How to purge, donate and recycle with kids

It happens every year in early January. We look around the playroom, the living room, and the kids’ bedrooms and find that we just have too much stuff! 

Between December birthdays and Santa’s generosity, our home is full of too many toys, books, clothes and lots of other stuff.

There are many philosophies on the best approach to rid your home of all this stuff.  Some suggest having each child select which toys she/he will get rid of and others recommend working with your child to help make choices that, for some children, can be very overwhelming.

One friend takes a completely different approach and picks the total control option. Each year in late December, he heads to the basement with black garbage bags. Within one to two hours these bags are full and are at the curb. Though I’d rather see the items recycled, I’m always inspired by his quick work and the way his children never seem to really miss the items he selected.

My approach is a combination of the three options. Since I don’t want my kids to end up featured on A&E’s Horders one day, I want them to make the tough choices to remove toys, clothing and books which are no longer appealing to them. I also want them to recognize the value of those items that no longer appeal to them.

And so, each January we sit together and each of them must select five items from each category to “let go”. (That’s my nice way of describing the purge process)

As with most other acts, each child handles this process differently. My daughter’s session always involves tears and some effort to memorialize the sweater, book or Easy-Bake oven that she hasn’t touched for months. My son quickly makes his choices, fills his bags and runs out to finish his game of catch outside.  The preschooler and toddlers don’t quite recognize the finality of the act but still must make selections.

Regardless, I push them to give away something they really love. I want them to not see this as just a clean-out but an opportunity to share with another child an item that has brought them joy. Depending on how well our collection goes, I also sneak in the playroom after bedtime to fill up those bags a bit more!  I’m careful to never pick a favorite toy but definitely leverage the total control approach to rid the home of those I never really like anyway.

Unless the items are in very bad condition, we always donate the items we have ‘removed’. We want the kids to realize that they can pass on the joy to another child simply by giving a gently used toy or book.  We carefully add the items to our donation boxes and always label them so we are reminded that we have given away items that mean something to us. The kids accompany us on our donations delivery.

If you’re looking for some area charities that accept children’s items, here are three suggestions. Please suggest others if you have them!

Clothing: Society of St. Vincent de Paul: Call 215-288-8160 for a pick up or drop off at Immaculate Conception Parish’s donation bins on Mt. Airy Avenue in Mt. Airy.
Clothing/Toys/Books: Salvation Army: 6730 Ridge Avenue in Roxborough, 215-483-3340 accepts children’s clothing, books & toys at their thrift store.
Books: Branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia collect books in good condition.

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