Decluttering expert reveals the best tips for saving space when you're a parent

By Richard Jenkins
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 9:42 am
Updated Thursday, 30th December 2021, 8:31 am

A decluttering expert has revealed the best space saving tips for parents, including getting rid of toys one at a time, involving kids in the process of donating – and a tidy up before bedtime.

Kate Ibbotson has created a post-Christmas guide on how to get children to look after existing toys, as well as recycle old favourites.

The tips have been created to help parents declutter bedrooms, make space for this year’s toy haul and move on old toys sustainably – without tantrums.

She says parents should try to keep an arsenal containing tape for broken boxes, paper bags for cards and other little toys, elastic bands and a ‘spare parts’ box.

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    But her top piece of advice is to make sure toys live on through recycling or donations, rather than being thrown in the bin when children grow out of them.

    Kate’s tips come after toy company Mattel, makers of Barbie and others, commissioned research of 2,000 parents with children aged three and over, which revealed kids will get an average of 10 new toys this Christmas.

    But 57 per cent of mums and dads worry about what will happen to their old toys after the big day.

    Recycling old toys

    The survey also found six in 10 wish they knew of more ways to recycle their kids’ toys, and three quarters will be going on a decluttering spree this festive season.

    While a third claim it is difficult to know how to dispose of toys sustainably.

    But Ibbotson believes involving kids in the donation and recycling process helps them to develop a greater sense of empathy.

    She said: “It’s never too early to start getting kids used to the idea of passing toys on.

    “Kids actually like growing out of toys because it makes them feel more mature, especially if you talk about things like passing on toys to children who are in need.

    These tips follow the launch of Mattel Playback earlier this year, a toy takeback programme that recovers and reuses materials from old Mattel toys that are at the end of their life.

    Ibbotson added: “I have found encouraging children to be passionate about donating and recycling their toys can help develop important values like a sense of social responsibility.

    “And sharing the determination that nothing should go into landfill if it can be avoided is key to this.”

    Clearing out bedrooms twice a year

    The research found most parents will try and get children to have a big sort-out of their bedrooms twice a year.

    Although more than one in 10 will do it less often – as four in 10 claim it’s difficult to find the time to dedicate to the task.

    But this is one of the key reasons parents find it so difficult, according to Ibbotson, who advocates a ‘little and often’ approach.

    She said: “If you declutter every few weeks, it’s not such a big task – but only doing it once a year kind of makes it into something you don’t want to do.

    “A regular turnover can help get rid of the clutter, and the child will feel like things are constantly being refreshed.

    “It’s not all about new things being added, it’s about old toys that are being put in their eyeline – and replacing the one bit of a toy to make them fresh and make sure it’s all up together."

    Currently, one in five parents recycle the toys their children have outgrown, according to the data gathered through OnePoll.com.

    While almost three quarters are concerned many toys that could have been recycled have not.

    Pamela Gill-Alabaster, global head of sustainability, at Mattel added: “We are committed to managing the environmental impact of our products.

    “The Mattel PlayBack program helps parents and caregivers ensure that materials stay in play, and out of landfills, with the aim to repurpose these materials as recycled content in new products.

    “It is one important step we’re taking to address the growing global waste challenge.”

    Mattel PlayBack either downcycles materials or converts them from waste to energy. Presently, the programme will accept Barbie, Matchbox and MEGA toys for recycling with other brands to be added in the future.

    Kate Ibbotson's 10 tips to help declutter this Christmas

    1.       Make space for the toys that come in – encourage children to donate toys which they don’t use or have outgrown.

    2.       To avoid getting overwhelmed, declutter in small bite size chunks, i.e. one drawer or shelf at a time, and by category is ideal.

    3.       Be prepared with donation bags, tape for broken boxes, paper bags for cards and other little toys, elastic bands and bin bags for anything which can’t be re-used or recycled.

    4.       Keep a box to hand for random pieces which you find which belong to a game or toy you can’t locate right away.

    5.       Involve your children in the process of donating to charity or recycling. By passing some of their toys on, you will empower them, make them feel good about themselves and send an important message. It is well documented that doing things for others makes us happier in the long term and it’s never too late to start.

    6.       Companies like Mattel are offering parent solutions to live more sustainably. Consumers can visit Mattel.com/PlayBack, print a free shipping label, and pack and mail their outgrown Barbie, Matchbox and MEGA toys back to Mattel to be responsibly processed and recycled.

    7.       If you’re unsure on a particular toy keep it to one side and ask them – this also builds trust. Don’t throw away a beloved possession or clear their bedroom without their permission as this can could even contribute to hoarding tendencies in later life.

    8.       If you feel overwhelmed it’s likely your child does too.  Many children have too many toys and only play with a small percentage of them.  Once toys are visible and accessible, structured and enjoyable play is far more likely.

    9.       Ideally toys should be stored in categories, for example; arts and crafts, painting, dolls, building blocks, board games, train sets, cuddly toys.

    10.   Encourage regular declutters and limit what comes in so it’s not overwhelming. It’s about quality over quantity. Create daily habits such as tidy up time before a bath. If it’s done daily, it’s not a big task.