I Got Rid of The Toys

The kids weren’t playing with their toys. Most of their time has been spent outside or using their imaginations with boxes and non-toy items (paper, sticks, rocks, shovels, etc). But toys still cluttered their room and the living room, so we would have to pick up every day.
Even after limiting the toys, they still ended up everywhere.

So I decided to try something new.

Since they’re 6 and 4, it wasn’t a difficult discussion. It went like this:

Mom: “Hey kids, I was wondering if you would like to do an experiment.”
Kids: “Sure. What is it?”
Mom: “Pack up all your toys and put them in the basement for 2 months.”
Kids: “Ok.”

We all went and packed up the miscellaneous stuff stuck in the corners of their rooms.

We put away: stuffed animals, bouncy balls, baby toys, toy cars, dishes, tea set, dolls, jump rope, dress ups, bulldozer, Legos.

What we left out:

  • 6 animals from the farm store
  • box of wooden toys
  • Coloring books & Crayons
  • Outdoor toys (bikes)

We put everything in a couple boxes. In Naomi’s room was left an empty antique fruit box (which has been her toy box). She asked if she could play with it.

So for about 10 minutes, it was a car. She padded it with blankets and sat in it. After that it was sat upright, covered with a blanket and it became a lemonade stand. She played with that little wooden box the rest of the day.

The Result:

After 2 months, the kids have forgotten about their toys. They haven’t asked for anything from the box.  (except for dress up dresses) They play very nicely and can sit with their little box of blocks and animals for hours. They play outside without toys and use their imagination all day.

And there aren’t toys all over the floor in their room. The only chore they have in their room is to make their bed and put away clothes.

It’s been a wonderful experience!

I have no doubt that if they caught sight of the boxes or the things inside them, they would want them again. I’m not planning on getting rid of them at this point, I will keep them in the basement and after a year, I will pitch them. Normally I do not get rid of other peoples items without their consent, so I’ll just play this one by ear.

I know we are all happier without the toy chaos!

What do you think? Could you get rid of the toys?

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About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Shaye Elliott on 09/02/2013 at 9:28 PM

    GIIIIRL you’re inspiring me to try this. I’m battling the toy-monster right now and no matter how many I eliminate, they keep on growing! That’s it. I’m going for it right now.

    • Rachel on 09/03/2013 at 2:16 AM

      Yes! Do it- You’ll love it!

  2. Anonymous on 09/02/2013 at 9:29 PM

    love it

  3. Anonymous on 09/03/2013 at 2:12 AM

    todays toy hoarder is tomorrows junk hoarder. CLEAR the room. It clutters the floor AND THE MIND.

  4. karenyott on 09/04/2013 at 1:34 PM

    Great idea! no fantastic idea!

  5. Jennifer McCook on 09/04/2013 at 3:36 PM

    I am so trying this out! Thank you for the inspiration!

  6. Anonymous on 09/04/2013 at 4:31 PM

    First thing I minimalized! I packed away a lot, left some dress ups, stuffed animals and two boxes if toys (to be alternated). my kids are happy and I am freeeeeeee!

  7. Jan M. on 09/04/2013 at 10:26 PM

    This is a great idea. I originally had toys in the living room and bedroom. I got so tired of having him pick up toys (before daddy gets home)and having to point out things my son missed. So I brought all his toys to his bedroom. Allowing him to bring 2-3 toys to the living room during the day. Well…the living room is much nicer now but his room is a constant mess. He seems to be motivated if he wants to have a friend come over. Well…I have to try this out and leave a few toys for the bedroom and donate the rest after a few months if he doesn’t request any back.

  8. Trae Flesher on 09/05/2013 at 2:32 PM

    One day when our 4 had been fighting and fussing over toys, I grabbed some bags and boxes…walked calmly into the toy room and gathered up EVERYTHING except books! Before I put much thought into it, I told them that they would not have toys for a WEEK! I was a little scared after I made my proclamation, but the result was peace and quiet! Not just that day,but for the whole week! They read, they built towers and fortresses with the books, they played ‘school’ and ‘library’ and ‘bookstore’, they even acted out some of the books for each other! At the end of the week, I brought the little kitchen back in and allowed them to each select 2 previous toys. Dad added the legos when he got home. The rest went into the garage sale. From then on…if a new toy came in, then an old toy had to go out. It was wonderful!

  9. Cheryl Benites on 09/06/2013 at 8:44 AM

    We grew up with just a few toys. I had 1 barbie doll. We would play with cardboard boxes.We would swim,bike,sled,ice skate,play school,doctor,hopscotch,play marbles and all the neighborhood kids came over. At school our playground was a parking lot. I went to a Catholic school.We would play house with cigarettes they were the people,make beds out of sticks and the furniture was made out of little stones. The good old days I grew up in the 70’s.

  10. Erin on 09/06/2013 at 3:09 PM

    I am in the process of doing this as we speak and love this message. It is so important that we are intentional about our children’s toys. Thank you!

  11. Anonymous on 09/06/2013 at 11:25 PM

    Same concept…sorta I guess. We have a shelving unit in our playroom that contains all the toys in their boxes and on certain days we take certain boxes of them down and that is what we play with that day…I do play with my 3 grand kids, ages 7,5,4 and love it. For example: we have 2 boxes with toy dishes, food and appliances and I love to watch them create a full meal, set the table and we pretend to have dinner, then we take down the blocks one day and build cities and use horses and cars to make it more real, or we take out all the dress up clothes and pretend one day to be kings, queen and soldiers, then on rainy days we take out the puzzles and coloring books….we learn to take care of our things, put away our things where they belong at the end of the day, be artists or teachers and take a trip with our imaginations to castles or army bases and it stays very neat and orderly and full of wonder and they never get bored. We do decide to donate things or sell them as they outgrow them and then with the money we may replace it with another later, but they are learning to good stuarts of what they have….the parent is the one to teach appreciation and value of one or 100 item….

    • Anonymous on 12/29/2013 at 6:54 AM

      I do the same as you anonymous

  12. Eleanor James on 09/07/2013 at 6:10 AM

    I think this is great. What do you do about gifts? I am super minimalistic about toys, but my child is the only grand child, so my family loves to gift us items, even though I’ve stated we don’t need anymore. gahhh! I get it, it’s hard to not buy the adorable item that they *know* my kiddo would love, but I’m not one picking them up all the time and like you’ve experienced, some of those toys get played with very little.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Rachel on 09/07/2013 at 2:00 PM

      Gifts: http://www.nourishingminimalism.com/2012/11/15-clutter-free-gift-ideas.html

      I try to stress gifts of time together, memberships to children’s museum, homemade items or craft supplies.

      • Nancy on 07/06/2015 at 9:26 PM

        Wonderful idea!♡

    • Jessica on 10/16/2013 at 1:50 AM

      I was wondering about this too! I don’t think grandma would be too happy to be told no more toys!

    • Rachel on 10/16/2013 at 3:50 AM

      11 Ways to Get Friends and Family on Board with the Limited Gifts Idea:

    • Ange on 07/13/2016 at 1:23 AM

      I had the same problem so I spoke to our Kids and our extended family and just said look we have 4 kids and a small home and we like the small home and the lack of clutter, the kids thrive on it. With that I said I would open bank accounts for the kids and if people wanted to get them something than they were welcome to put some money into that account so they could save for something they really wanted or for later on. That way the kids still get something from them but it’s something they really want and if they don’t want anything as of yet than it sits in their accounts and builds up. I was lucky our family was very happy with this solution and we even set a limit for family as we have a big family of $10 in a card or In the account at birthdays and my sisters in law are now requesting the same thing. It works out great and it’s teaching my kids to save.

  13. Anonymous on 09/07/2013 at 12:16 PM

    Your kids must be very different from mine. When we did that, he went ballistic – tears that lasted for days because his stuffed animals were real to him. How could I put them in a box? It was cruel! Glad it worked so well for you. We do limit the amount allowed in the house and he has to give up stuff everytime he brings something new in…that has worked well for us.

    • Anonymous on 10/16/2013 at 1:51 AM

      I agree! My son is now 21 and played with all of his toys all of the time as well as played outside and such. I still have a big garbage bag of his special stuffed animals and some playobil and little tykes pirate ship. (for grand children)

  14. Julie Kieras on 09/09/2013 at 3:07 AM

    I so want to do this. I’m tired of tripping over toys. BUT I honestly LOVE a lot of our toys. We have a lot of wooden/natural play toys and I love playing WITH our son with them. I think I’d miss them more than him! LOL.
    But seriously – I keep cutting back and yet. The toys are STILL all over! need to work up the nerve to do this. Of course, my son is just 3.5 and doesn’t have the level of reasoning skills your 4 yo seems to have yet. He would probably be very upset. 🙁

    We’ll see. Great post!

    • jamie on 05/09/2015 at 10:24 AM

      julie, i agree with you! i love a lot of our toys, too! they are wood, natural play toys like building blocks and wood train sets. my almost 5 year old son spends an entire hour in his room during former nap time (now called quiet time) building elaborate, multi-level train tracks with stacked blocks or garages for his emergency vehicles, while my 2 year old daughter naps. and she loves playing trains with him, too. but we still have a lot of these toys to pick up at the end of the day despite my best intention to stay on top of it all day long.

      recently my son voluntarily moved some of his cars/trucks into a box for the closet – i think inspired by my recent purging of other toys. perhaps i just need to store half of each toy type to reduce the number of toys, yet still keep out the ones they play with all the time. i did recently put away half the building blocks and no one seemed to notice. 🙂

      would that work for your 3.5 yo, too?

    • Lee on 06/29/2015 at 1:52 PM

      Agreed! My husband and I are definitely more likely to sit down and build or ‘pretend’ with him when we like his toys! Win-win. His grandparents are gracious enough to keep any noisy toys at *their* house, which means he has a blast while visiting but we don’t have the constant blaring and bleeping at home 😀

      We’re a fairly minimalist family, but our little guy still empties everything out onto the floor during the day (his toys, the laundry, and dishes in the kitchen at his height). It helps when I rotate toys in and out of storage – less toys to strew around, and then excitement when ‘new’ toys are pulled out. Right now, for example, his Noah’s Ark, shape sorter, ball, and wooden blocks are out. The Duplo bin, push-cart, stacking rings, and toolkit are in a cupboard until next week, when they’ll get switched around. I also rotate his board books so they don’t end up on the floor (and so I have ‘new’ books to read). I am curious to see how things will change as he gets older 🙂

  15. Lori on 09/10/2013 at 10:37 PM

    I have been working up the nerve to do this. I have no problem being minimalist, but I don’t think my kids (7 & 4) will understand. I have to be stealthy about it, and hope no one notices. 🙂 I have seen that when the toys are organized and contained, there is a period of peaceful, imaginative play. But the toys soon become a jumbled mess, and they are just in the way/chewed up by our puppy/hard to find what you want. So I expect that FEWER toys will mean BETTER play. But I am encouraged to read this post and the comments! Thanks!

  16. Sarah @ RevolutionaryMom.com on 09/17/2013 at 2:27 AM

    I’ve been thinking of trying something like this! Hearing your story gives me the courage to try it out!

  17. Julia on 10/02/2013 at 11:40 AM

    I first read your post two weeks ago and it inspired me to finally take action on simplifying the kids’ room. I would love to try the no-toys-experiment sometime (though my husband would think I’m nuts) but for now I put many toys in storage, donated or tossed some and organised what is left so the kids are able to pick up after playing. The result is amazing. They are now playing with each other and the toys where before they only fought about which toy belonged to whom. I might do another round of decluttering soon to pair down even more. Now if only we could skip the christmas gift frenzy…

    Thanks so much for this inspiring post!

  18. Julia on 10/02/2013 at 11:41 AM

    I first read your post two weeks ago and it inspired me to finally take action on simplifying the kids’ room. I would love to try the no-toys-experiment sometime (though my husband would think I’m nuts) but for now I put many toys in storage, donated or tossed some and organised what is left so the kids are able to pick up after playing. The result is amazing. They are now playing with each other and the toys where before they only fought about which toy belonged to whom. I might do another round of decluttering soon to pair down even more. Now if only we could skip the christmas gift frenzy…

    Thanks so much for this inspiring post!

  19. Anonymous on 10/15/2013 at 7:25 PM

    Could I have read this at any other time…I am clearing out the shared bedroom of my 10 & 12 year girls. You are my hero today 🙂 thank you a thousand times, I needed this boost to stop over-thinking every little thing. It’s not fair to over-clutter them with stuff and we parents are to blame. I’ve got two more hours until they get home from school, let the fun begin…

  20. Anonymous on 10/15/2013 at 7:33 PM

    I’m confused. If they weren’t playing with them, how did they end up out and all around your house each day?

    • Rachel on 10/15/2013 at 8:07 PM

      They’re kids, it’s what they do. Dump out the toy box every morning, scatter everything and leave. That’s pretty typical.

    • Anonymous on 10/15/2013 at 9:04 PM

      YES! This is my life. The toy box is like the epicenter and the clutter just radiates from it.

    • Anonymous on 10/16/2013 at 1:52 AM


    • Anonymous on 10/16/2013 at 1:55 AM

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    • Anonymous on 10/17/2013 at 7:02 PM

      They probably just needed some instruction and help with how to clean up after themselves. It seems that if the toys are coming out and were “everywhere” each day, they obviously still had interest in them. To me this would feel like a cop out. I could take away all of his toys so I don’t have to deal with it anymore, or I can put the time into helping him learn to clean up after himself and allow him to continue playing. It takes a lot more time and effort to put in the time teaching than it does to just take it all away. Sometimes my house is a mess with toys all over the place too, but I’m ok with that. I’m not faulting you for your choice, as I feel each family has to do what feels right for them, but it definitely wouldn’t be the right choice for our house.

    • jenn on 12/01/2013 at 1:00 PM

      I disagree entirely. I have three children and provide home daycare. They do not play with these toys. The baskets are at eye level=they dump them. Rummage around through them and then walk away. About 50 times a day. They play with one another and a few select items that I will keep (the baby strollers (not for dolls but to push around random objects in). I have resolved to keep open ended toys that have more than one purpose and encourage the use of imagination to keep them alive. Uh…that means no more little people! They are so creepy looking anyway. One set of dollhouse people can suddenly become EVERY little people set with a little imagination and a box! We have kept a few toy vehicles, lego, blocks, balls, dolls, train set, kitchen dishes (but not food…that can be imagined) a few dress up items and animals. They are not accessible all the time. We have a large playspace with an indoor climber, swing and ride on toys and they play amazingly well with no arguing in this space now that it is toy free. It is an awful misconception that children need toys to play. In my experience children needed less toys to play…better! Calling this a “cop out” is terribly short sighted and missing the point entirely. If you don’t mind having your house strewn with toys that is fine but they are not necessary. My children play for hours and hours at our local playground. With a stick. And each other. I certainly don’t think they are deprived. They once had every toy imaginable and less stuff has created calmer, happier and more peaceful children who have contentment. Toys R Us doesn’t sell that.

  21. Anonymous on 10/15/2013 at 7:38 PM

    Than You!!!!!

  22. Anonymous on 10/15/2013 at 8:59 PM

    Love this! You mention that they haven’t asked for any of the toys back. I’m just curious…how would you have handled it if they did ask for something specific? I’m looking to pack everything up, so I’m interested to hear others’ opinions on how to deal with them asking to have things back.

    • Rachel on 10/15/2013 at 9:22 PM

      They have asked, since I posted this.I made the mistake once of having them with me and they saw a bunch of stuff, but I told them we were just getting out the one item. But now if they ask, I will just go get it myself, so they aren’t tempted to bring everything back upstairs. (They had wanted their play silks.)

    • Anonymous on 10/16/2013 at 1:54 AM

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. Anonymous on 10/16/2013 at 7:07 PM

    I like this idea, and believe that every parent could do their own version of this. For example, with our 2 1/2 year old, we have boxes of toys, but only allow a certain amount of toys played with at a time. No electronics, no remote control anything, and no “noisy” toys. My reason for doing this is so my son learns to appreciate what he has, learns to use his imagination, and doesn’t get spoiled.

  24. T. on 07/30/2014 at 4:13 PM

    Has anyone tried this with an 8 year old or older child? This may work with a younger kid to have all or half of their toys put away, but with an older child like mine, with advanced reasoning as good as an adult, it will make life unbearable. I’m big into minimalism, I like his room tidy, but he doesn’t have my tidy ethic no matter how hard I try. It’s not part of his brain. The big thing with us is to make sure gifts are low or no-clutter. We’re actually receiving gifts all year long, not just at birthdays and Christmas. THAT’S even MORE difficult! And with a super tiny living room, clutter on the floor makes it crazy and unsafe to get to the door.

    • Rachel on 07/30/2014 at 6:05 PM

      My kids have been used to getting rid of toys their whole lives. By the time they got to older ages (the oldest is 18), they would request I help them clean the room. I wouldn’t actually do the work, I would guide them in doing it themselves, just sit and be the manager, basically. When we started the 2008 in 2008 challenge, they willingly brought toys out to give away. They really do enjoy a clean and clear space. I would just talk to him about it, see what he thinks.

  25. lt on 11/12/2014 at 10:43 AM

    My son is a year and a half and has too many toys. My mil buys him toys every week and expects us to keep them until he his older. My husband is okay with it, but it drives me nuts. She buys stuff he never plays with because it is meant for kids over age 5.

    • Amanda on 03/21/2015 at 12:59 PM

      We’ve always had the problem with the ever gifting family too. I started by just sorting myself as he walked in the door. Getting rid is things in his bag the moment he puts it down. He had forgotten the things were there already. I did this for months and he never noticed. After I had gotten him on board with decluttering I started asking him to review his own gifts. “Do you need this new baseball hat? Will you wear it more often than X? Would some other kid love it more than you?”

  26. Lauri Newell on 11/12/2014 at 1:00 PM

    This is great. We, too, are constantly purging things, but some toys the kids feel emotionally attached to. What do you do about special toys that were gifts from grandparents? I actually read this entire post to my 6 and 4 year olds, and by the time we reached the end, they were excited to do “the experiment”. We have several babies around too, thoughts on baby toys?

  27. Brynn on 03/26/2015 at 12:28 AM

    How do you handle legos? My boys love them. They are essentially content to get rid of everything else, but they don’t just have a few legos. . .we have boxes and boxes and boxes of legos. So even if they just choose the one thing, that’s still a ton. Any tips on helping them get it down a bit.

    • Rachel on 03/26/2015 at 1:10 PM

      We rotate them. We have legos and duplos and have them up in the closet, where the kids can’t reach. If we had more lego sets, I would probably just rotate the sets. Ours are all mixed together- but could you do several different boxes and just have one down at a time? We rotate about once a month. I also have them lay out one of their blankets and play on there, then when we are cleaning up for the day, we just scoop it up and use the blanket to pour the legos back into the box.

      • Brynn on 03/28/2015 at 1:22 AM

        Very helpful! I discussed this idea with my boys and they are on board. 🙂

        • Rachel on 03/28/2015 at 11:35 AM

          Very cool!

  28. Cassandra on 05/07/2015 at 12:25 PM

    So it has been over a year, did you get rid of all the boxed toys? What kinds of things do your kids do on the days they are stuck indoors? Most of my preschooler’s toys are in our living room, which I easily keep tidy. However, we don’t spend much time upstairs (where the bedrooms are), so the toys in her bedroom can get out of control. Each day, her bedroom moves up higher on my “to declutter” list. This article gives me the encouragement to get her on board with boxing up some of the toys and seeing how she does without them.

    • Rachel on 05/07/2015 at 6:33 PM

      The box is still in the garage. With having an extremely good memory, I don’t want to get rid of my daughter’s things until she makes that decision. But it’s been way too long, so we’ll do that when we reorganize the garage for summer, which is coming up. 🙂 So, they are still doing great with minimal toys and haven’t missed anything! They have aquired more on birthdays, etc. but are much more willing to let things go, so the one in, one out rule is working well.

  29. Sherry on 05/08/2015 at 4:25 PM

    About twice a year we clear the children’s rooms (3 boys in one room, 1 girl in another). I figured that the boys play only with certain things. Pokémon, Lego, Bakugan, a few dress-ups and their Wii. So we are slowly getting rid of the rest. They throw away or give away their own things if needed. I try not to throw it out for them which is hard for me to do sometimes. I go through my little girls things without her, because she won’t throw anything away at all. Most of the time I box it up and see if she misses it; most of the time she doesn’t.

  30. Abigail on 07/22/2015 at 12:20 AM

    Yesssss! I did this a about 6 months ago, they completely forgot about all those toys. We have so much less to clean && they are spending every hour using their imaginations. They play with scarves & they become anything. Hide in the closets- pretending they’re in a car or a house. I love the way my kids play now! So much less fighting over whose cheap toy is whose! Now they just play!! 🙂

    • Rachel on 07/22/2015 at 11:55 AM

      That’s so great Abigail!

  31. Celeste on 09/22/2015 at 8:41 PM

    I need to do this!! 😀

  32. Sarah @ Sarah on Purpose on 10/17/2015 at 9:19 PM

    You picked fantastic open ended toys to keep… We have very few toys compared to other people… but I think I just might take it down a notch or two. Especially with Christmas just around the corner. Off to read your post about getting family on board now!

  33. Rachel on 03/08/2016 at 11:16 PM

    I do toy rotation. Made it simple, so I’d actually do it, and it seems to work. Love the minimalist style, but I also love seeing my kids squeal with delight when they receive a new toy. I love buying them too. Cool stuff out there. I am all about getting out but we live in Buffalo. Winter is looooooong.

  34. Rachelle on 07/12/2016 at 8:39 PM

    I did this a few weeks ago (I probably got ride of 70 percent of the toys). It has been AMAZING! They are playing better with what they have and they love how easy it is to clean up. It’s only been a few weeks but so far they have no asked for anything.

  35. Maria on 11/29/2016 at 2:43 AM

    i love the idea, it’s great

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