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I'm Throwing My Kids' Toys Away for the Holidays

Photograph by Twenty20

It's that time of year again. Not just the time when everything's sparkly and the air smells of cookies—it's the time of year when I always plan to secretly declutter my kids' toy stash before the onslaught of new toys that the holidays bring.

Most years, somewhere around January 1st, I glance around the house and wonder where the hell we're going to put all the new gifts. And I curse myself for not doing a preemptive toy purge.

But this year, I'm doing things differently.

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Over the last few months, my husband and I have been trying to simplify our life. We've been relatively successful; We've trimmed down bills, sold gadgets we didn't use, and I even downsized my car from an SUV to a Prius. But there's one area that we can't seem to keep up with: the constant stream of detritus that our kids add to the mix. From birthday party favors to kids' artwork, it sometimes feels like having children all but guarantees that you'll be featured on a future episode of "Hoarders."

It sometimes feels like having children all but guarantees that you'll be featured on a future episode of "Hoarders."

Despite my conversations with my kids about passing things on that we don't need anymore, and hearing the advice that parents should sort through belongings with our children to help them learn about the spirit of giving, sometimes Mama needs to just secretly sweep through their stuff and weed out the least used, least loved, most annoying junk.

So one day, while the kids were both in school, I sat down and, like a toddler, I dumped out the contents of their toy bins. One by one, I held up each toy and made a decision whether to keep it, donate it or trash it.

Out went board books that my kids never read (or the ones I hated reading to them—I'm looking at you, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See"). Out went the plastic trinkets from our handful of shame-ridden trips to McDonald's. Out went a lone marble, uncapped markers and Pez containers. I recycled half-used coloring books, unloved stickers and craft items that my kids never got around to using, and I even sold a few items via a local trading network.

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We still have a long way to go in paring down our belongings. I stuck to mostly getting rid of things my kids wouldn't even notice were gone. And I was surprised to find some toys that I just couldn't yet part with—like the Sesame Street toy that starts talking every time anyone touches it. It was the toy we got our son as a reward for surviving his first haircut. While I'm half sure it's possessed, as its batteries haven't worn down once in the five years we've owned it, it reminds me of my little boy, the one who's growing up outrageously fast.

While it was energizing to make a little extra space before the holidays, there are just some things we have to hold on to.

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