Getting rid of toys before Christmas is a struggle. Yet, it’s necessary to clear out old toy clutter before Santa brings a sleigh full of new toys. This post outlines a few ways to encourage kids to declutter, as well as one decluttering hack that will transform your life this holiday season.

This amazing hack to convince kids to get rid of old toys before Christmas will blow your mind

Want to know the #1 hack for convincing kids to donate old toys before Christmas?

Blame it on the Elf.

That’s right, let the Elf on the Shelf convince your kids to donate old toys in order to make room for new Christmas toys.


The Elf on the Shelf takes three toys away to “recycle” for new little boys and girls

Have the Elf on the Shelf visit your home on the first night with a special poem.

In this poem he explains 3 important things to convince kids to get rid of old toys before Christmas:

  • he needs to take at least 3 toys from our house that the kids have outgrown or don’t play with anymore
  • Santa is eco-friendly and likes to recycle toys
  • The Elf will take the old toys back to Santa’s workshop so Santa can fix the toys and pass them onto more boys and girls

Are you afraid that your kids will freak out?

Start talking about it with the kids now. Plant the seed that it’s time to make room for new toys.

Now that we have done this for several years, our kids expect it. Even so, I still remind the kids that our Elf will be taking away at least 3 toys from each kid.

Why 3 toys?

We stick with 3 because in our house Santa gives each kid 3 toys just like baby Jesus received 3 gifts from the wise men. Since they receive 3 from Santa, it make sense to get rid of 3. However, your Elf on the Shelf may have different rules!

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The Elf on the Shelf poem that convinces kids to declutter before Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of year,
the time to pass on Christmas cheer.
Now that your family elf is out,
here is a rule you should know about:
I must make room in your house for new toys to fit,
and renew your old toys with fresh Christmas spirit.
Leave out three old toys tonight,
I’ll take them to Santa who will fix them up right.
He’ll give a new little boy or girl your old toy,
and spread all sorts of Christmas joy.

Elf on the Shelf Letter to convince kids to donate toys

Get the free printable version here: Elf on the Shelf Letter

Related Post: Get Easy Elf on the Shelf ideas here!

FAQ about Decluttering Toys Before Christmas

How and where can I donate old toys?

Here are a few places that accept gently used toys:

  • Resell charities like Goodwill and the Salvation Army
  • Churches and preschools
  • Local women and children shelters
  • Freecycle them on Facebook groups or with friends
  • Toys for Tots doesn’t just accept new toys, they take used ones too
  • Ronald McDonald House or other hospital lodging services
  • Send stuffed animals to Stuffed Animals for Emergencies
  • Or sell them to a consignment store and donate the cash to a charity

What are some more ways to clear out toy clutter before Christmas?

Encourage Kids to Play with Their Favorite Toys

Make a household rule that if you don’t use something for a certain period of time, you get rid of it. For toys, we make that rule 2 months. If my kids have not played with a toy in the span of 2 months, I get rid of it. I talk about it often with them so they aren’t surprised.

Involve the Kids in Decluttering

Designate a bin in your house for donating old toys. Periodically put it out near the toys and encourage your kids to fill it up with toys they aren’t interested in anymore. Remind them that this is part of making room for new toys. If you give them the choice to get rid of toys, they will feel more in control.

Pro-tip: Don’t keep this bin out in the open. Otherwise your kids will keep taking toys out of the bin. Hide it in the garage, attic, or closet.

Operate on a “One Toy In, One Toy Out” Rule

Encourage everyone in your house to live under the rule: “One in, one out”. For everything you buy,  go through your house and donate or sell something.

Stay Consistent

If you consistently talk about decluttering all year long, it won’t be a shock to the kids when you want to declutter toys before Christmas. Make this a conversation that you keep on the table throughout the year and cleaning out toys for Christmas will come easily.

Is it Okay to Declutter Toys without the Kids?


While I love involving my kids in the process, I also declutter a lot when they go to grandma’s house. I put toys in the donate bin and wait a few days to see if the kids miss them. In not, I donate the toys.

The end goal is to encourage kids to do this on their own. However, sometimes a mom has to do what she’s got to do! If you have to declutter without the kids, just do it!

All of these approaches and tips have worked wonders for us over the last 3 years. I don’t think one works better than the other. Instead, we use a combination of all of these hacks to encourage our kids to clean out their toys before the holidays.

The Elf on the Shelf hack that convinces kids to declutter before Christmas

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