Every year, after the holidays begin to wind down, I suddenly become aware of just how much shit my children have. Not being particularly sentimental about toys myself, I instantly get to work on what I like to call the “purge.” Though my oldest is not quite 3 years old, I’ve already noticed a pattern to my annual (sometimes biannual) purge. Below, I give all of my stressed out parenting friends, buried and suffocating underneath mountains of kid crap, step-by-step instructions for how to de-clutter and take back your home from the children, assert your dominance over your domain.

This is about empowerment, people.

And wine. Lots and lots of wine.

1. While the small ones are sleeping, carefully go through and sort their toys into several piles. One for broken, cheap, and/or novelty toys that can be instantly discarded. One for toys in good shape that have not been touched in weeks. Another pile for popular, nice toys that are in good shape. Yet another for broken yet popular toys. At this time of year, you may also have a pile of unopened toys or repeat toys. Decide if those can be exchanged, or should be donated, regifted, or placed in the attic for last-minute birthday presents later in the year.

2. Discard all broken and/or McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Do this immediately, without thinking about it. Make sure to pile newspapers or coffee grounds on top, to obscure any view of the toys that the toddler might notice in the bottom of the trash. Be double and triple certain that not a single molecule of the toys can be seen by the naked eye. It’s best to not even keep the bag in the house. In fact, just take the trash outside and burn it in the street.

3. Box up any toys still in good, relatively unused shape, and set them in the guest room closet, ready to be shipped to your local charity. Pro Tip: Take pictures of the contents of any boxes you donate so that you can accurately inventory your donations on your tax return without going through the hassle of actually indexing everything you give away.

4. Place all popular toys back in the play area.

5. Put any broken or ripped popular toys on a shelf. Somewhere out of reach for the children but conspicuous enough that you will see them and be reminded to repair them in a timely manner. They will now stay there until the children graduate college.

6. Survey all that you have accomplished, and open a bottle of wine to congratulate yourself. Begin contemplating a minimalist lifestyle. 100 possessions? You mean I’d still have to find 100?? P-shaw. Surely you jest. Bet I could do 85. 80, if I’m pushing it.

7. Realize that you can see your floor for the first time in a month. Pour another glass of wine. You so rock at this.

8. Toddler awakens, runs to playroom, and immediately asks where her penguin is. You freeze. The penguin…? The penguin that she got in her Happy Meal last month. The Happy Meal that her Papaw bought her that night she stayed with them. The penguin that was his special gift to her, and he gave her after she ate all her chicken nuggets. The penguin that was her prize for being his big girl. The penguin that means more to her than anything else ever in the entire world. Where is her penguin??

9. Send spouse to McDonald’s for Happy Meals, hoping to distract her with new crappy, plastic shit.

10. It works.

11. Pour more wine.

12. After two weeks, notice your toddler playing in the guest room. She finds the box of forgotten toys in the closet. Because of course they haven’t been donated yet. You’re not done yet. You still have to go through their rooms, their closets. Maybe even the kitchen. The purge isn’t finished yet. Nothing has happened since that first night. But you have plans. Big plans. Huge.

13. Watch your toddler have ALL THE FEELINGS about toys she hasn’t missed in two whole weeks.

14. Weakly protest as she unpacks the entire box.

15. Dutifully carry entire contents of the box upstairs to her room, and help her arrange the toys on her bed, strategically placed so she can cuddle them all throughout the night.

16. Open more wine. Pour a glass.

17. Hear toddler come back from arranging her now “favorite” toys on her bed, and ask you where Papaw’s penguin is. She can’t find it anywhere!

18. Start drinking straight from the bottle.

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