On Christmas Eve, let Santa take away the old toys, too

Susan's hack is so many kinds of wonderful, I'll just leave it to you to marvel at her smarts and generosity:

In the forever battle to keep declutter our house, Christmas inevitably causes stress, especially when it comes to toys and our 3 year-old. So in our house, we're not the only ones who recycle. Santa recycles, too.

Once she started getting really excited about Christmas and Santa, we started talking about how we need to make room for new toys. I told her on Christmas Eve, when Santa comes to visit, that next to the cookies and milk she can leave a biiiiig box of toys by the fireplace (I do a lot of Christmas shopping via Amazon, so I've saved one of their larger boxes just for this purpose).

When Santa stops by our house to leave *her* toys, he'll take the old toys with him back to the elves who will fix them up, recycle them, and send them to little boys and girls who may not get as much from their parents for Christmas as she does – so those kids have lots of toys, too!

Well, she has been *all* gung ho, even putting some of the toys that used to be her favorites and telling us that the little boys and girls who don't have as many toys will love them even more than she does. So on Christmas Eve, when my husband and I are sneaking around to play Santa, the box will go in grandma's trunk for a trip on Dec. 26 to the local women's shelter.

Related: Teach your kids gratitude and perspective by sponsoring children via relief organizations

More: Hacks for Christmas and Hanukkah


  1. says

    This is a wonderful idea!! We are going to take out some of the “old” toys and send them over to Grandma’s house to live and play with when we visit.

  2. says

    I tried getting Anya to volunteer to get rid of a number of stuffed animals, which she has a lot of and doesn’t play with much, and everytime I took one out, she hugged up and didn’t want to give it up. I eventually got her to give up about 1/3 of them, but I wanted to get rid of about 3/4 of them.

    I tried this with her other toys a week later and everytime I took out a toy and asked her if we could give it to a boy or girl who didn’t have any toys at all, she said no. Similarly, when she discovered the huge stash of toys I bought just for Toys for Tots, she was none too understanding or cooperative with me telling her that she couldn’t play with them, that they were for kids who didn’t have any toys, and that if I gave them to her, they wouldn’t get ANY toys.

    I think 3 years and 2 months is too young, or perhaps my daughter is extremely greedy.

  3. KB says

    This is a great idea. I wonder if it could be improved even more by making the uncluttering happen *before* Christmas Eve — so the toys have a chance to get to poorer families in time for the holiday. What about an after-Thanksgiving (coordinated with decorating) or St Nicholas Day (if you’re Catholic) toy-for-all?

    I was surprised to discover this year that my 2-year-old has quite a bit of generosity, especially if you introduce the topic in the right way. Pictures of poorer children, giving away some of his toys to his younger friends, even wrapping presents that he would like to have for himself for another little girl he knows, all touched him and he participated well. I’m sure this varies from child to child and minute to minute, but we just encourage whatever he can bring himself to do.

  4. says

    Awesome idea! I’ve been trying to teach my 2yo to give by putting a little here and a little there in all those wonderful red buckets. It’s always nice to find another way to clean up all the clutter from your house and teach your kids a lesson in the process.

  5. mes says

    We’re doing something similar this year. I cleared the living room of toys on Christmas eve, giving a lot of free space to open gifts and play with new stuff, and giving me the opportunity to sort the old toys at my leisure. Some will get put away for our younger child, and the rest will be donated. I like the idea of getting my older son (nearly 3) involved in the sorting process. Which should we save for younger brother, which should we give to kids without toys?

  6. Hayley says

    GENIUS. We’d been sending some of C’s out-grown toys to his cousin across town, but seeing his old friends whenever we went over for a visit was proving… difficult, to say the least. This is a lovely idea, one we’ll put into practice next year, for sure.

  7. says

    As someone who works for low-income families and centers, we LOVE this! It’s great to have these donations. Some goes straight to children’s homes and some stay at the centers for all to enjoy.
    This year a 3 year old came with her grandma and donated the toys personally. I think this really helped her make the connection of what she was doing.

  8. says

    This is a fantastic idea!
    Really lovely!

    Decluttering the house and teaching your children many honorable lessons.
    Congratulations, and thanks for the inspiration.
    We will definitely implement this in our house next Christmas.


  9. says

    my kids are with Daniella’s – they are willing to work extra chores to donate to worthy causes, willing to go dig holes to plant trees for reforestation, get all sorts of sore and dirty in the name of a good cause, and … DO NOT TOUCH THE TOYS.

    I’ve been boxing up the old toys no longer in circulation, but they want to be the ones to choose, and when it comes down to it, they only want to give away things that aren’t worth giving (like broken items). Even toys to Iraq was a hard sell.

    Sigh. DEFINITELY worth a good few tries, but if your child is prone to attaching to objects, you’re fighting an uphill battle – focus on getting them to take actions for others, instead. Eventually, the good things will get handed on, but it may take a few years longer than you thought.

  10. Alli says

    We do something similar, but our Elf-on-the-Shelf takes them away in December so that Santa’s elves have time to shine them up before Christmas. The kids have a box under the tree, and anything left in that box overnight goes back to the North Pole with Astrid, our Elf.