I asked my friend Carrie what she does about the first-world problem of too many children’s toys in the house (especially right after Christmas). Her reply was genius and even includes some tips from psychology at the end. This method is economist-approved:
For [older elementary kids], they are really good about going through toys in their room with me. I sell at consignment sales twice a year, so I will pay them a small amount for each toy I take from their room to sell (they do not get money for the family toys in the playroom). I pay them whether or not the toy actually sells. I do not pay them what the full profit would be from each toy, but they get something for their unplayed-with toys. This is very motivating for them and helps them truly evaluate whether they want a toy or not. With [older girl]’s unwanted toys, I might pay her but keep them for [younger girl] if I think that she would enjoy it one day.
[younger girl] has not been old enough for this process yet. With her and when the other two were younger, I mostly take toys and put away if they are not being used. I put those unwanted toys in a box in the basement full of items I want to sell. By not selling them immediately, I can reevaluate if I think they will play with an item again. When I am getting items ready to sell, I let the kids play with the items. We call it “the last hurrah” before the toy leaves our house. They might be interested in the old toy for about 20 minutes and then they are done with it and not as sad to see it go.
I do like to take novelty type toys and put them in deeper storage to bring out on a cold/sick/quarantine/rainy/too hot day. That way it seems new because they haven’t played with it in a while.
The other habit that helps with keeping toy clutter down is to have the children go through their toys before Christmas and birthdays and find 3-5 items they are willing to donate/sell/chunk. This makes space for new toys.
My last piece of advice would be to not let the children touch the toys when you are going through them. You hold up an item and they say whether it goes in the keep or donate pile. There is all sorts of psychology behind the power of touch in ownership. (Think of the apple store and how they let you touch the items). If you touch an item, you have a stronger attachment. Whenever we are purging items, we try not to have the owner of the item touch them (even if that person is me!). The kids, though, do get the last say in whether an item stays or goes. I don’t want my children to become hoarders because I threw away all of their things.
Interesting bit of wisdom about the power of touch…