• Create an Outbox • Touch & Evaluate Every Toy
The first assignment is the most time consuming so we're splitting it across two days. If you have young children, see if your spouse or a sitter can take them out of the house for about an hour so you can focus and avoid negotiating with them about their toys. For kids under three (this is an estimate - you know your kids best), out of sight usually does mean out of mind and they may not even notice that some of their toys are gone. Older kids can be told what you are doing and invited to participate. This can be tough but let them know that in order to get new toys someday, they'll have to let go of some of the older ones.
Create an Outbox
In Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure, Maxwell describes the importance of the Outbox and how to use it. Here's an excerpt:
The Outbox is your ally as you proceed to remove clutter from your home. It works because it uses a two-step process that allows you to figure out if you need something without having to decide what to do with it immediately. The Outbox is not the garbage...it is a halfway house for your clutter, where things go to sit while their fate is being decided.
Maxwell suggests using a closet, guest room or area near your front door as your Outbox. We're going to modify that if you have a young child because we know from personal experience that young children are very likely to remove things from an accessible Outbox (often with a declaration of love for a toy that has lain fallow for months). You might use a box or bag that you can put up high or in a closet.
Touch and Evaluate Every Toy
Now you need to begin evaluating every toy in the house. Start in the room with the highest concentration of toys, perhaps a playroom or your child's bedroom. Remember to look under and behind the couch, bed, and other furniture. You may be surprised how much you find. Pick up each toy and decide if it belongs in the Outbox. Remember, the Outbox is not garbage. You won't decide the fate of the toy for several more days. Here are questions to ask yourself when determining whether a toy should go in the Outbox:
1. Is it played with often?
2. Is it age appropriate (too young or too old)?
3. Is it broken, dirty or have missing pieces?
Start adding to your Outbox and then move on to the toys in another area of your home. Remember, this assignment is divided into two days so stop when you think you've addressed about half the toys in your home. Don't forget bath toys and outdoor toys. If you do complete the assignment in one day you have tomorrow off. Rejoin us on Day 3, Wednesday.
Here are a few examples of toys in my home that are going in the Outbox. Add your own photos to the 7-Day Toy Cure Flickr Group.
Use the comments to chat with each other and ask questions!
The 500 Pound Declutter Project
(Images: Carrie McBride)