Ask Deborah: Parents’ organizing questions

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dkawashima110BY  DEBORAH KAWASHIMA  C.P.O.

Q: “How do you sort through and part with old toys without creating too much chaos?”
Zorayda, Burbank, CA  Mother of two boys, 6 and 8

A: Organizing is all about our relationship with our stuff, our time and our space. So this simple task of getting rid of “old’ toys with your child, is laying down the foundation of how your child relates to their stuff. You want to role-model that we only keep things that are of value to us: things that we use and things that we treasure. We part with the things that we no longer use; either donate to others who can use them or toss them if they are beyond repair. Here are 3 simple steps to help your child part with old toys.

Step 1. Instead of thinking of “getting rid of the toys”, which sounds oh so terribly dreadful to a child, think of it as “What toys are we going to keep?”  This immediately puts them in a happy place, thinking in a positive way!  Of course they might respond by saying,  “But I want to keep all of them!” to which you are ready with an answer…


Organizing containers help your child's choices as well as their toys.

Step 2. Have a bin or basket at hand to contain their choices (even if this is just a temporary sorting space) and tell your child that, “We can only keep whatever fits in here.” So now you have defined a space for their toys they are going to keep. You have set the limits and created boundaries, which children need, and you have set up your expectations of the task. This way there are no surprises and when they want to keep more than can fit, it’s the limited space that is telling them, “No, it doesn’t fit!”…  not you!

Step 3. Guide them through the decision-making process by prompting them with questions. The younger they are, the simpler the choice: Keep it? or Do you still play with it? The older they are, you can get into more complex reasoning: When do you play with this? How often? Is this really one of your favorites? Why? And so on. Listen to what the are saying and how they are relating to their toys. Some decisions come easy: Keep! Don’t Keep! Other toys they might hesitate with. Those can be stored away. If they don’t miss it, out of sight, out of mind. Then in a while it’s safe to get rid of them. No drama or tears! Some toys you might want to keep for memorabilia or store away for younger siblings later. Store those in another bin.

What you are role-modeling is that they are in control of their stuff, giving them ownership to their decisions, which sets up a healthy attitude towards their stuff. They keep it because they use it or treasure it. And you respect their decision.

Deborah Kawashima, C.P.O. a certified professional organizer, founded her company, Creative Organizer in 2004 after working in the fashion industry as a children’s wear designer. Growing up her parents owned Montessori schools,  this natural sense of order influences her approach to organizing, Deborah specializes in working with parents and their kids, focusing on helping parents role model organizational and time management skills to their children. In addition to working with her clients, she is currently a life skills instructor at  UCLA extension Pathway, a unique program for college age students who are developmentally challenged (autism, Asperger’s Disorder etc.). Got questions? Email her:

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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