Clearing out 101: When kids declutter

We are all in the same boat. Our children have too many toys, too many clothes, too many books, too many everything!
My brother moved out of our house as soon as he got married. The girls were so excited for him to leave! They were taking over his room. Each would have her own bed, a small table with small benches to play on, and two closets all their own.
Before having them move into their new room, we all agreed that their clothes should fit one closet, and the other closet for toys.
I taught them rules about discarding clothing. Whenever my aunts from the United States come home, they bring loads of new clothes for the girls, so it’s not as if they will run out. But regardless of how many new clothes they get, they still have to fit everything into one closet.
The girls began paring down their plastic dresser and closetful of dresses. One top drawer for underwear, the other side for socks. One drawer for Achi’s tops, another for Shobe’s tops, and the bottom drawer for both of their bottoms (mostly leggings), so they’re not very bulky. Dresses had to fit half the closet, as the other half would contain the plastic dresser. When removing clothing, they went through these decisions:
1. Does it still fit? If something doesn’t fit Achi, and Shobe doesn’t want it, it goes to the “discard” pile. If it doesn’t fit Shobe, discard.
2. Do I wear this often? If they wear it a lot, it’s a keep! If they haven’t worn it for a while, discard.
From the discard pile, we further divided them into different recipients. Light dresses were given to children at their Sunday school.
A few skirts went to Shobe’s friend L, who is 6 years old. L’s mom texted me: “Nahulog eyeballs ni L nung nakita ang mga palda (Her eyeballs popped out when she saw the skirts)!”
Shobe gave her a bright pink with black lace Monster High skirt, a glittery skirt made out of bright purple sequins, and a denim skirt with a border of flowers. Shobe was ecstatic upon hearing how well her friend received the skirts, she wanted to find more clothes to give (but there weren’t any extras left. Until next time then.)
Random shirts, pants, shorts went to the donation pile for Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran. Party dresses from the aunties went into the For Sale box. I sold them online for a small sum, and the money went into the girls’ toy and book budget. More than any other reason, this was the biggest push for the girls to dispose of clothes.
It took us a total of two hours to sort through all their clothing and place them back into drawers and the closet. Their school uniforms and pambahay went into drawers under their beds. The other bed drawer is for personal toys.
We also went through our books. I had to be strict with myself and dispose (aka sell online) of books I had not read for years. It is no longer viable for us to keep books for sentiment’s sake. Achi is starting to build up her own collection of books, so I need to make space for her.
Achi has read some of the old books I had collected in the last 30 years. There are classics that I will never let go of and I even buy new editions when the older ones fall apart. Some books though, I had only bought over the years in the hopes that my children would read them.
I sold books that Achi has read and did not want to keep, like five titles of the Thea Stilton series, Judy Moody series and Magic Treehouse series. This makes room for her new collection of Horribles – Horrible Science, Horrible Histories, Horrible Geography. (Check out, Series of Unfortunate Events, The Secret Series.
We also all agreed to sell or give away all pre-school level books. Shobe is now reading The Little Prince and will never return to those board books. Never mind that these board books were quite expensive to begin with, like Eric Carle and Dr Seuss. We really needed to make room.
The next thing we tackled was their toy closet and supplies drawers. We found unopened and unused supplies like pencils, pens, small notebooks, sticky notes, bracelets, magnets, coin purses, and even bottles of lotion and cologne! I included these small items for the Moon Festival dice game for Kaisa staff. Way to go! These small items made our xiucai (秀才) stash quite varied when we played.
I collected an assortment of small boxes, mooncake tins from friends, Skyflakes and Sunflower biscuit tubs. All toys were sorted into keep and dispose piles. Everything they wanted to keep were boxed up and labeled. All labels are clearly seen from the outside.
Everything they have not played with for a while went into a donate pile. The only toys we could sell online were stuffed toys, but there aren’t many takers. I have a feeling, mothers everywhere are trying to keep things minimal for their children as well. We have a giant teddy bear and a giant tiger who have nowhere to go.
Totally broken plastic toys all go in a recycle pile to be collected by Tzu Chi volunteers who roam our neighborhood.
Other intact toys are gathered to make a new “toy pack” e.g. small animal toys in one small bag, or three robots in a pack, or assorted doctor paraphernalia from different toy sets into a doctor pack. These toy packs are given to Teacher Baldwin Kho’s Christmas Traditions, where close to 400 children from Tondo are given a grand Christmas party at the San Agustin Church grounds.
I help Baldwin collect toys year-round so that we could give Christmas gifts to these children. When we sort donated toys at Kaisa, we use small donated bags as the “pack” container instead of plastic bags. The children not only get toys, they get a small bag or lunch box as well.
I also make it a point to have the girls go to Baldwin’s Christmas Traditions so they can see first hand that their toys go to children who may not have access to toys.
Decluttering the girls’ stuff was therapeutic for them. When we were done, Shobe said, “Achi, we can go inside the closet and play there!”
Next step: get Ahma to follow these rules.