Raising My Three And Me

The unfiltered thoughts and happenings of a married SAHM

When Toys Take Over (Messy To Minimal #1)

Parents and kids alike are overwhelmed with the number of toys available to play with.

A group of researchers at the University of Toledo (Ohio, USA) conducted an experiment with 36 toddlers and invited the children to play in a room for 30 minutes with either four toys, or 16.

When toddlers had exposure to fewer toys, they played twice as long with the toys they had and in more sophisticated ways.

Dr. Alexia Metz – the study’s lead investiagator and UT associate professor of occupational therapy.

You can read all about this particular study directly from the UT website by clicking [here] as it’s such an interesting experiment! A huge shout out to the writer Cherie Spino who shared the details of the findings!

This information wasn’t surprising to me in the slightest. As a mother of three daughters, toys take up a majority of the clutter in our home. I would bet that we are not alone in this observation. Parenting seems to be this challenge of who can be the best at showing that we love and care about our children. However, this can turn to spend a lot of money on toys, upon toys, upon toys.

Personally, the toys in our house were a mixture of gifts from the holidays, junk toys, and stuff we picked them up “just because” – it didn’t matter to us if they were played with or not. Stuff showed that they had things, stuff was there to keep them busy and teach them important lessons like cleaning up after themselves (which was usually a massive argument between us and our oldest) and just took up precious space.

Clutter is a huge pet peeve of mine. After all, a clear space is a clear mind. You don’t have time to enjoy your life with stuff piled up everywhere; whether you’re physically or mentally tripping over it – clutter is a distraction, clutter is a mess, clutter is a chore.

But not anymore – this year I vowed to get rid of useless junk. This brings me to the first piece that I’m sharing with my blog on my journey from messy to minimal.

Raising My Three and Me presents… when toys take over; the first installment of the Messy To Minimal series.

Before I get started on the post, I just wanted to give a warm welcome to any new readers and acknowledge my supporters! Thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to read my blog post. If this is your first time here, I write about parenting, personal growth, and productivity! If this sounds interesting, or you like my blog, you should subscribe, follow, or bookmark this page for later! If you’ve been here before, thank you for returning!

Okay, time to go back to the content!

I was tired of having to argue with my six-year-old daughter to clean up the mess. I would be on her all day long, reminding her it’s much easier to clean up throughout the day instead of at the end of the day. I was too tired to make her clean it every single day. I was often too tired from my own day that I couldn’t clean my own mess, let alone force her to clean theirs.

Still, I would end the day with the thought that they had too much stuff. I had flashbacks of my own childhood of cluttered-up toys that I never touched. I would feel guilty whenever I would throw something out without them knowing. I would feel sad when I thought they would love a toy, only that they didn’t touch it more than that one time. I honestly wish there was a company that you could rent out toys that your kid is into, and then return them whenever they are sick of it.

When our oldest was a toddler, we would find that once she had an interest, we would purchase everything with that character. Paw Patrol and Elmo were both big interests when she was little. She also had a phase with loving Super Monsters (a show on Netflix) and Doc McStuffins (a show on Disney Junior) but the second she would have it, she didn’t really care about it.

I’m kicking myself now for how our purchasing habits didn’t help her. We would beg her to go play (and her sisters afterward) but there was too much noise for her to truly enjoy it. That’s a metaphor, by the way, the clutter was what was so loud to her and us.

I noticed that my kids were reaching for the same toys over and over. But every time we went to declutter the toys, they would suddenly show interest. We would question everything about tossing the toy, or we were angry at how much money we spent on it. I remember buying her the FurReal Tiger (which cost us $150 and an exclusive trip to the city) and she didn’t even touch it.

None of this is her fault.

Clutter is consuming enough – but parenting clutter? It’s everywhere. We have toy clutter and don’t even get me started on the worry about having more babies. Our kids are in different age ranges: 6 years, 2 years, and our baby just turned a year old. Baby clutter is hard for me. What do you do with toys you think your little one will enjoy? What if you have another baby later down the road?

I really struggled with this but after decluttering the baby swing I used with all three of my kids, the bassinet from my last baby, and the crib my parents bought for my baby shower when I was pregnant with my oldest, it’s getting easier to let go. Sure, it hurts a little bit – sometimes a lot, but I’m getting there. If I can do it, I should be instilling this mindset for my little ones.

So, I told my husband that we have to get the kids out of the house for the week in order to get it out of the way without that worry of upsetting our kids. We told our oldest that we are purging a lot of the toys and asked what she absolutely didn’t want us to touch. To which she said her rainbow Barbies, unicorn stuffed animals, and that was about it.

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With my parents on board with taking the kids for a fun five days, my husband and I went to bring them to see their Gamma and Papa. My oldest was nervous, as she’s really sentimental about toys, and I assured her that things will be different, but we are doing this to help make our home a lot better.

My husband and I went back home with a plan to tackle the disaster ahead of us.

*Warning: This mess is NOT for the faint of heart*

The room before:

To say that this project was overwhelming would be an understatement: no wonder why our daughter was so upset while having to play in the room. I wasn’t in there for more than fifteen minutes before I looked at my husband in disbelief. They had only been moved in there to sleep for a couple of nights before their trip to their grandparents’ house. I wanted this to be done. I needed to swallow the exhaustion I felt and get this done.

Do it for us, do it for them. I had to keep reminding myself about this.

What were we getting ourselves into with this project?

We found out over the next two days. This process was both easier and harder than I thought possible. I learned things that I wasn’t expecting: like how things not going according to plan isn’t so bad, and although we got rid of a bunch of stuff, everything still seemed overwhelming.

I was surprised at how a lot of the clutter was easy for us to throw away. I found that getting rid of the baby equipment truly helped. Still, I was surprised at how many mini arguments would happen when my husband and I were on different pages about what we considered junk. To be honest, I got a little bit addicted to tidying. I loved seeing the progress of that disaster (quickly) turning into what we talked about.

Rules I had:

  • Everything needed to have its own place.
  • Broken pieces needed to be trashed.
  • If it was obvious clutter, it was out of here.
  • No keeping things that they didn’t touch in forever.
  • It was time to bring all toys into that room.

To be honest with you, I would happily declutter even more. I’m interested in trying the 20-toy-rule with my kids, you can learn all about that Amanda over on Funky Frugal Mommy [here], where your child picks 20 of their favorite toys and everything else is either put into storage or given away.

We took all of the trash out, feeling a lot of relief as we fine-tuned the room. I couldn’t believe how quickly we finished this project, only leaving the stuffed animals and Barbies for them to go through later.

Upon my kids returning home, they were so happy with the results. Everything has an easy place where we can easily clean it and it’s not so overwhelming when things do get crazy, which they do. Sure, it can feel like a disaster compared to how nice the pictures below are: it’s still a mess.

If you’re going to be tackling the toy clutter, here are my top eight tips on decluttering your kids’ toys.

  1. Go into the project with a set amount of rules. Believe me, your brain is going to be making up ideas on what you can use it for. Do not listen to this, stick to your original plan.
  2. Decide if it’s better for your family to have your child helping you, or to do so with them out of the house. Every family and child is different, especially when it comes to their belongings. As I said, my daughter had an idea that we were doing this.
  3. Gather all toys and put them in a place where you can easily see them. Honestly, I didn’t do this. The alternative (which is what I’m doing) is to swap out toys if there is no room.
  4. If your child is sensitive about their stuff, like mine is, you can consider asking what one toy that is safe from this process. Maybe it’s a favorite stuffed animal, or a doll that they love, whatever it is – if the toy is broken, consider getting the toy repaired, replaced (like a toy that is missing pieces), or put it in a special memory box.
  5. Don’t pressure yourself by getting it done in one day. This will drive you CRAZY. I found it easier to clean between video game matches. Maybe you go in to pick up a few things when you are done in the bathroom, grabbing a quick snack, or after your episode on TV.
  6. Breathe, you are not a failure to have it get this bad!
  7. Don’t give up, it’s going to get chaotic and overwhelming, it will be okay.
  8. Remember your why: why are you getting rid of all of these toys

I will do a blog post in the future on why I decided to declutter and the benefits I saw in my home!

Final Result:

Here are the pictures after we only had a few things left to do! Do you like the difference? I sure do!


This was something I was putting off for a long time and it was such a process. However, we absolutely love how it turned out and our kids are already happier and so are we when it comes to a messy kid’s room!

What was your experience with decluttering your kid’s toys? Have you tried the 20-toy rule? Let me know down in the Leave A Reply section!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you next time!

Don’t go just yet! Check out these related posts hand-picked for you!

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Amanda. “All You Need To Know About The 20 Toy Rule.” Funky Frugal Mommy, 22 July 2021, https://www.funkyfrugalmommy.com/2021/07/all-you-need-to-know-about-20-toy-rule.html. Accessed 8 Mar. 2022.

Spino, Cherie. “Fewer Toys Lead to Richer Play Experiences, UT Researchers Find: Utoledo News.” UToledo News | The University of Toledo News, 14 Dec. 2017, https://news.utoledo.edu/index.php/12_18_2017/fewer-toys-lead-to-richer-play-experiences-ut-researchers-find.

4 responses to “When Toys Take Over (Messy To Minimal #1)”

  1. Toys are likely the hardest thing to declutter, especially if the kids are there while you do it because they will always want to keep everything. You did great tackling this mess and cleaning up the area. It took me a long time to deal with all the toys my son had but I was glad I did it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Sarah!
      Decluttering is so hard to manage, especially growing up that more stuff = a greater success; at least that’s what I learned!
      Like you, I’m so glad that I did this! Although, I’ll admit that I will definitely need to get rid of way more. It definitely helps with creativity and keeping things managed a little better.


  2. I deffinitely need to declutter the toys. I need to declutter in general. Great read

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in the same boat as you! Clutter is just so easy to accumulate and forget about our purchases. It’s such an overwhelming process to purge it! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


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