One of the many challenges of modern parenting is that our kids are growing up with SO MUCH of everything. Since the first time we couldn’t fit all of our Christmas gifts into the car on the way home from a holiday celebration, I have felt like a gatekeeper trying to protect my family from the world of excess we live in.
One of the simplest and most-rewarding traditions that helps our family combat clutter, while also teaching gratitude and generosity, is our twice-yearly toy purge. I don’t always plan it ahead of time – but I do try to make sure it loosely coincides with upcoming birthdays and holidays.
At the beginning of the summer (usually right after I’ve twisted my back climbing over a pile of bicycles, nerf guns and baseball gear) we pull everything out of the garage, so we can all see how much we’ve accumulated. I tell the kids that we are on a mission to decide which things we can part with to make room for upcoming birthday gifts, etc., and that it’s time to share the things we have outgrown with children who need them more than we do.
The kids typically get distracted and start playing with things they haven’t seen in months – that’s totally OK and even expected – but the rule is that if you’re not helping, then I get to decide what stays and what goes. Kids as young as two or three can participate if you give them specific challenges, such as: “Choose your five favorite balls to keep,” or “Hand me all the books that are for babies.”
As I create a pile of things that I think could use a new home, my kids are welcome to explain why they need to keep something, as long as they continue to work diligently alongside me. If they are busy playing, that just means more things end up in the donate pile. In my experience, I’m almost always guaranteed some solo work time near the end to make some executive decisions!
The final step is to find new homes for all of the items in your donate pile. It’s tempting to finish on your own once you have everything bagged up and tidy, but the greatest lessons come when our children are a part of the actual donating process. I bring my kids along while I’m dropping off our donations, and someone will often thank them personally and celebrate their efforts. This gives them a sense of pride and reinforces their inner-drive toward helping others more than I could ever do alone.
We typically go through the whole process again in the late fall to purge indoor toys, which also makes the house a tiny bit less cluttered for the long winter ahead. Also on a smaller, more frequent scale – when I can’t see the floor in one of my children’s bedrooms, I hand them a bag and tell them not to come out until everything is either neatly put away or placed in the bag for donations. They almost always manage to fill the bag – though I do have to check and make sure no valuables or dirty laundry ended up inside!
Not sure where to donate? Visit our donation page for a list of reputable, local organizations that are currently accepting gently-used children’s items – and please share your photos and reflections of your little ones answering the question “How can I help?” by tagging @GoodCauseCLE on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! We would love to help celebrate their efforts with you.