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Toy Store

November 1, 2011

I couldn’t take it any more. Just couldn’t do it. I was so tired of listening to hour-long tantrums over cleaning their room. Truthfully, it wasn’t all their fault either. They were given more than they could handle. Let me explain. If you’ve got small children, I know you can relate to this one.

The scene is this:

Child plays nicely in room for an hour or two. You get much done around the house before realizing the unusual calm. When you open the door of the child’s room you can not find the child. He is missing. Or is he? Oh, there he is! Burried under a pile stuffed animals located next to the bucket of dumped out Legos by the three board games that have been half-played with. You thank the child for playing nicely by himself to let you get work done and sweetly instruct him to clean his mess so he can come eat lunch.

At that very moment some kind of bug comes out to bite the child which results in an eardrum bursting scream and frantic writhing. This reaction causes the stuffed animals to intermix with the Legos and crush a board game box. (I’ve really got to get an exterminator to kill these awful bugs! Do you have them too?)

It’s an awful scene isn’t in?

I usually manage to hush the child from screaming “but it’s too hard!” over and over again, by telling him I will help. I usually help by just giving an instruction. I pick a category of toy and tell him to clean only that and come tell me when he’s done it. When completed we do a “happy dance” and I give him his next task. This works better than just leaving him in a drowning mess of toys.

Part of the problem is that we live in a small 3 bedroom (actually now it’s 4 bedrooms thanks to my awesome husband finishing the basement) ranch and the only real place to keep the children’s toys is in their rooms. We have more toys than our house can hold. More toys than we need. It’s an embarrassing amount, actually.

For the last two months I’ve been helping the boys clean their stuff. If they want my help. It came with a price, you see…I would cheerfully help clean, but everything that I touched went into a Rubbermaid bin and up into the attic. One time, Monkey came out of his room and told me “will you clean my room? I don’t even want all these toys! It’s just too hard!”

It was that phrase that got my wheels turning.

When your kid tells you he has too many toys, you know its true. It was unfair of me to expect so much from a four-year old boy with little self-control.

I hatched a plan. It took a few weeks of mulling over the details and clearing a spot on the calendar, but finally the day arrived. The day of the great Toy Store.

The Chief took Monkey and Bruiser to the Children’s Museum for the day while I stayed home and…and…it’s just so hard to write….it sounds so mean…I…I…

I took away every single one of my children’s toys. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Ok, no, that’s not true. I left the board games, puzzles, blocks, Legos, and train tracks.

For real I did it.

All their room toys plus the stash from the attic amounted to a truely embarassing amount of stuff.

This is the result of two boys and 4.5 years of toy accumulation. Ugh.

I wasted no time sorting through it all. I grouped like toys together, put missing pieces back, weeded out toys that never got played with, and threw out all those junky “McDonald’s Happy Meal” – type toys.

It took all morning.

After it was all sorted, it got priced.


Mm, mmm. Priced.

My plan was this:

Since each boy had more stuff in his room than he could handle, I would limit the amount of toys they had. Each toy would have a price to it and each boy was given 25 tickets. They would be allowed to choose whichever toys they wanted so long as they had the tickets to purchase it. All the rest of the toys would be put back in bins and sent up to the attic to be swiched out at a later time.

Our Toy Store looked really cute all set up.

I did my best to be fair with the prices. The bulky Little People play sets were 5 tickets each all the way down to little cars which were 2/1 ticket. This way one kid wouldn’t be able to buy all the big toys and still be in the same “too much clutter” problem.

When the kids came home I took them blind-folded to their rooms to show them how neat and clean they were.

“Isn’t it nice to have such a clean room?” I asked.

They agreed. I know they get frustrated with the mess too.

I told them about the Toy Store and they were giddy with excitement.

With tickets in hand, each went to the dining room to see all the toys.

The rule was that they had to purchase one toy at a time and immediately after purchase they had to put it away in their rooms. Away, away. Not thrown on the closet floor away.

It was a giant hit.

Bruiser gravitated toward the vehicles, of course. I’m pretty sure about 20 of his 25 tickets were spent on cars and trucks of sorts.

He enjoyed ripping off each ticket as he counted them out to me.

Monkey did a great job choosing a variety of toys and went over to the “bargain bin” of 2 for 1 ticket cars to make his last purchase.

While shopping, Monkey told me “Mom, this is a really great flea market. I love it!”

After the shopping was done, the boys went off to play with their new stuff never once asking to play with something they didn’t get or whining about wanting more.

I packed up what was left for the attic. I had one bin of baby toys, one bin of toddler toys, three bins of the older boys leftover toys, and one box of toys to sell or donate.

A few hours later Monkey called me into his clean room again and walked me to his closet.

“Look at all the great deals I got today!”

Confirmed. The Toy Store was a hit.

In the four days since we’ve done it, we haven’t had a clean up meltdown or any asking for their other stuff.

The hours of preparation for the Toy Store have been worth the peace in the house already.

Next task? Keep the greed under control come Christmas. I’ve got a plan for that too. =)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2011 4:15 pm

    We do a clean-out every six months or so and donate the stuff we don’t use. It’s amazing how many toys kids can accumulate.

    • November 1, 2011 5:59 pm

      We just had a garage sale this summer too! There will be a regular clean-out on my yearly schedule now. And I thought we were doing ok with not buying them too much….oops. Thanks for reading. =)

  2. Debra Gordon Gibson permalink
    November 18, 2011 4:09 pm

    What’s the latest update on this? I keep thinking about this post and now after a few weeks, wonder how the boys & how mama is handling it all. I’m so close to doing something like this!

    • November 19, 2011 3:25 pm

      98% successful! The messes have been much more tolerable and neither boy has complained about the toys in the attic. The 2% unsuccess is that while most toys are shared there are a few that belonged to each boy. Monkey bought some of bruisers toys and the other way around. None of us can remember whose room they go in now. If we had a playroom where all the toys lived it wouldn’t be a problem, but it has created only a minor problem since they keep the toys in their own closets. I am REALLY quite shocked at how well it has gone. I think we will do a modified version of this again in January after monkey’s birthday and Christmas.

  3. Jessica Franks permalink
    December 6, 2011 10:47 pm

    I love this idea. Thanks Karen. Hope to connect at Christmas!

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