I miss my house before I had kids. I don’t regret having children; I just miss the uncluttered feel of my home. Before we had children, our house was ready at a moment’s notice if a guest wanted to stop by. Now, I need an hour just to clean up all the toys strewn about, and who knows what toys lurk underneath the refrigerator and stove even though I try to enforce a strict “no toys allowed” rule for kitchen safety?
Where did all of these toys come from? Like many parents, I want my children to have nice toys and perhaps my own upbringing factors in. I remember wanting all the fabulous toys that my classmates had, but that my parents didn’t have the money to buy me. Instead of a whole gaggle of Barbie dolls my friends seemed to get for Christmas, I got one. Wanting to spare my own children disappointment, I can be accused of over indulging a bit. If you read my article about Empty Nesters filing for divorce, then you know that along with the divorce and subsequent remarriage of your parents, you have just multiplied the number of grandparents for your children. Instead of a traditional set of two parents for each spouse, you now have two sets of two for each of you if everyone remarries. That means twice the spoiling of your child! Instead of two sets of grandparents buying Christmas and Birthday presents, you now have four! It sure doesn’t take long for the toys to start taking over your house. But as Harry Truman once said, “The buck stops here.” It is your house and despite your relatives’ spoiling of your child, it was up to you to put your foot down and direct their gift giving in another direction (529 Plan, anyone?).
So, what are you to do with your largesse of toys? First of all, make a commitment to weed down the toys into three categories: Keep, Sell/Donate, and Toss. Keep any toys that are your child’s favorite, or ones that they play with on a frequent basis. Sell or Donate anything in good repair, and Toss anything that is broken or damaged beyond repair.
Once you have sorted out the toys, take a look at how many you actually have in your Keep pile. If it is still a lot, but you can’t bear to part with any of them, your next option is to store them in totes. Divide the toys into a few bins and label each bin with a number. The purpose is to rotate the toys through so that all get played with, switching totes every now and again so that it seems to your child that they are getting new toys to play with every so often.
With regard to the Sell or Donate pile, you have several options here. First of all, you can hold a yard sale and hope to sell some toys there. If you live in a retirement community, chances are you won’t be selling a lot of toys. In that case, you can use Ebay to try to off load some of the more popular toys. Vintage toys sell very well and expensive toys sold gently used also do fairly well. If Ebay is not your cup of tea, you can always try consignment shops or stores like Once Upon a Child, where you can get money for your gently used toys, depending on whether or not they are buying at any given time.
Donating your toys, however, can be a very rewarding thing to do. Often, places like homeless shelters or women’s shelters have few to no toys. Women’s shelters in particular often have needs because the women there often leave unexpectedly with their children and cannot take many things with them because of their need to leave in haste. Many civic groups also accept used toy donations, fixing them up for children who don’t have toys due to their economic circumstances. You can also list them on Craigslist or Freecycle.
Recently, one of my mothers-in-law commented that she felt bad that she had no toys at her house for our children. She lives a considerable distance away from us and we visit at their home a few times a year. She mentioned needing to go toy shopping so she would have some on hand the next time we visited. I quickly told her if she needed to go toy shopping, she needed to do it at my house! The next time we visit, we’ll be taking some toys to her house for permanent storage there.
Tossing your children’s toys in the garbage can be heart wrenching for them. If they were particularly attached to a toy, it may be best to throw it away when they aren’t there to see the actual disposal. I tell my children that we don’t keep broken toys. My daughter understands this and after time, she eventually started telling me which toys were broken and then threw them away herself.
Once your toys are manageable, you need to set strict limits with grandma and grandpa. Explain that you just have too many toys and would appreciate it if they got your child just one toy, instead of the 20 they gave last Christmas. Let them know they can still spoil their grandchildren, but instead of toys, they can contribute to a 529 plan or buy your child savings bonds. Toys eventually break, but an education lasts a lifetime.