Rising above the clutter – 1

Part 1 – Making friends with toys

All things children are like rabbits; they multiply so fast that you have no idea where it all started. Clothes, toys, books, mess, just about everything related to kids accelerates within minutes. That’s my learning from cleaning up my kids’ stuff this September.

Until September, I was pretty offhanded about the things that belonged to my kids. Clothes always found space, toys always found shelves. It was almost like the Akshaya Paatra of storage 😛 I could clear everything up without ever making it look messy. The jolt happened in September when we finally found a beautiful home in another city and had an entire month to relocate. Now, an entire month as such is a very long time. But with kids, it passes by in the blink of an eyelid. So, mid-October I was sitting in a room full of things, almost close to tears looking at the colossal waste of money, time and effort – my kids’ stuff. Where do I begin? What do I sort these into? My head was spinning in circles faster than the Sudarshana Chakra.

To the rescue – pen and paper! Believe me when I say that nothing works like a handwritten list and ticking things off that list once you are done. BLISS!

So, I made two lists – one for toys/books and another one for clothes. From there it became pretty easy to sort things and discard them too. How? All hail Marie Kondo! I might not have succeeded in reading her books, but I caught onto one phrase that was life altering – ‘Spark joy!’ That’s right!

What is Spark Joy? Marie Kondo (the queen of decluttered AND joyful living) says that one should only retain what gives them joy. If you look at something and it does not give you joy, remove it pronto!

Here’s how I applied that to my kids’ stuff: (you can apply this to your life too, but I am sharing my experience mainly)

I am breaking this post down to three parts. You can read it all or just jump to the portion that you want to read:

Sorting the toys:

Gifts are the biggest reason why we have an overload of toys at home. SOMEONE must stop this gifting a toy culture unless it literally makes sense to the child. Nope, crawling caterpillar isn’t my thing.

To begin with, sort all your child’s toys into three piles – what he uses, what he might use and what is beyond his stage of development. It’s easy to break the whole dump into three piles. The hard step starts from here.

  • Pile 1: What he is done with – Rattles, teethers, pull along toys fit into this category. If you don’t plan for another kid in a year or so or don’t have another kid already, look to distribute these with people who have younger kids. Things that are hygiene based (teethers etc) can be discarded, but sensory toys might find takers.
  • Pile 3 (I will come to #2 next): What he might use. It is very tempting to stash most unused toys under this category, but see if it will hold interest for your child in about six months. If not, gift them to kids who will enjoy them right away. Six months down the line, you would have forgotten about the toys and your child would have moved to other things.
  • Pile 2: What he currently uses. This pile works on rotation. If your child has 10 toys, bring out 2-3 every few months. Rotate the toys and repeat for another few months. This way, you haven’t used up ALL the toys in your arsenal and your child can revisit a favourite with newer ideas in future.

Storing of toys:

The good thing is, we relocated to another house and here, I have planned a space for the kids to be more responsible about their stuff. Hail Ikea for ideas and products. I am not sure how much I will buy at the moment, but definitely having a set space (as opposed to an entire room) for toys makes it so much easier to plan and hey, if I can get something ready along the similar lines to my necessary dimensions , then why not? 😉

The layout at Ikea Singapore for a kid’s room. Totally love their Trofast shelves and storage boxes.

I do like how parents give their kids toy rooms. It means there’s a designated area for play stuff. But, in many cases I have seen kids (parents, honestly) go overboard with toys and ending up in a huge pile of toys with parts and pieces missing.

So, regardless of whether you have a toy shelf or a toy room, unless you have it and leave it organized children will see no point in it either. For this reason, minimal toys (thanks to rotation) ensures there’s less to mess and less to clean up. Seriously, I would rather pick up four upturned boxes of toys than fourteen of them!

Same goes with books. Many friends of mine are raising avid readers and I love how beautifully some of them have their books organized. The key idea is in keeping things accessible to the child, but also bringing in a sense of organization. I am all in for organized chaos, but NO parent wants to find lego parts under their bathroom rug or the leg of a barbie in the kitchen drawer.

Inspirations and printables:

My biggest ‘to-do’s on this holiday was to visit the Ikea store in Singapore. Why? I can see why they thrive – organization goals. Be it minimal or out in the open, they have options and I for one, am drawing ideas and inspiration from this company for my son’s toy storage.

One of the most organized toy/book spaces I have seen among my friends is Sharmilla’s. Both in Bengaluru and in Coimbatore, she had made one of the most comfortable and easy spaces for her son to play in. Here’s a pic of their Coimbatore home. The key thing that she follows is: ‘One toy at a time and all back when done’. Neat right?

I will be sharing more of how we put Lishaan’s things together in the coming few days on my Instagram handle. Until then, tell me if this works for you! 🙂


If, like me, you are motivated by to-do lists and items that you can tick off as you go along, here’s a free Decluttering Checklist you can download. This printable was designed for We Are Real Moms‘ December 2017Challenge – Reflect, Reset, Recharge.
The file has 3 pages.
Page 1 has the list partly filled in for you and you can fill in the rest.
Page 2 is a completely blank checklist and you can completely customize it for your home and your needs.
Page 3 is to record the items you have put in storage and where so you can find them easily in future when you need them. 
Click here to download the high resolution, watermark-free printable!

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