Clear That Clutter With a Pre-Holiday Toy Clean Out

Want more space in their rooms before Christmas? Here are 5 ideas on how to purge those toys.

By Macaroni KID November 30, 2021

Want to cut down on the chaos and clutter that comes with Christmas? Get your kids to take part in a pre-Christmas toy purge!

But how do you get your kids to clean out their existing stuff before the new stuff comes in? We have five fun ideas on how to get your tiny pack rats on board with an "out with the old, in with the new" philosophy:

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1. Leave gifts FOR Santa

Yep, that's right. Leave toys FOR Santa on Christmas Eve. Get your kids excited by telling them they're helping Santa by giving him toys he can give to other kids. (Santa can then store the gently-used toys in the car trunk until the first opportunity to donate them.) 

Want to get rid of toys before Christmas Eve? You could also leave a bag of toys for your Elf to take back to the North Pole on any night!

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2. Reverse the Advent calendar

Rather than a traditional Advent calendar, Mary Monahan, the publisher of Macaroni KID Lincoln, Neb., has worked in the past with her kids to find an item to give away every day between Dec. 1 and 24. She calls it a "Reverse Advent Basket" and likes it because it shows her children how important it is to give to others. Along with toys, her kids give new items like gloves and food. Then she and her children take their basket of goodies to a charity on Christmas Eve to donate.

Feeling ambitious? This is a project the whole family can participate in!

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3. Pass it on

Laura Miller, the publisher of Macaroni KID Appleton, Wisc., had her daughter go "shopping" for friends and younger family members in her own room when she was younger. Her daughter enjoyed finding treasures to give as gifts, and Laura got to clear the clutter before the holidays. 

Now that her daughter is in school, the family donates toys and other household items to her school's (VERY popular) holiday "kids-only store" where kids can do their own shopping for their parents, siblings, friends, and more — and everything is just a quarter! (Bonus that the money earned goes to the school to do more good.)

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4. Organize a toy swap

Organize a toy swap with friends, your playgroup, or even with the PTA at your child's school! Your kids will want to clean out their toys because they know it means they'll get new toys they can give as gifts to friends, siblings, and other family members.

Set rules: You don't want puzzles without all of the pieces, for instance, or toys that are broken. If it's going to be a larger event, have people bring their toys in advance so you can set them all out so they're easy to see. You can either do a true "swap" (bring a toy, take a toy!) or set "amounts" for the types of toys people bring in (puzzles are worth 3 tickets, stuffed animals are worth 1 ticket, electronics with working batteries are worth 5 tickets, a bicycle is worth 10 tickets, etc.). Then they can use their tickets to "pay" for whatever items they choose to take home.

Have older kids? Help them organize their own toy swaps with their friends!

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5. Talk about it

Jen Hill, the Macaroni KID Fremont, Calif. publisher, initiated a toy clean out with her youngest children by asking them how many of their toys they actually play with and truly enjoy. The discussion led to her kids looking at their stuff in a new way. Her daughter was quick to understand there wasn't any point in holding onto toys she no longer uses, choosing to keep only her favorite dolls and Barbies, along with some stuffed animals and games. Her son, meanwhile, agreed to put stuffed animals he wasn't sure about getting rid of into a box. After six weeks, when he hadn't touched or missed any of them, he decided he was ready to give them away.

See? Clearing the clutter doesn't have to be painful! Find a way to engage your kids in the process and pretty soon you'll be able to see the bottom of the toy bin ... just in time for the holidays, when you can start filling it all over again.

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