Books and Toys: Is it Time to Downsize?

The following post is by editor Kara Fleck.

It is time to downsize at our house, I can feel it.  Our play areas are starting to feel a little chaotic and lately a few Spring-like sunny days revealed a layer of dust on some once beloved items.  I know I need to reevaluate what we own and the kids and I need to make some decisions. 

I try to follow the “one in, one out” rule, but that didn’t happen during this most recent round of birthdays and holidays.   We have accumulated too many things and it is affecting our living space and the quality of the children’s play.

Are you also feeling overwhelmed by the books and toys your children have? Are they having a hard time keeping things picked up?

When this happens at my house, despite our toy and book rotating, I know that it might be time to downsize.  Luckily, my friend Tsh of Simple Mom is coming to my rescue with her annual Project Simplify. My house, especially the children’s spaces, can’t wait to begin!

If you’re a regular reader of Simple Kids or Rockin’ Granola then you know that I readily confess that I don’t “do it all.”  One of the things I’m able to coast a little bit on is the deep cleaning.  I get by with basic every day chores that the kids and I do (toilets, beds, floors, and kitchen surface cleaning) and a twice a year intense deep attic to garage cleaning.   Only last fall with a new baby, that autumn deep clean didn’t happen.

We’re overdue for some clutter control.

Perhaps some of you are finding yourself in the same situation? 

Is it Time to Downsize?

First, ask yourself a few questions about the items:

  • Are items currently being played with? Talk to your kids: are they playing with these toys?  Do they still want them/love them?  Have any books or toys been outgrown?  Can things be passed down to the next child or donated?  Are there broken or missing pieces that make them unusable?  Things that need thrown away or repaired?
  • Is the way these items are currently stored/displayed in our home visually appealing? Observe your child in these spaces, both during play and when it is time to pick up.   Can the child put things away on their own? Is it easy to get things out to play with or read? Is this a peaceful space?  Or is it a chaotic and cluttered space?  This impacts a child’s play environment.
  • Would less be more? If so, downsize.

Do We Need to Reevaluate the Space?

There are some areas of our home, specifically the book and toy storage, where I think we need to take another look at the space.  I’m not sure we’re using our home and our storage in the most efficient or practical way.  There are books overflowing their shelves and we have baskets and lids that won’t shut on bins and toy boxes.

When it comes to the methods of storage and the space you have, ask yourself:

  • Is there adequate storage space for the items? Do you need a larger bookshelf? Toy box?
  • Is there a better way to store or display the toys, books, art supplies or collection? Are you making the best use of your space?  Do your containers make sense for the objects they are holding?
  • Do those items deserve the investment of time and space for bigger storage? Do they enrich your child’s play and your family environment? Are they worth making room for?

If you come to the conclusion that your child is ready for a larger bookshelf or her collections needs a bigger storage space, and it is worth the investment of money and space to you, then you can make some adjustments with how you are using the space and bring in some other storage options.

However, if it isn’t worth it to you to get a larger storage system, then perhaps it is time to downsize to a more manageable amount.

I think at our house we need to do a little of both.

If items are just gathering dust and taking up space, I know it is time to let them go to make room for the supplies we truly use and love.

Is it time to downsize the books and toys at your house? I’m going to roll up my sleeves and do some downsizing and deep cleaning in the kids’ spaces.  Yes, even with “before” and “after” photos.  Will you be doing any Spring cleaning? Will you involve your kids?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. I was just asking that same question today. Despite our efforts to slim down before the holidays, things have creeped back in. Addison is horrible about bringing up things from downstairs and gets VERY attached to keeping that item up here. I can’t wait for our garage sale so I can officially get it out of the house.

    I limit each of the kids to 1 Ikea shelf. If it doesn’t fit, it must go. The problem is that as they get older their toys get bigger. Doll beds and nerf blasters take up a lot of space. Need to think long and hard about a good solution. Can’t wait to see the comments.

    • Yes, we have the issue of changing shapes and sizes here, too. And Max and Jillian each got lego sets for Christmas and are wanting to build things and them keep them out on display. I want to encourage that, but not at the loss of my coffee table 😉

      I have a feeling I’ll be cruising Pinterest for some organizing and storage inspiration!
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Books and Toys: Is it Time to Downsize?

  2. This past weekend my husband and I went through all the toys. We got rid of everything that was broken/had missing pieces, and then chose a few less loved things to donate. My kids are 3 1/2 and 18 months, so aren’t entirely attached to a lot of their toys.

    We have a rule in our house to only allow what fits in the toy box to stay in the house, so if it is overflowing, we have to give some stuff away. We spend most of our time downstairs, and having the toy box downstairs was not working. All the toys would be out of the box 10 minutes after breakfast, and then the kids would typically just play in the toy box instead of with the toys. We moved the toy box upstairs into their bedroom (which they don’t even use), and have a small basket downstairs with a few toys and their wooden play kitchen.

    They have been much better behaved, and seem to be enjoying the toys more when there is a lot less to choose from. As far as books go…we have so many books…and I can’t seem to part with any of them. Most are from my childhood, which were passed onto me from my mom who had kept them from her childhood. Add homeschooling books on top of that…and library books…oh my!
    Heather´s latest post: honey balsamic glazed carrots and parsnips

    • Good for you! I agree, it seems like it changes the play when the area is calmer and filled with less visual chaos.

      Books are my weakness, too and we don’t get rid of many. However, I seem to have the problem of multiples in our house. A side effect of my yard sale and thrift store addiction couple with my poor memory 😉 How many times have I bought the same books? I also have some homeschool books I know I can weed out because we just aren’t using them. Perhaps someone else will?

      And I know we need better book storage and more bookshelves. I’ve got my eye on a front facing bookshelf for our loft/playroom. Perhaps this will be the excuse I need to finally make that purchase and display our books in a more kid-appealing way?

      Hooray for cleaner kids’ spaces! 🙂
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Books and Toys: Is it Time to Downsize?

  3. we recently moved so we just purged a lot of toys which felt so good! my son recently starting pulling toys for “babies” so i think he also likes to downsize! right now i’m trying really hard to follow the one in one out rule so we stay contained and not fall into our toy ghetto trap!

  4. I’ve been doing this gradually for over a year now, and we still need to do more. I say this all the time, but every single time we get rid of a bunch of toys, my kids’ play becomes more imaginative and nuanced, and they are much more deeply engaged. So I’m with you! I’m really ready (at least in my mind…) to get ready for spring cleaning.
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  5. I think this is a never ending process that we all have to go through. It’s a constant job just going through the toys, clothes, books, school papers and deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to pass on to cousin’s, and what to pitch. I find that my kids typically navigate to the same toys and books in our house, which would be their “favorites”. So why are we just, essentially, storing all of these other ones?!?! I think it’s a great idea to pass on some of these unused toys just taking up space in their bedrooms. It will give the boys more room to play and it’s nice knowing the other stuff will be getting used by another child, instead of just taking up space. And, yes, the kids will be involved. I think it is important to include them in this process for multiple reasons. We are ready!!

  6. Just from reading your title, I said, umm… yes!! This is on my list of things to do for sure. I really think if each child had their favorite 3-5 toys we would be fine! We’ll see if I can get close to that – I’m not now.

    Yes, I’m ramping up to lots of much needed spring cleaning here. Thanks for the tips and I look forward to seeing what you do!
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  7. I will be joining in and am looking forward to it. My two youngest children (6 and 12) will be involved and our project will involve some bribery. I’ve told my youngest that she can get a new set of audio CD’s (Adventures in Odyssey) if she particpates with a good attitude. Change is very difficult for her.
    Kika@embracingimperfection´s latest post: Refined & Refreshed

  8. Would love to hear your advice on getting the kids involved, especially when one of them is a packrat (by that, I mean she saves trash, like yogurt lids and labels and such).

    I’m afraid that I am a minimalist daughter to a packrat mother, and my overenthusasim for simplicity has caused my daughter to be the opposite of a minimalist- or maybe that’s just how she is. Either way, I’m afraid she would never agree to get rid of ANYTHING. But I think involving her would help us both feel better about the process in the long run.

  9. We don’t buy my two-year-old a ton of toys, so we won’t be downsizing his stuff any time soon. I’m amazed that stuff we bought him when he was a few months old are still being played with! We’ve given a few toys away as hand me downs but other than that, he still has his toys. He doesn’t have a ton so I think that’s okay!
    Sleeping Mama´s latest post: Honoring the impulse: saying yes before no

  10. I loved project simplify last year and looking forward to it again next month. I recently saw toy storage using tin paint buckets with chalkboard labels. That is on my wish list for reworking our toy storage area.
    Emily @ Random Recycling´s latest post: Baked Pumpkin Risotto plus a Giveaway!

  11. Books are a challenge for me. When I read Simplicity Parenting, I was shocked when he suggested baring down the bookshelves, but to be honest, I’m *always* picking them up and trying to organize them. I think a decluttering of the bookshelf might be in order around here!
    Nicole {Simple Organic}´s latest post: From Pinterest to Real Life: February 2012

  12. I struggle with books. We have too many, and some don’t get looked at much…but my 3.5 yo isn’t reading yet, and I’m told that the very simple, one word to a page books are useful for early readers. Also small boy has an excellent memory: he might not have looked at an old favorite for months, then suddenly it’s the only bedtime book that will do! Any suggestions for how to figure this one out?

    I know I can always buy more later, or there’s the library, or his interests will likely change…which mostly answers my own question, but I’d still like to hear how other people approach this.
    FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist´s latest post: less is more. sometimes.


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