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Tossing Old Toys

Helping your kids let go of their tattered treasures

It takes some bartering to get kids to tidy up – and the magic of clean-up songs dulls fast. But what if your child simply can't bid old stuff adieu?

"It's almost like a betrayal to what used to be good friends," says Novi mom Vicki Caddy of her 12-year-old son and, to a degree, her daughter, 13. "I think it's real hard. They may be young, but those are their possessions. They remember having fun with them."

Therapist Giawanna Peterson-Rochon agrees that showing respect for kids' toys is crucial. A sneak purge can do more harm than good. Still, although she says that a little hording is normal, parents also should reinforce limits.

"If it's something that they're collecting, explain to them that there's got to be some organization," Peterson-Rochon says. Set limits to how much your kids can have. At a certain point, you could institute a rule that for every new possession they get, they must get rid of one they have tired of or outgrown.

Tap into kids altruism, too. Whether a donated toy earns you a tax write-off or goes directly to kids in a shelter, explain to your child how it helps. For instance, proceeds from Salvation Army thrift store sales support addiction recovery programs. Better still, the National Association of Professional Organizers suggests taking kids along to the donation center. This helps them learn to part with things, its website notes.

Caddy has also honed a few commonsense techniques. She puts neglected toys in a plastic bag, writes the contents and date on the outside, and then stores them away. If no one's asked for them about a year later, they're tossed.

When it comes to the really beat-up Barbie cars and army guys she knows the kids won't miss, Caddy weeds out a few items every garbage day. But at the end of the day, she takes it in stride.

"They're little for such a short time," Caddy says. "Someday, I'm going to be wishing there were LEGOs all over my living room floor. In a way, enjoy the clutter."

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