I've got two children in a relatively small NYC apartment. Every time we go to visit a favorite aunt and uncle they shower my girls with gifts. It comes from a place of love but I have noticed that they are employing the "more is better" method of gifting: they just load up on as many cheap toys as possible, wrap them all up and give them a huge pile of colorful plastic all at once. The effect is, I admit, wonderful: joy, elation, excitement and my kids of course love these relatives and have come to expect this treatment. The problem is then I have to come home to their tiny room and tell them that I am throwing away all the toys. We try to be environmentally conscious and this really bugs me; but on the other hand, I don't want to ruin the fun or be that kill-joy parent who dictates what gifts need to be purchased. I can't figure out if it's landfill or love. Any advice for how to deal?
My mother tells this story about planning an Easter egg hunt for a four-year-old me: I was so intent on hunting that I never noticed that, every time I found an egg, my dad would take it out of my basket and re-hide it. I searched for an hour and, in the end, only wound up with four eggs! The fun was, of course, the hunt.
I'm pretty sure the same thing is happening with your kids: it's all about the excitement of ripping open the presents, not really keeping the gifts themselves. So by all means, you can clean out the toy stash, but instead of throwing away the extra toys, please give them away or simply drop them off at Goodwill. You won't have to worry about the landfill if they're being reused. And, from what I know about kids, telling them you're "throwing away" their toys is never a good idea. No need to make it into a big, dramatic event. Just weed them out every so often. Or, even better, make it a frequent activity to sort through their room and get organized. Then you can decide together which toys can go to help other children who don't have the advantages that they do. You may be surprised at how compassionate your girls can be.
Also no need to feel shy about talking to your relatives about reining in the volume of gifts. Simply explain you're short on space and one or two long-lasting toys would be so much easier to handle (not to mention carry home) than an onslaught. I'm pretty sure that your kids will barely notice, they'll simply be happy to be showered with attention and love.