Day 257 Decluttering Kids Birthdays Part 2

Decluttering Kid Birthday Parties

A guest post by Cindy Bogard

Last week on Day 252 I covered family birthday parties without clutter, but what about the crazy excess that comes from a big bash with a bunch of kids? There are so many gifts and so much waste generated by the average party. Most seem to end with a big Santa sack of gifts and an equally big one of trash.

The quickest way to cut down on waste is by restricting the number of kids. In my experience, though, the kids want to invite everyone in their class until second or third grade. (My parents restricted me to one guest per year of age, but I have not continued with this rule in my own parenting.)

My next idea requires buy-in from your kids, but I know it can be done because it’s common in my younger daughter’s class. Gifts are gathered at the birthday party for a charity, not for the birthday child. The animal shelter has been popular, but we’ve also collected gifts for the women’s and children’s shelters.

You could also have a wishing well where a gift of cash is put by each child and the money could be donated to the charity of their choice or kept to put in the child’s college fund. I have been to weddings where they have wishing wells and it is very convenient for both the giver and the receiver.

And what about those (often) junky, plastic-filled goodie bags that somehow have become a requirement at all parties? If your party involves a craft, decorate paper bags too, and let the craft go into the bag and be the party favor. Otherwise, I encourage you to either give something functional (we’ve given marker sets and pool noodles and have received socks) or skip this step completely. I honestly don’t think the kids will notice, and I think the parents will be grateful you haven’t added to their junk load.

As for the party trash itself, in many cities, gift wrap and tissue can be recycled. Gift bags, cute decorations and bows can always be saved for another go around.

I encourage the use of non-disposables at the party. I have two dozen glass plates I bought at thrift stores and another two dozen reusable plastic plates. I use my real silverware, and if I need more, I use the plasticware that will be washed and reused. I serve the kids’ beverages out of a large container and do not use bottled water or juice boxes. I use my own glasses, and if I need more, I use the sturdy plastic ones that restaurants give out with their kids’ meals. I put a piece of tape on the cup and write the child’s name with Sharpie. When I have to use paper plates or cups, I write the kids’ names on both the plate and cup.

Even if you’re having your party at a park or special venue, bringing your own reusable party wear and taking it away afterwards are not hard. An extra box or picnic basket will help you tote the load.

The first time my Mom saw me setting up a party like this she asked, “Is this what your friends do?” I replied, “I don’t have to follow my friends, Mom. I can lead them.”

From Colleen

One the subject of Children’s parties I have a little Aussie treat that has always been popular at kids parties in Australia since way back when. This treat is called Fairy Bread and all it is is pieces of bread butters with sprinkles on top. (the sprinkles you would put on a cake) so simple but always well received. Give it a try.


Just one more odd item that never finds it’s way to the top of the utensil drawer
Microwave stirrer

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. You’ve stumped me Colleen. What is that item that you’re decluttering?

  2. Thanks, Cindy, for sharing these ideas with us. They’ll work well for all kinds of parties, including baby and wedding showers.

  3. Oh I remember those microwave stirry thingies.. Threw mine out years ago.

    • Hi Susan,
      yeh it seemed like a good idea at the time when my mother gave it to me but then I never used it. At least I didn’t waste any money on it.

  4. I’m with Cindy: What is that thing??

  5. A spaghetti server? Just guessing.

    @ Cindy – another great post – and it really is so nice to eat from real plates with real cutlery, even if it makes more dishes to wash! (no dishwasher here)

    • Thank you so much for your words of encouragement.

      I’m so into decluttering that my daughter went to a birthday party the other day, and it did not even occur to me to get a gift until another mother said something about it. Head slap!

      In keeping with my no unwanted gifts commitment, I did something I hadn’t done before and gave money because I knew the birthday girl was saving to buy a new comforter set. Felt a little strange, but it was what she really wanted.

  6. These are great ideas for showers, too, as Willow said. It’s encouraging to hear that party gifts can be charity-oriented. I like that, and wish I’d thought of it as an option back in the kid-party days!

  7. @Cindy – great post! (Parts 1 and 2). With a growing 21 month old, these tips will come in handy.

    BTW, if you move your mouse over the picture of the “thing” the picture captions comes up and says its a “microwave stirrer”.

  8. Colleen’s comment about the Fairy Bread reminds me of similar we were given for a treat when I was small: buttered bread with a sprinkling of white sugar on top. I remember enjoying it very much.