WFMW: The Great Toy Purge of 2009

Ok so I can’t exactly say that the Great Toy Purge of 2009 works for me, because I haven’t exactly done it yet. I plan to, but I’m not sure how.

Which is where you come in.

I am making my Works For Me Wednesday post a backwards WFMW, because I need to know what works for you.

We have a full, finished basement, and while it is big and a wonderful space for the kids to play, 99% of the time it is a complete disaster. There are toys everywhere. (BTW, I swear we do not buy our kids lots of toys. I think they are like gremlins and multiply at night). I would show you pictures but I’m too embarrassed. And really, the kids have no idea what toys are down there and they can’t even enjoy the space, seeing as how they can’t walk through it.

So, my goal is to purge the basement of all the outgrown, broken, or generally unused toys before the influx that is bound to happen at Christmas. What I’d like to do is buy one of these for the basement (and one for my dining room, while I’m at it), so that everything has a home and can be nicely organized.
ikea expedit
The Ikea Expedit. Isn’t it lovely?

So here’s what I need to know from all of you smart readers:
1) How ruthless should I be in the toy purge? Or, I guess, how do I decide what to keep? (I have the “well we may need that someday” syndrome)
2) What should I do with the toys I decide to get rid of?
3) What’s your toy organization secret?

Basically, what works for you?

Because what we’ve got going on now… it doesn’t work for anyone.

I can’t wait to read your tips!

For more Works for Me Wednesday (this week is a holiday edition!), visit We are THAT Family.

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22 Replies to “WFMW: The Great Toy Purge of 2009”

  1. Here is how I organized my preschool classroom. Label each shelf with a photo of the toy, a pic of the toy cut off of the box, a toy hot-glued on(such as a duplo block),an old puzzle piece to designate puzzles,etc. Your kids will know where everything goes. When they get tired of those toys, you can rotate and relabel.At Xmas, cut pics of the boxes before you throw them away. It works!!

  2. Christmas is coming, be ruthless!
    I also recommend making some rain gutter bookshelves, they are fabulous!!!

  3. I think we all have this problem! I’d go through all the toys and if they are broken (and plastic) recycle them. If there missing 1 or 2 pieces and it’s not important to have those pieces I’d give them to a charity. Here we have a place we can take toys and they give them to underprivileged kids. I hope this helps!!

  4. I have been trying to ask myself a few questions when sorting toys:

    Is it high quality?
    Is it in working order with all the parts?
    It is educational or does it help with development?
    Is it being played with (or will a younger/future child be likely to play wiht it)?

    If the answers to those questions are no – get rid of it. If you can’t bear too just yet, put it in storage with the date marked. If you don’t use it within a year, then get rid of it. I myself am not willing to have a garage sale or sell to consignment. I donate stuff to charities, give it away to someone who wants it or trash it. Getting it out of the house ASAP works best for me – especially because my house is very small.

    I am sad to admit we just rented a storage unit for our baby gear, because I still want another baby, but right now the stuff is taking up valuable space. Before I did that, I got rid of anything broken, cheaply made, stained, or that was not useful (shhh – a bunch of stuffed animals).

  5. I know people who involve their kids in the purge, and it seems to work for them. About once a year, they go thru the toys with the kids’ help and decide what they can give to other kids who don’t have any toys. The kids seem to like the idea of helping others, and I think that makes for less wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  6. Weird, I just did a big toy purge this week! We have a younger niece and nephew that I pass a few things to, but overall, I am not hanging on to anything.

    We only have one child, and yes, maybe we will have another. But, our house is too small to keep all those toys! I don’t think the next potential kid will be deprived of anything because my God these kids get so many toys for Christmas/birthdays/etc. I think they will easily have plenty to play with. And, let’s face it. You can give a little kid a cardboard box and an empty wrapping paper roll and they will be entertained for days!

    I am dropping off a huge bin of toys to our church’s nursery coordinator for the baby and toddler rooms. Just a thought for donation ideas:)

  7. We live in a small house and have five children…we get rid of all happy meal toys and toys that take batteries!

  8. We purge every year in November. First, be ruthless. Believe me, what goes won’t really be missed. We’ve done some purges that really hurt (me) but the kids barely noticed. Second, box some of it up to come out on a rainy day or a desperate winter day when no one has been able to go outside for days. (Some people rotate toys every month or something like that but I’ve never been able to keep up with something like that, but I have had a “Survival Box” for those desperate days.) Third, you might consider cleaning up the toy room and picking some things to give away with the kids, and then doing the purge after they go to bed. Yep, that’s how we’ve done our most effective purges. And the boys really didn’t notice. Of course, that did not include LEGO which they know down to the very piece! If you think about it, you know which toys are really important to your kids and which they play with most. It’s the value of the toys to your kids not the number of them in your basement that matters.

  9. BekahBoo’s toys are in 7 categories:
    1. Dress-up
    2. Puzzles
    3. Baby Dolls
    4. PollyPocket/LittlePonys/etc
    5. Kitchen/Play-doh
    6. Games
    7. Little People

    Each category (except games)has its own rubbermaid box.

    She has a floor to ceiling bookshelf that houses #2,3,4,6 and 7. #1 has a huge rubbermaid that sits on the floor. #5 lives in the kitchen.

    I’m not specific about what people get BB for Christmas, but I beg them to stick to the categories.

  10. I have to wait until I am really fed up with the crap…then I can be as ruthless as I need to be. I get rid of anything with lots of small pieces that are scattered among many baskets, anything that they don’t LOVE that makes noise and irritates me, anything that they fight over just because, anything that I step on that feels like 100 little knives, anything that they haven’t played with in the prior 30 days, and anything ripped, dented, broken, or ratty.

  11. The one thing to remember is that you can’t let any of your emotional attachment to the toys make you keep them. And you don’t have to get rid of them all, you can always store some and rotate them out so that they don’t get tired of the toys.

    If its broken, the batteries are dead and they aren’t asking for new ones, or it isn’t age appropriate…toss it.

    Also for Christmas or birthdays, the rule at my house is for every toy that goes into your room or playroom when they were younger, the same amount of toys go out to be donated somewhere that needs them. (Church, shelters, goodwill, etc) It doesn’t have to be toys of equal value or space….just the same number.

    Since we have been doing that, when it comes to purging their rooms now, they are able to let go of things easier.

  12. We live in a TINY house with our 4, 4 and under. The toys can just OVERTAKE! And I’m the most nostalgic person, it really makes for a bad combination. We installed some shelves around the top of the two bedrooms (one for the boys, one for the girls) and we store as many things as we can up on those. That way they have to ask me to get something down before they can play with it. I’m happy to get down several different things if they go together, but if they don’t, it’s so easy to say “Sure, I’ll get that down, but please clean up ____ first.” That way the mess doesn’t get too out of hand.

  13. My advise….good luck! HA! I am now going to use some of those techniques myself, especially living in a very SMALL house! I would have to say do your purge AFTER Kate and Sam go to bed. I like the piece from IKEA, and I have a feeling you just want an excuse to go there!! Which by the way, I have YET to get down there! 🙂

  14. I just cleared out a bunch of my preschooler’s toys last month, but you can’t really tell. His regular toys go in a laundry basket in his room. Most of the time, though, he just plays with his train table or little cars.

    But Christmas is coming, and you can’t tell grandparents your children don’t need toys. Sigh….

  15. so funny for me to read this post. we are in the EXACT same situation. Big wonderful basement, full of JUNK. the kids can’t even play because they have so much stuff. i acutally just purged a bunch of stuff. i had a friend come, and really help me think about what to keep. she would say things like “this toy looks loud and annoying.” and i would think about it and realize she is right.

    i have really raised my standards for my kids toys and if it doesn’t encourage role playing or creativity (so if it is something they just push buttons on or beat on) then I am getting rid of it.

    also if you haven’t seen them REALLY play with it in 3-6 months, pitch it. they are going to get tons of new stuff SOON. you can box the stuff your aren’t sure about and put it in the garage or somewhere out of site and if you haven’t opened it in 6 months, just donate it (without opening it back up).

    I plan to do something similar as what you have pictured to organize our stuff.

  16. We also sort into categories! When we moved I threw things out (or sold/donated) that didn’t fit into “tried and true” categories. We place things into bins and clean everything up at the end of each day. It only takes a minute to clean when you have a place to put it!

    My favorite bins are the Closet Maid “cloth” bins from Target. They are not super sturdy but we’ve been using them for things like dolls, doll accessories, doll clothes, play dough, pirate stuff, doctor stuff, purses and “fancy stuff” for three years now.

    I like the fabric bins with internal metal frames from Walmart for heavier categories like fake food/dishes, Little People and doll house stuff. They are bigger and sturdier for larger “collections.”

    All of the kids have stronger “wicker” type of baskets from Micheal’s next to their beds and on bookshelves for books. This makes books far more accessible for kids and easier to put away. It also gives them something to do when it is time to stay in bed but they can’t sleep.

    We also use bins for things in bedrooms that don’t really fit into dressers, like dance clothes or extra backpacks/canvas totes.

    Good luck and have fun!

  17. I asked myself, “is he going to ask where said toy is in a week or two?” if no, it goes. We have quite a few boxes of toys stashed away that don’t get played with. Sometimes we will rotate the toys and it is like getting all new toys. My son’s birthday and Christmas are pretty close together, so really he only gets new ones to play with during one time period of the year, so rotating toys fixes the boredom issue.

  18. Firstly, donate toys to homeless shelters. There are so many children without and A lot of shelters allow parents to come and get free used toys to wrap and give to their children.

    Purging is good. But don’t go crazy and buy so much to just purge again. I allow my children 3 presents for Christmas. This allows them to be responsible in their choices. They will pick something they will want to use time and time again. I explain that Jesus only received 3 presents; why should we receive more.

    With my little one. I use this type of system you have above with buckets. One bucket is filled with cars, one with soldiers, one with aquatic life, one with dinosaurs, etc. I teach him to put them away like that too. He is the only baby left and I get stuck doing it a lot. But if we don’t, they’ll never play with them or know where anything is. As they get older, they start to adapt and incorporate your organizational skills. Good luck.

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  19. I am of no help here! I can’t part with anything, and the kids toys remind me of great times, times I loved, times I miss!

    I’d keep it all, even the broken stuff!

  20. I just finished reading Peter Walsh’s book, It’s All Too Much (So I’m sorry if this sounds bossy!). He addresses multiple reasons that people have for keeping things, including “We might need it someday”. Yes, we might need it again someday. But we need the space now. I toss what’s broken, give away/donate the outgrown or unloved, gather all the ‘we might need it someday’ items into a pile for storage, and put the rest away. When I put the WMNIS stuff into storage, date it. I choose an arbitrary timeline (like a year), and if we haven’t accessed it within that time, we don’t really need it, and someone else just might need it now, as opposed to someday, so out it goes.
    I’ve had to move many times, and each time had to go through this process, so I tend to be a bit practical about it, but there are very few items that I later regret not keeping. Hope this helps!

  21. I bought one of those awesome wooden shelves too!! But, I also bought 16 pop-up fabric baskets to slide into each wooden slot in our shelf..My sons room is Disney Cars themed so I bought 8 red and 8 blue fabric baskets in target and each one has a handle in the very front so my son can just slide each one out easily..I also took a few of them and ironed on disney cars decals to the front, so it matches his bedroom so good! He already knows only one basket is allowed out at a time and when he is finished he has to clean up the mess before taking out another basket..I filled each one with something different, one has his matchbox cars, one has his legos, one has crayons and coloring books, one has gi-joes, one is filled with dinosaurs etc.. It’s the best thing I have ever bought for his bedroom, everything is so organized now!! He is 5 years old so its about time he starts to clean up after himself and keep his bedroom organized..He is doing great!

  22. Freecycle is great for getting rid of all kinds of things in your house. Google it and sign up for your local group. I love the storage cubes in the furniture you showed. I sort by category like baby dolls, mr potato head, food, books etc too.

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