Decluttering the Toys

September 14, 2009 by  

Decluttering The Toys

by Stephanie Calahan

She has some great advice and was wonderful to offer me two guest posts on kids and organizing.
Please read Stephanie’s post as she offers her thoughts on helping kids to sort through their toys.



‘Disappear’ Toys or Ask Your Child to Choose Which Ones to Give Up?

One of my Twitter friends @CarlaYong posted this question

“A question for the Moms out there: better to ‘disappear’ toys or ask your child to choose which ones to give up?  A bit more info on my Q: DD just turned 4YO & has previously willingly given up toys to younger friends & does get attached to everything!

I am asked this question frequently, so I thank Carla for the blog post inspiration!  Keep reading for my reply.

When my son was about 2 years old, we started teaching him how to make choices about his belongings.  He was very into picking toys, books, clothes, etc. that could go to another kid that did not have as much as he did.  He was excellent and empathetic, and we thought, “Wow, this is going to be easier than we thought.”

At about the same age he was a complete and total Elmo fan. He had all kinds of Elmo things.  There was one in particular — it was a simple stuffed Elmo.  Nothing fancy to him, but Elmo was his best buddy and went everywhere with him.

Well, over time, he of course lost interest in Elmo.  When he was about 5 years old, we were in his play room in the basement going through his things.  Out popped Elmo.  Since he had not played with stuffed toy in at least two years, I suggested that Elmo should go to a new home.  This is somewhat of how the conversation went…

NO!!!!! he screamed, quite passionately.  “I don’t want him to go….” he whimpered

So I tried to reason with him first…

But D, you have not played with him in a long time.  Do you really think that you are going to play with him again?

He then looks at me with those loving, pitiful eyes that only your child can get away with…

“Momma, I’ll play with him now that I remember him.”

OK, reason did not work like it used to.  He is now old enough to have learned that “things” hold some kind of emotional value.  Elmo represented his first best buddy.  Elmo was comfort and fun times.  Elmo was before school work….  This would require a totally different strategy… how about greed?

OK, but what if we sold Elmo at the resell shop and he will go to a little boy or girl that really likes him?  You can take the money and get something else.

“No, I don’t want Elmo to go to someone else.  He is MY friend.”

AAAHHHH!!  I had it figured out now.  I could do a lesson on friendship and still de-clutter.

But how do you think Elmo feels?

“What do you mean?”

Well, have you been a very good friend to him lately?  I mean, think about it D.  Elmo used to go with you everywhere.  He played with you and visited cool places with you and stayed in your nice comfy bed at night. Now look at him.  He is in the cold basement in the back of a dark cabinet!

“Oh no!  I have been a terrible friend.  I am so sorry Elmo.” he cried hugging the toy.  “Mom, I don’t want Elmo to feel sad.”

It was at that point that he acknowledged (to himself) that he really would not play with Elmo anymore.

OK, I tell you what… Ms. Jeannine has a little boy who LOVES Elmo now.  How about we drive over to her salon and we can give her Elmo for her little boy.  That way, you know where he is going and you know that he will continue to be loved.

“OK.  Can we do it now?”

So, we drove over to my friend’s salon and while we were parked, my son had a tearful goodbye with his first best friend.  We then walked into the salon and he talked with my stylist and explained that he wanted her son to have him.

She was touched—you could tell that this was a difficult parting for my son.  She even teared up a bit.

As we drove home, we stopped by Dairy Queen for a little treat.  As we ate our ice cream he was already giggling and talking about other things.


I told this in a story form because I think it is important to see how this technique can play out in a situation with your child.  By personifying Elmo – by giving him feelings and making him more like a live person – my child had a totally different way of looking at the situation.

Yes, the drive to the salon took more time than I had originally allotted for that particular project, but my son learned so many good lessons:

  • Empathy – thinking of how his actions could make someone else feel.
  • Charity/Generosity – thinking of how my stylist’s son would enjoy playing with the toy.
  • How to Make Difficult Decisions – it was not easy for my son to make the choice he did, but by helping him learn to make that choice at 5-years-old, other more difficult choices at a later age would be easier to make.
  • Mom Was There for Him – because I did not take the toy out behind his back, or tell him that he had no choice…because I took the time to help him make a decision his way and gave him the respect to say goodbye to a good friend and understand his feelings.

Overall, I’d say that was worth it for me!  Since then, we have had other challenges when it is time to let things go and as he gets older, I use more of the techniques that I use with my adult clients.  But this, by far, is one of my favorite de-cluttering stories.

How would you have handled this situation?  Do you think I took it too far?  What are your thoughts?  How have you helped your child let go of things?  I know my Twitter friend would love the tips and my other readers would too.  Please share in the comments section below.

To your success!

You can hear more from Stephanie at her business blog or her family/home blog or get social/network with her!

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One Response to “Decluttering the Toys”
  1. Hey Sandy! Thanks again for asking me to be a guest author on your blog. What an honor. Have a great day!
    To your success
    Productive & Organized – We’ll help you find your way! tm

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