The Most Productive Way to Clean Out Your Kids' Toys

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Is it just us, or do kids' toys seem to multiply overnight? No matter how many cute storage bins and dividers you buy, the playroom seems to take on a mind of its own. And weekend afternoons spent cleaning can feel like a total waste of time when we end up exactly where we started.

To make an actual dent in the chaos of kiddieland, follow this five-step plan to success. Sure, you'll have to repeat the process again in a couple of months, but for the moment, it'll feel fantastic!

1. Get the Players Out of the Playroom

Unless they're old enough to make rational decisions, having your kids involved in the decision-making process will most definitely inhibit your progress. Have dad or grandma take them for an afternoon outing so you can get down to business. (You can always consult them on big decisions later on.)

2. Can You Pinpoint When They Last Used It?

If it's collecting dust, it no longer has a place in your home. Whether you put it into storage, clean it off to donate, or pass it on to your friend, if your own kids have forgotten that it exists, you should too.

3. Is It Broken Or Missing Parts?

A minor handicap doesn't always mean it's the end of the road for a beloved toy. If it can be fixed, or a part can be replaced, set it aside, and have it taken care of to breathe new life into an old favorite.

On the other hand, if it's a matter of a missing wheel on a $2 Matchbox car, it's time to part ways.

4. If Your Kid's Done With It, Put It Into One of Three Categories

Once the decision's been made, and you've decided it's time to get rid of a specific toy, put it into one of the following piles.

  1. Toss It: If it's dirty beyond cleaning or broken beyond repair, it should go in the garbage.
  2. Pass It Along: In decent condition, but your kids have outgrown it (and you know you're not having any more)? Donate it, or offer it up to a friend with younger children who might be able to give it a second life.
  3. Store It: If you have a younger child (or are planning on more) who might grow into loving a specific toy down the road, give it a thorough cleaning, store it, and make sure that it's clearly labeled. A box of "Miscellaneous" in the attic will probably never get a second look, but one labeled "Toddler Toys" will be a welcome discovery when that phase rolls around again.

5. Get Organized — From the Kids' Eye View

As you categorize, file, and color-code away, make sure that you're doing so in a way that will make sense to your kids. Make labeling your new best friend (do so with pictures if they're too young to read), as this serves as a helpful reminder of what goes where for your family, and is a helpful directive for babysitters or friends on a playdate.