The Secret to a Christmas Toy Purge Kids Will Love

OCTOBER 24, 2016 IN CHRISTMASHOMELIFEORGANIZINGPARENTING Get ready for Christmas with a toy purge idea your kids will love!


Is this what you hear every time you try to clean out your kids’ toys? You’d think you were trying to toss out a precious lovey or the train set that they use every day when you’re actually holding a dust covered birthday party favor that you uncovered from the bottom of the toy bin. You know, the one they haven’t seen or thought about since bringing it home 6 months ago? Yep. That one.

This is how it used to go at our house too, until I discovered a genius way to get my kids excited about giving their toys away. Seriously. Seven full bags and one super clean playroom later, I’m ready to share my secret. And this is the time to do it!

Need to clean out your kids toys before Christmas? This genius idea will make your kids WANT to give away their toys! Love how this mom encouraged giving in her kids (and got her playroom clean at the same time). It works!

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Why You Need To Purge Toys Now

Kids have lots of toys. Mine are no exception. Though we do set limits, it seems like the toys multiply overnight. And there are a lot of good reasons for kids to have less toys. I’ve seen these benefits in my own house, and after we’ve decluttered our playroom my boys are more likely to play together and be more resourceful and inventive in their play. 
My house also appreciates a good toy purge. I take care to organize our playroom but it’s not a large space so it can get cluttered quickly. It’s so much easier to maintain order when we have less toys, and both the boys and I enjoy it much more when there is room to move, build, and play.

I like to do a big toy purge at least a month or two before Christmas. Decluttering before Christmas gives us the chance to move out toys that the boys have outgrown, things that aren’t working well or missing pieces, or toys that they are simply no longer interested in. I wanted to involve the boys in the toy purge this year, and find a way that would actually encourage them to want to give away their old toys instead of them “needing” to keep every little trinket. Then I discovered this genius idea and it worked better than I could have imagined.

The Christmas Toy Purge Idea Kids Love

We were at a friend’s house for a playdate recently when she showed me an Old Toys for Santa bag she had ordered from Pottery Barn Kids. I was totally in love with the idea and knew it was perfect for our Christmas toy purge.

Note: these are no longer available from Pottery Barn Kids but you can find something similar on Etsy here or here.

The idea is simple – load the bag up with toys for Santa to pick up and deliver to other good girls and boys. The bag is big and sturdy, with an adorable printed note to Santa. It can even be personalized! It’s the perfect way to encourage a spirit of giving (and to declutter) right before Christmas.

Of course, you don’t need the bag to send your old toys to Santa (though I love it!). A large canvas laundry bag would also do the trick, and you could encourage your kids to decorate it with their own art or note to Santa.

Would it work with my boys? I decided to try. We gathered in the playroom and I told them that we were going to start getting ready for Christmas. I explained that Santa would be making a special visit to our house to pick up toys that they didn’t need any more and would bring them to other good girls and boys on Christmas. And that now that they were big boys, it was up to them to decide what he should take. They were so excited and ready to purge! We went through each bin and basket, and I let them choose what would stay and what would go. I was amazed at how ready they were to part with toys that they had outgrown or forgotten, with no tears and no debates.

Once we were done, we wrote a note to Santa and left it out with some cookies and milk. The next morning, the toys were gone! My boys could not have been more excited… and of course, they decided it was time to start writing their Christmas lists. And we have lots of space for new toys to come!

Want to keep those toys organized? Check out my favorite toy storage solutions here.

Planning the Perfectly Organized Christmas

A toy purge is just the first step to planning the perfect Christmas. You know – the one where you get organized, stay under budget, and actually enjoy the time with your family. Next on your list is downloading my Printable Christmas Planner. With over 25 pages of checklists, planning sheets, and extras like gift tags and letters to Santa – including a Something to Wear, Something to Read, Something I Want, and Something I Need version to avoid more toy overload.  There’s also a page to plan your Christmas Acts of Kindness and keep the giving spirit alive all season long.

Keep your kids safe online: All you need to know about internet safety at school and home

David Anders

Sep 9, 2019 — 9 min read

Knowledge of internet filtering settings and state laws is the first step to keeping your kids safe on the internet.

At Allconnect, we work to present quality information with editorial integrity. While this post may contain offers from our partners, our opinions are our own. Here’s how we make money.

As part of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), many states have laws in place for filtering internet content in public schools and libraries. Click any of the states below to learn more about CIPA laws in that state.

Internet laws by state

Most internet service providers include parental controls with their plans to help keep kids safe online, but they don’t offer the same settings. Have conversations about internet safety with your kids, and make a list of the parental controls you need. This will give you an idea of what to look for when researching internet service providers.

Tips to keep your kids safe online

Set up internet filtering

Use your router or internet service provider’s security app to configure child-safe internet filtering. This works just like the filtering system on library and public school computers and lets you control which websites your child can access.

Most internet service providers have a manual detailing how to do this. Here are some of the manuals on how to set up internet filtering from major providers:




Block websites and keywords you don’t want your child to access

Blocking websites and keywords is the easiest way to ensure your child only has access to trusted internet content. You can block websites and keywords through your router or internet service provider’s security app.

Another way to configure internet filtering is by only allowing your child access to certain websites and keywords. Rather than blocking specific content, you grant access to approved website URLs and keywords. This means all other content is blocked.

Schedule when your child can access the internet

Setting an internet schedule, or a window of time when your child has internet access, is another great option for keeping him or her safe online. Similar to blocking websites and keywords, you can set up access times through your router or internet service provider’s security app.

With an internet schedule, your child will only be able to browse the internet during designated times. So, if you set a start time of 4 p.m. and an end time of 8 p.m. for Monday through Friday, then your child will only be able to get online during this window.

Limiting the time spent in front of the computer may also benefit your child’s development. When creating an internet schedule for your child, make sure they have enough time for homework and some social activities.

“Excessive time online or in front of a computer can cause problems with vision and neurological problems, especially in developing children,” explains personal safety expert Peter J. Canavan.

Add your “trusted devices” to bypass parental control settings

Some internet service providers let you set your personal devices as “trusted devices.” These devices will be able to access websites blocked by parental control settings. This way, you can keep parental controls in place on your child’s devices while bypassing them on your own.

Encourage child internet safety in your home

CIPA laws for schools or libraries may not extend to the home, but that doesn’t mean your child’s home internet experience has to go unprotected.

Educating your child on internet safety and creating a list of the parental control options you need will help you choose which internet service provider will work best for you and your family.

Keep your child informed about why internet safety is important. By encouraging your child to make smart choices while online, you’re helping them develop the confidence to use the internet safely and respectfully.

Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience

Billy Barr lives in Gothic, Colo., a silver mining town that was abandoned more than 100 years ago.

We’re all social distancing these days, and it’s unclear when exactly that will end. But Billy Barr has been doing this for almost 50 years. He’s the only full-time resident of Gothic, Colo.

“I’m the mayor and chief of police,” he said. “I hold elections every year, but I don’t tell anybody when they are, so it works out really well.”

Barr has tips on social distancing, but he’s the first to say they may well be entirely useless.

“When I first got here, it was a relief for me to be on my own, but that’s not necessarily what a healthy person does — isolate themselves,” he said. “I mean, I’m good at it and I do it because I like it, but what works for me, it works for me. It quite conceivably wouldn’t work for anybody else.”

While Barr has been called a hermit, he doesn’t consider himself one. He occasionally interacts with skiers who pass through, he talks to his sister on the phone, and he works for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory nearby, which gets flooded with scientists in the summer.

But the man has been living alone in a cabin in the mountains for many years, and in the winter months, he can go many days without seeing a soul. So staying home during the COVID-19 outbreak?

So, without further ado, here are five recommendations for the Billy Barr method of social distancing.

1. Keep track of something.

Each day, Barr tracks the weather for a number of groups including the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He started measuring snow levels in the 1970s, mostly because he was bored.

“Everything depends on the weather,” said Barr, who has skied through that “sideways” and “swirling” snow to talk on the phone from the laboratory. “It controlled what I did and so I would write it all down.”

He would also write down when he saw an animal.

“With the birds, especially the ones that arrive in the spring, it was exciting,” he said. “It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s sunrise and I can hear robins.’ ”

Turns out, monitoring things that were important to his daily life had real value. As The Atlantic has written and the documentary The Snow Guardian has shown, his records have informed dozens of studies on climate change.

Day’s Edge Productions YouTube

In the era of COVID-19, he suggests tracking what you can — or can’t — find at the grocery store. Or, better yet, participating in some citizen science, like a project called CoCoRaHS that tracks rainfall across the country.

“I would definitely recommend people doing that,” he said. “You get a little rain gauge, put it outside and you’re part of a network where there’s thousands of other people doing the same thing as you, the same time of the day as you’re doing it. It’s very interesting.”

2. Keep a routine.

Barr starts early. He wakes up around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m., and stays in bed until about 5 a.m.

“Up until a week or two ago, I would listen to the news every morning so that I could start every day either totally depressed or furious. That’s always a good way to start the day,” he said.

“Now with the whole COVID and with politics and stuff,” he said he just can’t anymore. So, he listens to old-time radio instead.

Then it’s time to clear the snow off his solar panels and file weather reports to a bunch of different agencies. The rest of the day involves work and chores interspersed with skiing.

“I kind of follow a set time schedule,” said Barr. “Sometimes I forget what day it is, but I know what time it is.”

Most importantly, he said, is leaving a reward for the end of the day. He’ll read, knit something, watch a movie and then watch a game of cricket.

“It’s pretty much the same day after day. Most of it I enjoy,” he said.

Notably absent from his daily routine: keeping a personal journal. He said he used to, for about a decade or so, but then he went back and read it. “And it was so boring. It’s like, ‘OK enough already. Let me go watch some paint dry.’ ”

3. Celebrate the stuff that matters, rather than the stuff you’re supposed to celebrate.

Barr has mostly ditched holidays and birthdays, but he does celebrate Jan. 17, when sunrise goes back to what it was on the solstice.

“To me, that’s a big deal because I get up so early in the morning that the lighter it gets, earlier, makes my day a lot easier,” he said.

He also celebrates when he gets back from skiing 8 miles each way into the town of Crested Butte for supplies.

“Town can be kind of stressful,” he said. “So I save my favorite movies and I save my favorite meals and I save things to do so when I ski back from town and I’m home, it’s like, ‘Woohoo!’ Big party time.”

4. Embrace the grumpiness.

Sometimes, Barr said, it’s kind of satisfying to be grumpy about something.

“I do get sick and tired of snow, but I like kidding about it. I live in an area where people live for snow, but I’m not that carried away with it, so I like being grumpy about it,” Barr said. “You get older and you start saying ‘OK, I’m not going to necessarily be pleasant when I don’t feel pleasant.’ ”

These days, Barr is feeling especially unpleasant.

“Ironically, I have been in contact with one person in the last nine days. That was eight days ago,” he said.

And then the guy got sick.

“I don’t know what he has, but for the last week, I’ve been sitting around wondering If I’m going to get it,” Barr said. (Another week has passed since this interview.)

Which brings us to his final tip…

5. Use movies as a mood adjuster.

“If I’m really stressed I might watch an animated movie, something cute and funny that takes my mind off it. If I’m depressed, I can reverse that,” he said.

“My tastes are reasonably fluff-oriented,” he said. Movies like Pandemic or The Shining? Hard pass. “The Princess Bride is my pretty much favorite movie. I like Hugh Grant stuff, like Love ActuallyNotting Hill.”

He also recommends Bollywood movies like Om Shanti OmBride and Prejudice and English Vinglish.

“They’re colorful. They’re pretty, there’s good music and stuff,” he said. “I have a list of favorites that I’ll only watch under certain circumstances. I save them for that.”

Here are the 357 movies at the top of his list.

About 20 years ago, Barr added a movie room onto his cabin. It has a projector, carpeted walls, and three chairs.

“I have a nice chair for me and I have two other chairs with the idea that I’d invite people up,” he said. “And I never do.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Can’t pay your April rent because of COVID-19?

Governor Bullock has stopped all evictions for nonpayment through April 10. You still have to pay your rent. It is a good idea to contact your landlord to come up with a plan to pay rent. You can find a form letter to ask your landlord to postpone, reduce, or waive rent because of the Coronavirus at You can also call 2-1-1 to see if you can get financial and other assistance.

To learn more, check out our COVID-19 section on If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try our smart search bar. Or call the Montana Legal Services Association HelpLine at 1 (800) 666-6899. Support free legal information for all Montanans at

Alex Clark
Community Outreach Assistant
Ph: (406) 543-8343 ext. 220

Informed Citizen – DIY Humanities Week #1

Former librarian Julie Edwards delves into the topic of fake news, how it spreads, and how you can take control.


Go to the link below to listen and watch this great presentation on protecting your information and knowing what to believe in this time of crisis.

Informed Citizen – DIY Humanities Week #1

Can I file for unemployment if I can’t work due to COVID-19?

Yes. Montana is extending unemployment benefits to individuals who are told to leave work without pay due to COVID-19. Even if your employer tells you that you can return to work when the business reopens, you are eligible for unemployment benefits. To apply, visit or call the Unemployment Insurance Division at (406) 444-2545.

To learn more, read our article “COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits” on If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try our smart search bar. Or call the Montana Legal Services Association HelpLine at 1 (800) 666-6899. Support free legal information for all Montanans at

Do you know how to find free tax filing software online?

Look for online tax filing programs that say “IRS Free File program delivered by…” and then the name of the business offering the free tax filing. A new IRS rule says that businesses must use this specific name to help taxpayers more easily find free tax filing options. So, make sure you’re using a tax filing program that says “IRS Free File program.”

To find in-person help with tax filing near you, visit Support free legal information for all Montanans at

Alex Clark
Community Outreach Assistant
Ph: (406) 543-8343 ext. 220

Montana Legal Services Association

1535 Liberty Lane

Suite 110D

Missoula, MT 59808

HelpLine: 1-800-666-6124
Websites: / /

What Works – And Doesn’t Work – In College Applications


What Works – And Doesn’t Work – In College Applications 

Today, I finished training three new counselors—Meredith, Rhiannon and Monica—who worked in admissions at Cornell, Sweet Briar and Harvard respectively.  During lunch, I posed the following questions to them, and I’ll share their responses here.

After you read an application, what is the biggest turn-off?

1. Arrogance

When confidence goes too far and a student is entirely too self-impressed, it’s not a likable quality.

2. Dishonesty. 

Nobody likes to be lied to.  One of the trainees said that she would count up the total number of weekly hours a student listed for activity involvement.   If the total number exceeded the total number of hours that exist in a week, she knew that something was amiss.

3. Trying too hard to be impressive.

Tell the truth and be proud of what you’ve done.  But don’t try to add marketing oomph to your messages.

What qualities always resonated?

1. Confidence

Confident kids are proud of what they’ve done, but they don’t feel the need to add a dash of marketing to make themselves sound more impressive.

2. Honesty.

A kid who was comfortable enough in her own skin to admit what she didn’t know or wasn’t good at always shined through.   The trainees were clear not to imply that everything is worth sharing.  Just don’t lie about whatever you do mention.

3. Authenticity

Just be yourself.  All three counselors agreed that this was the most important one.

KEVIN MCMULLINKevin McMullin is the Founder of Collegewise, a national college admissions counseling company, co-founder of The Princeton Review and the author of If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted. He also writes a daily college admissions blog,, and has given over 500 presentations to discuss smarter, saner college planning.