Monday, September 08, 2014

a spring cleaning guide : the toy chest

Clutter confuses children, simplicity inspires them.

I spent a few hours delving into our toy chest this past weekend. It sat under the window in the lounge room* and was, more often than not, a dumping ground for toys that had no purpose or place. It was deep and cumbersome and together with the children, we confronted it - with vigour! I explained to them that we were going to sort out one basket of toys that would be suitable for baby; wooden blocks, wooden automobiles, musical instruments, train tracks and trains. The rest would be up for discussion - did we need it? Did we want it? Had we outgrown it?

As we sorted and cleared I had two garbage bags - one for the op-shop and one to revisit in a few weeks time, in case either of the kids ask for its contents (I doubt they will). Oh goodness, the stuff! A list for your enjoyment:

- dried up textas with no lids
- odd socks (8!)
- pegs
- a long lost battery charger
- birthday candles
- broken crayons
- puzzle pieces (pet hate)
- cookie cutters
- an apple core
- lego (about 20 little orange lights for lego vehicles, 6 wheels, at least 50 random pieces)
- 5 hair clips
- one toothbrush

Hilarious and slightly disgusting. Moving on...

As we cleaned the children began to play. And there were a few times where Daniel and I stood back and watched them; they were engrossed in coloured blocks and train tracks....the classic, ageless, timeless toys that I have always believed in. Somehow, said toys had been forgotten about over the past year - they'd been buried under a pile of miscellany (read: crap). And to be honest, the disorganisation had got to such a point that I was completely disinterested in dealing with it. Until spring, that is.

I will never use a toy chest again. Instead, I've got two small baskets in the lounge room and that. is. it. Over the past few days every single toy has been played with and there have been far less requests for computer time or play school. Less toys equals more play - happier play, too. It's also inevitable that we need to reevaluate the gifts we give for birthdays and Christmas. Che's birthday is at the end of September (he'll be 7!) and for the first time in many years he won't be getting lego - enough is enough.

Both kids still have some toys in their bedrooms (including board games, puzzles and soft toys) but when the time comes, the same technique will be applied.

A few readers have commented on yesterday's post regarding over zealous grandparents who love to gift an abundance of plastic. Yes, it can be a touchy subject but I think it comes back to gratitude and communication. Daniel and I have always been open with our parents about the toys we want our children to own. Granted, we have become more lenient in past years but last week's clear out only reinforces what we've always believed. When in doubt always express your thanks and then suggest that the grandparents keep the toys they gift at their house - if they don't like that idea let go of your guilt and donate to those in need.


I also dealt with my "toy chest" this week, aka the pantry. I admit, in the past few months, thanks to my first trimester and a fierce loathing for cooking dinner, most of the food had been placed on any shelf that had visible space, hence all sense of order had been lost. Indeed, it was a big job but I got stuck in and it was done within a couple of hours. All out of date food was thrown away, glass canisters were refilled and every shelf was given a good scrub.

Satisfying to say the least.

*there was another reason for getting rid of the toy chest....I bought an armchair (my armchair) from Ikea and I'm waiting on a French linen chair cover to arrive. Then, that corner is all mine. 


  1. I so agree with not having a toy chest - it just becomes a pit of iniquity. We have a few baskets on a shelf. Training grandparents is the hardest part I think!

  2. Ah, such a relief to find I'm not the only one struggling against mountains of toys! Your post is very inspiring Jodi; simplicity certainly does inspire children x

  3. We ditched the toy chest a while back in favour of a few baskets with goodies. Like you, best decision EVER! At our place it has encouraged more outdoor play, plus I've found the children are able to play independently for longer stretches - win!

  4. Yay for cleaning out the toy chest! I just finally finished my
    'spring cleaning" last week and it felt SO good! I could not believe how much trash I was able to get and Items to donate. It was a little ridiculous;)

  5. I love reading posts like this! Sadly I think a lot of mothers are drowning in a sea of useless toys due to family guilt and a misplaced sense of making their children 'happy'. Power to you Jodi!

    1. I was writing more but my internet cut out! I was going to add that I definitely understand the lego thing. My son (3 1/2) was very interested in Duplos, so we got him one set. I won't be getting him any more, because why? I don't see any reason for children to buy into a brand, it seems to make them into little hoarders! But, I'm the crazy mother who only gives one gift for Christmas and birthdays and is not giving her son a phone until he's at least 16. :D

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the gifts of well-meaning grandparents. You are absolutely right about gratitude! They mean well and we are so grateful that they care for our kids.
    We have actually asked my parents in law a few months back to keep the plastic toys at their place and it really improved our situation!
    And - inspired by your post - I was able to successfully clear out some old toys from my son's room (with his approval!) - hooray!

  7. Apple cores, and odd socks, I can relate! This is something I seem to do every few months, and still we have an abundance. One of our problems is that we have such a big house that every corner just gets filled, it gets overwhelming. I will be tackling this again this week. Thank you for your tips.

  8. You've inspired me to head to the pantry for a long overdue overhaul! I love the photo above. Sometimes I think I get just as much joy (if not more) out of my nearly one year old's colourful wooden blocks as he does

  9. Ah, I'm constantly finding apple cores! My eldest (the chief apple-eater) is getting better, but there are generally a few stray. Completely agree with the less is more approach to toys, it definitely makes play time more enjoyable here. And having a few different baskets/boxes means that it's easy to put some away and rotate them occasionally.

    I also adore a clean pantry (and fridge!) I'm a bit obsessive about the less is more approach with these two spots. If I can see everything, there is far far less waste, and it's easier to be more creative (what do we have we can use, how can we put those things together, etc, instead of 'let's just buy more'). X

  10. Yes, there is nothing like decluttering to bring about the realisation that the easiest course is to avoid acquiring the clutter in the first place!

  11. In regards to the grandparents/family giving too much plastic. I have avoided this by asking if everyone contribute to one major gift. Eg Jarvis got a cubby house for his first birthday/Christmas present. For his second he got a chicken house and chickens. So far this has worked really well for my family. Now need to convince the in-laws that lots of little plastic gifts is not the way to go.

  12. a brilliant idea, Iliska. Thanks so much for sharing x

  13. To increase the creativity of your children, a toy plays a very important role. is the cradle of original toy designer, and had experienced hand to make the better toys.


© 2014 Jodi Wilson. You may not take images or content from this site without written permission.