Cleaning Out Kids’ Toys Before the Holidays


Everyone has heard of spring cleaning.

In my house, I desperately need some pre-holiday cleaning. No matter how much I try to limit the number of presents I buy my kids, Christmas morning always brings in a new mountain of toys. My house already looks like a rummage sale of toys. My kids love to visit garage sales in the summer and they always have their eyes open for free piles on the side of the road. While I appreciate all of these cheap/free toys, books, and clothes, there is only so much room in my house. While I am no cleaning expert, here are some tips that have helped my family clean up our act before the holiday season.

Kermit the frog in a bathtub- cleaning and organizing toys.

I tell my children they won’t get any presents if there is no room to put them away.

My children tend to hold onto things that they never use. I’m fairly certain they inherited that trait from their father. I don’t like taking toys away from them without asking first, but it gets challenging when they insist that they still play with every single item. I tell them that Santa won’t leave any gifts if he sees that the house is already full. Then my children magically realize that they don’t actually play with some of these toys anymore! They are always so excited by new toys on Christmas or their birthdays that they never miss any of the old stuff they clean out.

We visit our local Little Free Library.

I love these libraries. You can leave books you want to donate and take books that you want to read. Conveniently, there are two of these libraries at my son’s school. If you’re not careful, these libraries can add to your clutter because your children will constantly bring home free books. However, I instituted a rule that my kids cannot take any books out of the library unless they put books into the library first. I always aim to put more books into the library than I take out because my children also tend to amass books from yard sales and library sales. If you do decide to clean out your child’s books when they are not home, do not make the mistake of putting the books into a Little Free Library that your child will visit. I did this once and my daughter found a book I had donated and insisted on bringing it home again. Busted!

little free library- great for exchanging books.

Earmark your toy donations for a specific person.

Young children have a difficult time understanding how donating toys really works. All they know is that their toys get taken away from them. My kids have an easier time understanding how donations work if I tell them the toys are for a specific child they know. Last year, they did a great job of rounding up all their baby toys to give to their baby cousin. My kids enjoy seeing their cousin play with their old toys and they also feel quite grown up since they don’t need those baby toys anymore. We may have gone a bit overboard in how many toys we cleaned out. Sorry, Sister-in-law!

Throw away trash and broken items when your kids aren’t home.

My kids are horrible about hanging onto every little thing. They love to draw, so there are papers all over my house. To them, every little scribble is a masterpiece. As a result, I wait until they are at school and sort through all the papers. I hang on to my favorites and then hide the rest in the bottom of the recycling bin. I also throw away anything I find that is broken. My son will gladly keep wearing pants with giant holes in the knees, so I have to throw them out when he is not home. He hasn’t noticed yet. I also tend to be ruthless about throwing away toys that are missing parts and pieces. If questioned, I tell my kids that if they really liked the toy that much, they would have taken better care of it.

Keep a yard sale box available all year long.

As kids, my brother and I were highly motivated by cold hard cash. We gladly cleaned out our old toys if we could sell them in a yard sale. However, the holiday season is not the time for yard sales. Brrr! However, if you keep a box in some out of the way place, such as a basement or garage, you can add to your future yard sale items all year long. Then you will have a nice stash by the time the warm weather comes around. If you have larger items or just don’t want to bother with hosting a yard sale, there are plenty of options to sell things online. Try Craigslist or a local Facebook group.

kids' clothes in a yard sale- great for sorting through and cleaning out closets.

Be willing to give up things that YOU want to keep.

When my daughter went through her books to clean them out, she wanted to discard a few that I really liked. I wanted to suggest that we just hang onto them, but then I realized that the books were for her, not me. There are a few special baby books that I am keeping in a baby toy bin in the basement to pass on to any of my future grandchildren someday. If something is not important enough for me to put in the bin, I need to let it go. I have to realize that my children and I have different tastes in toys and books. If my kids are willing to give up an item, I need to let it go. I also try to be a good role model by cleaning out my own clothes and books.

This year, there will be plenty of room in my house for presents, so I had better get started shopping!


  1. I think these are important lessons in cleaning and organizing that all parents should make sure they help instill in their children. You made some excellent points.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here