Five Rules of a Playroom Clear Out

A little while back I spent the best part of three hours giving our playroom a proper sort out.  A sort out that involved basically tipping everything out on the floor and starting again.  One of those ‘sort outs’ where you regret ever starting.  Thankfully, after three hours, we had a pristine playroom and I’m pleased to say the kids have managed to keep it reasonably tidy since (or at least clear up after themselves before bedtime!)

I shared a photo of our super tidy playroom on instagram where it got lots of love – I do plan to write a separate post sharing the details of our playroom soon, so watch out for that.  In the mean time here’s my five rules of a playroom clear out . . .

The first rule of a playroom clear out is . . .  Don’t talk about playroom clear outs . . . . In all serious though:

1. Don’t do it when the kids are there!

Anyone who has ever attempted to sort out a toy box in the company of their children will know exactly where I’m coming from.  That box of cars that he hasn’t looked at in forever?  Suddenly the most important toys he owns.  The dressing up costume that hasn’t fit for months?  No, it’s her favourite, you can’t possibly give it to someone else to play with.  My advice?  Wait till they’re in bed, do it in secret.  9 times out of 10 they will never notice.  (Of course there will always be that one time where you’re asked “Where’s that flashing thing that I got on the front of that magazine 7 months ago? – for those times you will have to perfect your innocent “Oh, I’ve no idea” face!)
Amy with springy eyes!

2. If it hasn’t got a head or it came from McDonalds . . . it goes.

This is a favourite rule of mine and I don’t really think it needs much explanation!  I do a quick “sweep” fairly regularly looking for things which are broken or which are just naff plastic rubbish and sneak them into a bin bag.  Who needs a plethora of broken toys or McDonald’s tat cluttering up their house?

McDonalds toys

3. If there’s a bit missing – get rid

With reasonable regularity I ask Ben to put jigsaws together to check for missing pieces.  There’s nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of a jigsaw and realising there’s a piece or two missing.  We do have a “lost pieces box” so that if we find a piece of a game or a jigsaw whilst tidying up, it can go into the “lost pieces box” for sorting out later.  I’ve never really understood how pieces of games or jigsaws get lost – these are things which never leave the house (or indeed the playroom for the most part) yet they still end up with bits missing!


4. If they’ve out grown it – get it out. 

This is something I find especially difficult as so many of their toys have sentimental value attached!  Up until my most recent Playroom Clear Out we had two full boxes of baby and toddler toys which were just of no interest any more.  I’ve cleared them out and sorted them into three piles – give away, store for grandchildren, keep for visitors.  Although my own children have outgrown these toys, we do have lots of much younger children who come to visit so it does make sense to keep a selection of age appropriate toys for visitors, and I couldn’t resist packing away some of my favourites to keep for the future.  My parents have very few of our old toys as we moved house so many times but the odd thing that they do have, my children have loved and I’m keen to be able to keep a selection of toys for my own grandchildren.

Amy with HappyLand

5. If they don’t play with it – lose it. 

I know some people like to “cycle” the toys available to their children, and this is something I did when Ben was little – he had two boxes of toys, one which lived in the cupboard and one which was out to play with – and I used to swap them round every now and again to keep things fresh.  Now they have loads of things and it doesn’t really work.  I do keep an eye on what is and isn’t being played with and remove things accordingly.  Sometimes I just hide it away for a few weeks to see if anyone notices before giving it away or storing it in the loft for a while.  Of course some toys will fall in and out of favour over time and you do need to use your judgement on this – we have quite a collection of Happy Land toys which we’ve amassed over the last six years and they’ve been untouched in a box for months now, however during my Playroom Clear Out earlier this month they were rediscovered – Amy had never really played with them before and she’s now suddenly found a great joy in acting out little scenes with the people and their transport.  What is particularly lovely is that Ben and Chloe are also enjoying playing with her.

Have you got any top tips for clearing out the playroom?!



  1. October 3, 2016 / 7:33 pm

    Like you I am quite good at clearing out and my local charity shop must do a roaring trade from me however I do sometimes wonder if I should keep some things for prosperity. I think I’ll keep all the Sylvanians and the wooden dolls house.

    • Colette
      October 3, 2016 / 7:39 pm

      I’ve said I will definitely keep Duplo and Lego – things like that are timeless!

  2. October 3, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    Totally agree with doing it when they’re not there. Also, though, I encourage a one-in/one-out philosophy. If there’s a new toy, find an old toy you don’t play with any more to pass along to charity.

    • Colette
      October 3, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      Ah I love that idea – especially now they are a bit older. I think Ben is more than capable to “get” that now!

  3. Ellie Byram
    October 4, 2016 / 7:01 am

    Ben sold some old toys at a kids boot fair- half the money for charity and half to him. It seemed to motivate him and he was brave enough to sell to people he didn’t know. He impressed me.

    • Colette
      October 4, 2016 / 10:10 am

      Oh that’s a great idea! Ben recently sold a train set that he’d got for his birthday a few years ago but hadn’t played with in ages – he hadn’t wanted to get rid of it until I pointed out that it would be his money to use for buying Lego! I think encouraging a charitable donation is a fantastic idea x

  4. October 4, 2016 / 12:01 pm

    I do a quick sort of mini sweep pre-birthday and Christmas because new toys will get added then. My Mum and Chris’s Mum both have their own toy boxes for Jaxon so we try to leave his toys at home so they don’t get muddled with the others. Speaking of which the pre-Christmas sweep needs to be added to the to do list to make sure I do it in good time lol.

  5. October 4, 2016 / 2:21 pm

    I was chuckling away at this, because some of these points will only make sense to other parents. ‘If it doesn’t have a head, it goes!’ is advice that will stay with me, ha ha! xx

  6. October 4, 2016 / 11:29 pm

    This is a great post and I do all this regularly too – the three hour clear out happens every few months here and looks a bit of a state in between! x

    • Colette
      October 5, 2016 / 8:30 am

      I think I need to do a pre-Christmas clear out!

  7. October 4, 2016 / 11:30 pm

    Space is our main issue, so there isn’t a great deal that can be kept for reasons of sentiment. If it is played with regularly and not broken, it can stay. Aside from that, it’s dodgy ground!

    • Colette
      October 5, 2016 / 8:29 am

      We are so lucky that our extension means we have a playroom and a much larger loft space now, but I’m still quite conscious of not filling the house up with rubbish!

  8. October 5, 2016 / 10:20 am

    Love this. I do the whole lose it – bin it regime! It just needs to be done and now that I’ve read this I reeeally need to do another one before Christmas!!

  9. Sian
    October 5, 2016 / 11:35 am

    Preach! You have the most stylish playroom of anyone so will be following your tips to stop ours looking like a junk room! I try to do a lot of these but it takes me an age to build up to it. Definitely before half term. We have a ton of random party bag toys, broken bits, books with pages pulled out, and – my bug bear – half bits of play doh sets with dried play doh in so they no longer work.

  10. October 5, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    Thanks Collete! You’ve just given me permission to get rid of so much stuff. I’ll tell the girls that Collete said it was OK 😉 x

    • October 5, 2016 / 1:35 pm

      Of course, they’ll never track you down, because I can’t spell your name correctly – sorry! But it does mean you’re off the hook 🙂

      • Colette
        October 5, 2016 / 1:48 pm

        Haha it’s fine, I don’t mind being made into the bad guy if it means your house is an easier place to be 😉

  11. October 5, 2016 / 9:20 pm

    our house is on the market so a few weeks ago – may or may not have been due to the fact the estate agent was coming with his camera – we blitzed every room, including the play room, and I was very, very ruthless. Headless dollies – in the bin. Incomplete jigsaws – in the bin. Happyland mountain – on eBay. I did as much as I could without them but needs must and I did have to traumatise them over some things, but it’s character building for them, honest!

  12. October 6, 2016 / 9:45 am

    Top tips – especially never, ever clean the playroom while children are in the house. Although I do *still* regularly get caught out when Flea remembers something I know has long gone to the charity or recycling. Last week it was, “Look Mum, my birthday card is on the floor outside,” after I’d recycled them all, and one fell out of the bin.

    There’s only one response in such situations – blame the dog.

  13. catherine hooper
    October 6, 2016 / 11:43 am

    I love a good sort out it’s so therapeutic!! and the house feels so much bigger after. it gets easier as they get older as they have less toys and more stationery/gadgets!

  14. October 6, 2016 / 1:17 pm

    I am SO with you on all of this – especially the ruddy McDonalds tat! Thankfully, Grace is at the age where she is very accepting of getting rid of things to make way for the new – and take them to the RSPCA shop where her favourite charity benefits as does another child.

  15. October 7, 2016 / 11:04 am

    Oh it is my worst chore ever clearing out the playroom, it really is never ending isn’t it? I say the same Lego and Duplo are timeless, some toys never leave do they xx

  16. October 10, 2016 / 6:48 am

    After reading Mari Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, I cleared our whole house in 6 weeks.Very much along the lines of this post, although my kids are older (8,11 and 14) they actually helped me.They volunteered to get rid of about 80% of their stuff as I had explained how tidying could help me clean the house better and make their rooms tidier.Being ruthless and following through what you plan to get rid of are key.

  17. October 10, 2016 / 11:28 pm

    always always always do it when the kids aren’t around!

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