The trouble with (tossing) toys

There’s nothing like Fall Clean-Up Week (a.k.a. Old Furniture as Curb Decor Week) to get you motivated to get rid of clutter. Fall and spring give most of us that natural urge to freshen and pare down for the upcoming season. And — don’t tell your kids, of course — this also means … *whispers* … toys.

I started a Toys-They-Never-Play-With pile a couple of weeks ago on the landing of our basement stairs. It included a doctor kit, a toolbox and a bowling set — none of which had seen any action in a long time.

But, silly me, I’d forgotten the magical rejuvenation process that happens to a toy when it’s facing expulsion. It suddenly becomes the most wonderful toy in the entire room! Why, any parent who thought they could get rid of such a toy is surely a monster with no heart!

For the past few weeks, I’ve picked up the pieces of that darn doctor kit over and over and hid it back in the pile. I’ve hunted down those annoying plastic tools and replaced them in the box. I’ve rounded up the bowling pins that keep getting scattered around the basement. You see, the toys seem fun for a second — “Mom, you CAN’T get rid of this! I love it!” — but they’re quickly forgotten about. Again.

(I was planning on selling the toys for a few bucks on the local Facebook buy/sell group, but at this point I’m so disgusted with the sight of them that I think they’ll be donated instead.)

Several of my friends are going through the same thing right now with their own kids. They’re overwhelmed by toys and books and puzzles and board games, but their kids swear each and every item is vitally important to their having a happy childhood.

The wisest course of action is to purge in secret, of course. I have done this, when I can be bothered to find a black garbage bag to hide the evidence. Two bags, actually — one for broken Happy Meal toys that are plain garbage, and one for items you just need to hide from sight until you can liberate them from the house.

The trouble with The Secret Purge is that you may stumble into disruptive feelings that make you abandon the whole project …

  • Toys from babyhood: “Awwwww! They loved this weird light-up thingy!” 
  • Toys that will stand the test of time: “These wooden puzzles will still be great when they have kids someday.” 
  • Toys they received as a gift: What if the person who gave them the toy sees you selling it for $5 on the Facebook buy/sell group?! Awkward. 
  • Toys that someone paid a lot of money for: Especially if you are that person. 
  • Toys that might be worth money someday, like Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids once were: Although somehow I doubt the cheaply-made toys of today are ever going to be worth anything. 
  • Toys I want them to play with: See above, RE: expensive Calico Critters 
  • Toys that are wrecked/broken but keepsake-worthy because you can’t possibly throw them out: Every single doll in this house. 
  • Toys we should keep in case a baby visits: “We need to have SOME baby toys!” 
  • Toys that are utter crap but will be missed if you toss them: I’m looking at you, stuffed animals.

If I’m feeling even slightly emotional, I don’t like purging any of the above without the kids around. I start thinking of The Velveteen Rabbit and how shabby toys become “real” because they’re so loved.

What if I’m daring to throw out a stuffed animal that one of my kids is really attached to … even though I never see them play with it or even look at it? What if the beat-up dinky car with missing doors is actually really meaningful to one of them and I just don’t know it?

I still have my Barbies from when I was a kid and they are VERY special to me, so maybe I’m overly sensitive about this. If, for some reason, my mom had dared to donate my Totally Hair Ken, I guarantee I would have bought numerous replacements on eBay trying to find one that felt like he could have been my Ken.

So the doctor kit, the toolbox and the bowling set are staying — for now, at least.

Maybe by the time Spring Clean-Up Week rolls around, I’ll have more nerve.

So what do you think?

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