I Throw Away My Kids’ Toys | Clutter | Kids and Toys

While My Kids Sleep : I Throw away Their Toys!

A mother confesses her guilty pleasure.

by Sierra Black

March 18, 2010

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When I was growing up, my mother’s end-of-her-rope tactic when my sister and I refused to clean our room was, “I’m going to throw all your toys away!” Sometimes she got out a giant black trash bag and chased us around the room with it. She grew seven feet tall when she did that, and sparks shot from her eyes.

Which is to say, she shook a trash bag in the general direction of our mountain of toys as she sat down to patiently help us clean up – again.

I am not my mother. I never threaten to throw my children’s toys away, but sometimes, when the kids are sleeping at night, I really do throw their toys away. Right in a big black trash bag.

I should feel guilty about this, but I don’t. I secretly enjoy it. I find it soothing to put a fistful of puzzle pieces in the garbage and know that I’ll never again look for the missing one.

It’s liberating to throw a toy in the trash. Poof! I am no longer responsible for that object. I won’t spend another second of my life stooping to pick it up. I never again have to play referee over who plays with it. I don’t have to wait for a Freecycler to take it or have it sit in a donation box on my bedroom floor for six months until I get it together to drive to Goodwill. It’s just gone, and I’m free of it.

I look for excuses to throw toys out. This train track has a jagged edge. Toss it! The box of beads spilled? Well, picking them out of the dust bunnies is just too much work. Bye-bye, beads! This Bob the Builder storybook was peed on. Can we trash this? Yes, we can!

Mostly, I keep my toy-trashing to small stuff: art supplies I could salvage but don’t want to, broken dolls, puzzles with missing pieces, books with torn pages. Sometimes, I indulge myself in getting rid of stuff that just really annoy me. Every Christmas, I commit quiet genocide on the battery-operated gizmos from grandparents and all the excess sweets.

My worst sin: when I throw away things, I tell the girls I’m putting them in a “special place” to “fix” later, like all those Polly Pocket Princess dolls whose heads have snapped off and won’t go back on for love, money or superglue.

Mercifully, I’ve never been busted. My kids are young, and their passions are fleeting. They rarely ask after a toy I’ve thrown out. On the rare occasion that they do bring it up, it’s usually weeks after the fact, and there’s no emotional weight behind the inquiry. I tell them the toy “went away,” or sometimes very candidly that I threw it out, and they quickly move on to other distractions. My guess is that as they get older, this will work less well. My prayer is that their playthings will come with fewer little pieces that get strewn around the house.

Another good reason not to feel guilty: my kids just have too many things. Some of it has to go.

Between the carefully preserved treasures of childhoods past and the Christmas loot of childhoods present, we have a lot of toys. We have three dollhouses, two large sets of Tinkertoys and a 32-gallon bucket full of stuffed animals. The wooden trains in this house could probably take you to Grand Central Station if you laid out all the track.

I know how I’m supposed to deal with this. Good Mothers pack the toys up in little storage bins with labels and carefully rotate them so that only a few are out at a time. That way the kids always have something novel to play with, and Mom never has an uncontrollable mess on her hands.

Let’s just say I am not a “neatly labeled storage bin” kind of person.

Apparently, the right way to go about the process is to explain to your children why their toys need to be trashed. Jen Hunter, who runs Boston-based Find Your Floor, cautions against throwing children’s things away in secret. She says it can make kids insecure and lead to hoarding behaviors in later life. Instead, you should sit down with your child and tell them why it’s time to let go of some things. Getting you child engaged in the process of thinning out toy clutter will not only give you a happier kid, it’ll help them learn the skills to be a clutter-free adult.

She also points out that we can’t always tell what our kids are attached to. As parents, we may be tempted to weed out the trashiest items in the toy chest and keep the pretty stuff, but remember the Velveteen Rabbit? That filthy toy with a missing a limb that got that way because your kid played with it. There are some kids that Hunter calls “jr. hoarders” who are irrationally attached to toys they don’t even play with. But a toy might still be dear to them, even though it’s broken or covered with dog drool.

So, yes, I get it that sneaking toys into the trash while the kids sleep is bad. But I just can’t give up the feeling of freedom I get when I toss a toy that I’ve tripped over one too many times.

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This article was written by Sierra Black for Babble.com, the magazine and community for a new generation of parents.

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