This time of year, with the avalanche of gifts looming ahead, it’s a great time to get something important out of the way: clutter. Toy clutter doesn’t take long to accumulate, especially if kids have grandparents or other family members who are always ready with something extra.

When there are too many toys, keeping things picked up and organized gets harder — plus it makes cleanup very overwhelming for kids. Here are a few tips for getting their cache of belongings sorted, purged and ready for the new items.  

Make it about one thing: Whether you’re tackling the playroom or going through their bedroom belongings, it should all boil down to one single goal. Perhaps you want to take a simpler, streamlined approach to toys and want to limit the overall collection to, say, 40 items. Or you can turn it into parting with, say, 30 items from the playroom. 

Be systematic: Keep distractions to a minimum and place the toys that are eligible for purging in the center of the room. Depending on how many they need to part with, this can be done all at once, or in small groups. 

Sad partings: Most organizing blogs will tell you to sort things into four piles — keep, toss, sell and give away. When toy sorting, add two more. One is long-term storage. Some are just too good to leave forever, so set aside a box where they can store childhood mementos. For toss-ups, try an “I don’t know pile.” Then, box them up and set a reminder to revisit it in six months. 

Cull the collections: Once the general toy population is reduced, pay attention to the sets. For example, if your shelves are crowded with displays of LEGO creations, decide how many can stay around, and let the rest be disassembled and reabsorbed into the collection for future projects. (If you have a unique or in-demand LEGO kit, consider re-selling it, either online or at a consignment shop.) 

The next step: Once the toys, books and LEGO are sorted, now comes the fun task of organizing! With your newfound breathing room, it’s time to figure out how to keep things better organized and within easy reach. When it comes to LEGO Bricks, you have many options, some of which we have rounded up here.

Practice the rule of Even Steven: Going forward, cultivate this as a way of life to keep things in balance. When something new comes in, choose something else that can go. 

Keep in mind, purging can be taxing for kids. If progress is slow and painful, cheerfully put an end to the task and try again another day. With a little time to process, the kids are likely to be more up to the task.