To keep or not to keep: A guide to de-cluttering after the holidays

To keep or not to keep: A guide to de-cluttering after the holidays

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SALT LAKE CITY — With Christmas in the rear-view mirror, and the kids heading back to school, I am now faced with the daunting task of finding a place for all the new toys and gadgets.

Sure, I could go buy yet another crate or basket to make a home for these new arrivals; but do I add on to my house every time I have another child, or when guests come to visit? Of course not. I don't have the means or space to do that.

So, now begins the process of deciphering what to keep and what not to keep. Do we keep the “Fashionista Barbie,” whose hand fell off while trying to fit her into those tight clothes of hers? Is there still life left in the knight hat and shield that is more duct tape than it is plastic? Do I keep replacing the batteries in the Glow Worm, even though most of its “play time” stems from other toys being piled on top of it, consequently pressing its button? Do we really need so many Matchbox cars?

I feel like Andy's mom in “Toy Story 3” when she is walking around the house with boxes and bags, pressuring Andy and his sister to throw away, donate or keep.

With the premise of this movie in mind, it also brings up this question: What is sentimental? What toys to we keep — forever?

Being the decluttering organizer that I am, I have been through this process more times than I can count. So for you, the reader, I have devised a few tips on how to decide what to keep, or what not to keep:

  1. Involve your kids in the process. As easy and as fast as it would be for me to go in and ransack the place, getting rid of the toys that I think they don't need, it would be counter-productive at best. Kids need to know that there are things that we keep, things we give away, and things we throw away, as well as understand the reasoning behind it. Organizing and decluttering are skills that everyone needs — and the earlier you start, the better.
  2. One crate fits all. By this I mean that you need to have an amount of space allotted for a certain type of toy; and once it goes beyond its capacity, it is time to get rid of things. Don't go buying new “homes” for more toys.
  3. Don't have an “odds and ends” box.When going through things, you will always come across stuff that you don't quite know where it goes, or is missing its match. Why do you hang on to these things? Because you feel bad for them? Because someday you just might find the matching Barbie shoe? Truth be told, Barbies don't need shoes. Every toy needs a home, and it is not in the “odds and ends” box. Take that group of odds and ends, get rid of them and don't turn back. It is oh-so liberating.
  4. If the toy is “on the fence,” wait until next time. If the toy is something your kids can't quite decide whether to keep or give away, and if you have room for it, hold on to it until the next time you go through things. If, by that time, it hasn't been played with, it is time to get rid of it.
  5. Know that there are such things as “forever toys.” Everyone has those toys that, regardless of play time or overall condition, they are going to keep forever — no matter what. For me, it is my “Katie Bear” that my great grandma made for me when I was 3; my husband has a Teddy Bear too (don't tell him I told you). Be sensitive to those items and, if need-be, set aside a special place for them to perhaps prolong their life.

All in all, take this as a time to teach your children the importance of deciphering between things to keep and things not to keep. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can focus on more important things, like laundry.

Speaking of which...

Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. Contact her at, follow her on twitter @arimom5, or check out her blog at

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