse to keep after they have decided to give something away.

Despite my good intentions to honor their wishes and requests sometimes I do take a harder line (no we cannot keep that broken car, sorry we need to save that toy for daycare, etc.) and they are surprisingly accepting (I assume because they get their way other times).

mom to a 12yo entomologist, a 10yo skateboarder, and a fabulous, flatulent 2015 baby
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#20 of 20 Old 02-21-2010, 02:13 AM
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I'm loving this thread. I am really struggling with setting up good habits from the beginning, and my son is now one. I actually just wrote a blog post about this, after reading some frugality blogs and seeing pictures of some VERY cluttered houses. I am bit obsessed with simplicity and decluttering and toys are really beginning to take over our house.

One thing I've really noticed is that the fewer toys my son has to choose from, the more he plays with what is there, and it's a very focused play.

Sandy (41), Mama to Oscar (Feb 2009) and Aria (April 2012), infertility and miscarriage survivor brokenheart.gif 11/25/10 and brokenheart.gif 6/22/11.

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