Toys: One In, One Out

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, when the holidays are near and the gift giving is just beginning. And if kids are involved, that means toys. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas or any other gift giving holiday, you know a pile of presents – big or small – means more demands will be placed on your already precious storage space come January. So why not prepare for the upcoming onslaught of gifts by trying out one of my favorite organizing concepts when it comes to toys: One in, One out.

A big part of getting organized (and staying organized) is having less “stuff.” As a preventive measure, buying fewer presents at the holidays to begin with is a good start. But, while you can control the volume of gifts you bring into your home, you can’t always do the same with the gifts coming in from outsiders. We do a pretty good job in our home of being modest when it comes to holiday gifts for our kids (as does Santa). But, then my sister drops off a gift. My brother and sister-in-law send a gift. And then the grandparents can’t resist bringing several more gifts. And before we know it there’s a large heap of lovely gifts awaiting our overly eager children. 

We’re lucky to be blessed with such a generous family, but it means I have to institute the One In, One Out rule in my own household when it comes to my kids’ toys. So, what is the One In, One Out rule? You can probably guess by its name. Your child gets a toy, your child gives up a toy. To make things go smoothly I like to get a head start on implementing the rule around the holidays by purging some toys starting in early December.

First, I do some basic organizing. I go back to my number one rule of organizing: Have a home for everything ( you can read more about that tip here where I talk about my 3 top organizing tips). Although, by itself, assigning homes to already existing toys won’t magically create space for the new toys coming in, doing so will at least help you sort out what you already have, and make it easier to identify which toys are ready to go.

If your kids are like mine, they have a pile of toys they never play with. That is until I ask them to pick out five toys they no longer want. They usually come back with a random Barbie shoe, a talking princess mirror, and a few balls of lint because they “play with everything” and “absolutely cannot live without every single toy,” which, of course, isn’t exactly true. The Etch-A-Sketch never gets touched. The American doll never rides her pony or takes her puppy for a walk, or even changes outfits anymore. The electric train track hasn’t been built in over a year. With older kids, it’s often the sentimentality, the memories of joyful play times past, that gets to them. With younger kids it can be the fear of letting go or the fear of missing their toys once they’re gone. Whatever the underlying reason, they want to keep ALL their toys. Forever.

You could easily box up the unused toys while your kids are at school or over a friend’s house, zip over to Goodwill and dump the box there, and they’d probably never even notice. But I think taking the time to teach your children the value of getting organized, and maintaining a manageable amount of stuff, is invaluable. Even though we are focusing on toys in this article, the One in, One Out rule can be applied to other belongings just as easily, such as shoes, clothes, books, sporting equipment, etc. It’s a good life lesson to learn early. 

Plus, there are other valuable lessons your children can learn from the purging process. You can talk to them about the importance of giving their things away to less fortunate children (just make sure the things you donate are complete and working as no child wants to receive a broken, discarded toy). You can also introduce your children to the sales market. If your children have collections that might be of some value, like a full set of Pokemon cards or an extensive American Doll wardrobe, together you can sell them through an online auction or a community message board. Of course, you’ll have to do all the online interactions and in-person transactions yourself, but your children can still be involved in other aspects of the selling process, and can benefit from the experience of earning profits that can be added to their piggy banks or donated to charities of their choosing.

Whether you end up working with your children or going it alone, whether you donate, sell or discard, try to work the One In, One (or more!) Out rule into the next few weeks as the holidays approach. Set aside some time to sift through the toys around your home and, giving consideration to the number of new play things you expect to come in, unload what you can.

From my family to yours, I wish you all the very best for a safe, happy, and somewhat organized holiday season. To all my clients, thank you for your business throughout the year. I’m grateful for the trust you put in me, for the time we got to spend together, and for allowing me into your homes and businesses to help guide you to a more organized life. To those of you who I have not had the pleasure of working with yet, and who may be interested in my organizing services, please contact me anytime for a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation. I’d love to help you get organized too. It makes a great New Year’s resolution!