How to Tame the Stuffed Animals Taking Over Your Kid’s Room, According to a Pro Organizer
It started innocently enough, with just a few plush toys artfully dotting my daughter’s bookcase, and one or two cherished lovies tucked into her bed. Now, stuffies have taken over my kid’s once-tidy room. They’re sitting on windowsills, piling out of a toy box, overcrowding her bed, and even peeking out from under it.
While I can’t blame all my life’s problems on the pandemic, the timelines do conveniently sync up. In Toronto, Canada, where I live, lockdown after lockdown didn’t leave much for us to do as a family and so my spouse and I started buying our kid stuffies. “We’re so afraid of our kids being bored, we buy them more things,” says Megan Golightly, professional organizer and founder of Simplified. Guilty as charged. My spouse and I had turned to these plush frenemies to “buy” time to work, make dinner, or have five minutes of peace and quiet.
Now, the lockdowns are over but the detritus of plush toys remains. Determined to reclaim my daughter’s space, I turned to Megan for her best advice. Here’s her advice for what to do with all those stuffies:
1. Take everything out.
“Organizing is easy when you don’t have a ton of stuff,” says Megan. “But you can’t clean and organize until you declutter.” To start, pull out every single plush toy to see what you’re contending with. Place them on an empty table or open floor space to access what to keep, toss or donate.
2. Keep, toss, or donate.
Pro tip: Watch Bluey, season two, episode 38 (“Mr. Monkeyjocks”) to teach your child about getting rid of toys. The Heeler family decides which toys to keep and which to chuck. By the end, my kid was on board with our family’s very own variation of a “chuck out.”
Look around the room and determine what’s clutter. According to Megan, that’s anything that hasn’t earned the right to be there or doesn’t have a permanent home. Ask yourself, “Do I love this? Would I buy this right now? Do we use it?” If not, then it’s time to let it go. “I think it’s a good life lesson for our children to learn the feelings associated with letting go,” says Megan. And, as Bluey’s mom, Chilli, says, “Because when you have everything you want… Nothing feels special anymore.”
Megan also recommends slowly hiding toys away and then donating when your child has outgrown them or hasn’t played with them for a while. As for where to donate plush toys, Megan suggests Give Back Box, in which you fill a box with gently used clothing or household items, select the charity of your choice (or let Give Back Box choose for you), and then ship it away using a downloadable prepaid shipping label.
Now’s the time for the fun part: storing and organizing. After decluttering, you should be left with a modest collection that can fit in a basket or bin and neatly tucked into a corner, on a shelf, or under the bed. Megan suggests using labels on toy bins, which has the added benefit of helping kids with reading.
4. Keep it up.
Be scrupulous when buying and bringing new things into your home. Why do we buy the things we do? “To me, it comes down to fear, guilt and shame,” says Megan. Get in the habit of not buying too much, especially when you’re purchasing out of these unhelpful feelings or thoughts. Change your patterns and teach your kids.
As for presents from loved ones, have a (potentially difficult) conversation about gift-giving. “Be strong and practice [what you’ll say],” says Megan. “Set boundaries so that you can feel the peace you want.” Putting value on experiences, connections, and relationships over stuff is a valuable lesson for our children to learn, and will contribute to overall well-being later on.