As the mother of three boys, I’ve waged an endless battle against clutter on their behalf. Between the clothes they outgrow and the toys and games they play with for one hot second, their possessions build up fast—and yet they have trouble letting go. Full disclosure: I do, too.
Yet I’m here to say that it is possible to purge that playroom, kids’ closets, or toy bin. I know this because I’ve done it! To help set you on the same path, here are 10 things I was unnecessarily holding onto that I’ll bet many parents have stashed away somewhere. Here’s how I learned to unload this stuff, and how you can, too.
1. Your kids’ once-favorite toys
To determine which toys should stay or go, I kept these questions in mind from Jamie Novak, author of “Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save Time, Money, Space, and Sanity.”
- Do I have more than one of these?
- Do we still use it?
- Would someone like it/use it more than we do?
- Why am I holding onto this?
These questions truly helped as I wrestled with hanging onto the plastic toy garage my son received for his very first Christmas. (And guess what? He will start driving next month!) So, clearly, I was holding onto it for my own selfish sentimental reasons. Yet my emotions were a bit easier to set aside when I thought about how this item could be put to good use at a local preschool, which is where I ultimately donated it.
2. Costumes your kids have outgrown
Another toughie to toss? My kids’ matching chicken costumes for Halloween—just the feel of those soft white feathers brought me back to the days when I could dress them in cute matching costumes without a peep of a complaint from them, then we’d all go trick-or-treating as a family. After much wavering, I put them in my consignment shop pile so another brood of kid-chicks (or parents) might enjoy them.
Next up: What to do with my youngest son’s MC Hammer pants, never worn, bestowed on us by a well-meaning but wildly misguided aunt? Those pants weren’t even in fashion when we received them. Still, the fact that they were a gift made them hard to abandon. I steeled myself by reasoning that donating these pants doesn’t mean that I love the lady who gave them to us any less. And, honestly, would she even notice, or care? Doubtful on both counts. Out they go.
4. Old art supplies
Finally an easier one: Trashing many of the items in our art supply bucket were no-brainers. Broken crayons, empty rolls of tape, used-up markers, I’m looking at you!
5. Your kids’ old artwork
The pictures my children made were a much tougher call. Fortunately, I found that I can curate my own online gallery thanks to apps that make it easy to store artwork. For example, Keepy enables you to snap pics of those masterpieces, then file them electronically so you can view them digitally (and print them out in poster size if you wish).
6. Books well below your kids’ current reading level
I have to say, I was a bit embarrassed that I’d hung onto so many baby-level board books while my kids were now reading literature such as “The Crucible.” What was I thinking?
I was thrilled to find that my local library was collecting books for an upcoming sale. I put together a huge box of everything from “Curious George” to Shakespeare and said, “fare thee well.”
But even if you don’t have a library that’s accepting donations, you have other options. Books for Africa accepts literary donations of all genres and ships them across the Atlantic to needy kids. Goodwill‘s resale stores are also happy to take books off your hands.
7. Old shoes
Footwear, too, seemed to be another area that was clogging up coveted real estate in one closet. Why was I holding onto sneakers that wouldn’t fit a toddler when my “boys” were wearing a men’s size 8?
I was thrilled to find Soles4Souls.org, which accepts donations throughout the U.S. so footwear can embark on a new journey.
8. Things you want to pass down to your grandkids
I have to admit, some toys were lingering with the hopes that I could one day pass them to my future grandkids. Yet, according to Novak, this never works out. “Parts are lost, they get musty, plastic gets brittle, and they can be a safety hazard,” she says.
Another problem is people don’t store potential heirlooms properly, making it a futile endeavor. So if you’re dying to see your copy of “The Velveteen Rabbit” go to your grandchildren one day, be sure to keep it in a safe place (in an enclosed container where moisture can’t creep in).
9. Old photos
Going through boxes of photos helped me find some fun ones I’d forgotten about. But it was far too easy to take a detour down memory lane—i.e., by taking photos of the photos and then posting them on Facebook. You can lose hours that way, trust me! The best tack? Pick a few photos, repurpose some frames, and then place the rest in a box. Deal with putting them in albums later, after you’ve tackled the bigger picture (in case you’ve forgotten, it’s how to declutter your kids’ stuff).
10. And everything else
There was more, of course, from Hot Wheels to cable-knit sweaters. So I scheduled a pick-up through DonationTown.org. With free pickup nationwide, this site accepts it all—clothing, furniture, toys, shoes, and general household items.
Best of all, making that pickup appointment (and knowing that someone would be coming to my home to collect my items at a set date and time) forced me to finish this job even when I wanted (desperately) to give up.