out with the old…

When we arrived home from spending Christmas with our family, an Everest of new toys came with us. Where were we going to put it all? I had already prepped my boys for the impending purge by saying, “For every new toy you get, we need to get rid of an old toy that’s the same size.”

Key words: The Same Size.

I had tried this tactic around birthday time without those key words, and my 6-year old outsmarted me. For the Harry Potter Diagon Alley 2024-piece Lego set, he traded in a single Matchbox car. My other failing at birthday time was to let HIM choose which toys to part with. This time, I did a 2-hour speed-round of purging while they were out sledding with their dad.

A few words of caution: For a Ruthless Purge — where you have to get a lot done in a short amount of time — you need to be in the right mindset. It’s not for everyone or every situation, so if you have hoarding tendencies or a strong emotional attachment to the items you’re sorting through, or if you are sifting though valuable antiques stored in your family’s attic. This is about making quick decisions about a large quantity of low-value items.

I start with 3 large empty bins. Any clear plastic lidded totes from your local hardware or big box store will do. Label your bins thusly:

sterilite clear plastic box

  1. DONATE: Items in fair to good condition that can be reused or sold at a thrift store. Be sure to have a charity in mind, and even schedule a pick up in advance, so that your donation tote doesn’t sit by the front door until next year.
  2. TRASH: Things in poor condition that cannot be reused or things with minimal value; also for the odd candy wrappers, Kleenexes, and old grocery lists that you will inevitably uncover.
  3. STORE: Things that you have a future use for, or have monetary or emotional value.

Alternatively, you could label your DONATE tote SELL instead. Planning a tag sale, however, is an endeavor unto itself, and you’ll need to be able to store these items until you are ready to have your sale. Selling things individually on craigslist or eBay or some other online venue is effective, but also time consuming, so this would need to be planned in advance.

Start sorting! One by one, pick up everything in sight and put it in one of the bins, or in its home. With my kids’ toys, I already had an organization system in place, we just hadn’t picked up for a while. So for the things I decided to keep, I put them into their correct places straightaway. Toys they had outgrown or no longer played with — shape sorters, stackers, board books, trucks — I tossed into the DONATE bin. Tchotchkes and little bits from goodie bags and Happy Meals got tossed in the TRASH bin, along with anything broken beyond repair.

I ended up putting only a few items in the STORE bin.

  1. Their wooden trains and tracks. These get passed over for more exciting, colorful toys, but are not obsolete. I stored these in their own plastic bin and put it in their closet. This helped free up space for more frequently-used toys.
  2. Giant trucks that make sounds and move. These are an eyesore, and an earsore, and my kids aren’t as into construction anymore. I put them away and they haven’t been missed by anyone.
  3. Stuffed animals that they used to love, and one that was made by my cousin. My boys may not remember when Monkey went to daycare with them every day, or how much they laughed at Bunny when they first learned to laugh, but I do. These ended up in a bin where I’m storing handmade sweaters, their ‘coming home’ outfits, special gifts, and other stuff of memories.

It took about 90-minutes to sort and put away, and then another 30 minutes to dust and vacuum their finally clean room. When the kids got home, I gave them a tour of their toy area, and they helped choose new homes for their new toys.

Where do you need to employ a Ruthless Purge?


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