Too many toys?

Prevent the post-holiday toy tsunami with tips on sorting all that stuff.

By Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.

The toys are all open, the decorations are put away (maybe?), there's a new year on the calendar, and the kids are back in school and activities.

For hours on Christmas morning, or on the gift-giving holiday of your choice, the kids happily played with their new toys. The next day is like the parenting version of a hangover. You (or maybe well-meaning relatives) over-indulged, there's a mess all over the place, and you woke up next to something you can barely identify.

Whether you find yourself with a "too much stuff" problem or toys that don't fit your value system, there are ways to tame the post-holiday toy avalanche.

  1. Be an equal-opportunity toy sorter: When evaluating whether to keep your children's toys or find them a better home (i.e., not yours), don't forget to look at the pre-holiday toys, too. Some parents are organized enough to do this before Christmas. If you haven't already, make sure to include the older toys with the gifted toys when turning a critical eye towards the clutter.
  2. Sort the toys into piles: I use Keep, Store, Donate/Sell, and trash. Toys that my children use all the time are returned to easy-to-reach bins and shelves so they can play with them. Toys my kids aren't ready for yet (or that may be good for the expected baby) are put in a bin for rotating or one for storage. Any toys that are in good condition but do not fit our lives, I put in the donate/ sell pile. The last pile, trash, I try to keep small. The reality, though, is that many toys today are inexpensive things that are not designed to last. I try to fix what I can but some things just need to go.
  3. Rotate toys: Take some of the toys you have decided to keep and put them in a storage bin. Every two weeks or every month, rotate the toys. It will feel like Christmas all over again!
  4. Turn toys into cash or trade for more toys: We sell some of our higher-value items on but find that most of our items are too inexpensive to be worth the effort. Those items can be put together into lots "Baby Toys," "Toddler Toys," etc. and sold on a local service like Craig's List to avoid shipping costs. Local consignment stores will also sometimes pay money for toys in good condition. That money can be put toward toys that better fit your values or towards experiences the children will treasure.
  5. Keep the spirit of giving alive: Many agencies require donated toys to be "new in-box."  However, you may find a local preschool or Head Start, doctor's office or clinic (not hospital—many pediatric hospitals require toys to be new and unopened), or homeless or domestic violence shelter, that may be happy to accept opened, gently used toys for their play rooms and waiting rooms.
  6. Re-gift: Sometimes my children receive a double of a gift. We keep these in a big bin for when Mommy forgets we have a birthday coming up.
  7. Give things away: If you feel squeamish about offering hand-me-down toys to your playgroup or child's classmates, just remind everyone how eco-friendly they are being. And if all else fails...there's always someone willing to come get perfectly good toys if you post them on Freecycle!