Declutter & Donate with a Playroom Cleanout Day


Every year for the last three years on Griz-Cat Saturday, our house goes wild! Yeah, we’ve got both the TV and radio cranked up and we’re all sportin’ our beloved Grizwear – the Turners definitely bleed maroon and silver. But it’s not only just because of the statewide rivalry that our house goes wild. Due to our annual Playroom Cleanout Day, a good portion of our home is completely torn apart and looks as though Monte and Champ had their brawl right here in the midst of our house.

Playroom Cleanout Day has become an annual event. All three boys and I start after breakfast and we go through every drawer, shelf, and bin in their playroom. We scour through the bookshelves, comb through the Lego bins, and leaf through each notebook or drawing pad.

This ritual started three years ago when I realized our boys didn’t know where toys belonged because I was always cleaning up and putting them away. In addition, there were a lot of toys they no longer played with and there were broken toys and ripped books which needed to find the garbage can.

We needed to declutter, economize and maximize our space — and we can donate, too!

Out of sheer desperation, I invented Playroom Cleanout day. Sounds overwhelming and a tough sell for 9-, 6-, and 3-year-old boys, huh? At first it wasn’t…they moaned at the thought of an entire day of cleaning. But then I hit pay dirt when I explained the entire purpose. Christmas would soon be here and with it, new toys, games, and books. All those things would need a place to go.

With the playroom in its current shape, there was no way new gifts would fit. So we needed to make room. The boys seemed to grasp that idea, but it really hit home when I began to explain what we’d do with many of their older toys. We started talking about kids right here in Missoula whose Christmas is void of presents and toys. We’d donate!

That’s when I could tell the motivation began kicking in. The boys realized they could make a difference by cleaning out their unused toys and donating them to local charities. Ahh, they were getting it! They had a bigger purpose than just mom making them clean.

So, we began our process of creating a wild mess. At first, the kids still held on to their fear of letting toys go. ”Oh, but I got that when I was 2!” my oldest would say. I gently reminded them of who they would be helping and, quickly, their reluctance to let go of things started to disappear.

To sort and prioritize, we separate everything into three categories: A pile for donations, a pile for the garage sale, and a pile for the trash (I never realized how many acorns a boy could stuff inside a Kleenex box!).

This day also gives me a chance to inventory their current books and toys. Two years ago we discovered Gus had a Geotrax train but didn’t have enough train tracks for it. Bingo! A perfect gift idea for a grandma.

It also gives me an idea of where the kids are as far as their interests. When it came time to sort through the Transformer guys, I realized my oldest son had outgrown his interest in them. Good to know — scratch that idea off the Christmas list. Cleanout Day accomplishes more than I had expected.

In the end, I save money on Christmas gifts as well since I won’t be spending money on items they either don’t need or aren’t interested in anymore. This year, we discovered all the Play-do dried up, so you can bet that will be on Santa’s list!

I have to admit I sometimes have more trouble “letting go” than the kids. The first year, I started my own pile too which the kids kept looking at with curiosity. Finally, they asked about my lone pile.

I just smiled and said, “That one is for safe-keeping.” “Huh?” they said. I explained with a lump in my throat,“These are toys and books which hold special memories of each of you when you were younger. I want to keep them and share them with your children some day.” There was a long, thoughtful silence at that point as they too remembered the specialness of a little board book with sweet, little tooth marks on the corners, a box of building blocks, and an Elmo cell phone.

But the tender moment of babyhood memories was quickly lost when Logan announced, “I’m going to be a priest, so I’m not having kids!” “Neither am I,” said Ethan quickly. Well, I suspect things may change in the future, so I think I’ll just keep my little piles tucked away for safe-keeping!

With a few breaks to watch the football game and root for the Griz, we usually wrap up our sometimes painful task by early afternoon. With pride, we all stand and take in the new space!

It has so much more room, it functions better, the kids know where the toys belong. More importantly, they have generously created a nice collection of books and toys that will hopefully add some cheer to another child’s Christmas. I am noticing the kids becoming more generous every year. This year we will be donating two large bags filled with books, toys, and games.

In a sense, I look at this day as the kick off to our holiday season. It feels great to simplify and clean the playroom, maximize storage space, and take stock of what we have. Come Christmas time we aren’t just adding to the chaos but, rather, giving gifts which will be appreciated and useful.

More importantly, I love the opportunity this day gives to instill generosity into the hearts of my boys and remind us, as a family, to keep the spirit of giving at the top of our list during this Christmas season and throughout the year!


Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: Host Thanksgiving on a Budget, Missoula Black Friday Shopping on a Budget, and Teaching Money to Kids and Teens. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It” archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.