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Downsize Without Tears

You've got too much kid stuff. Yet try to chuck that one-armed Barbie or dented dump truck, and suddenly your child can't live without it. How to lose the excess and keep the peace?

* Go through books and toys together. Have your child choose some things still in good shape to give to needy kids. "We started this when Cody was 4 1/2; we got two huge bags of toys, and he couldn't wait for them to be picked up. We now do it twice a year," says Colorado mom Chris Kerridge.

* Hold a garage sale, and let your child buy one new item with the proceeds from selling some old ones.

* Use the power of praise. Laud a job well done (or a sincere-if-imperfect effort).

* Create a holding zone. If your child's too little to make a real decision, stash broken or ignored toys and books where she won't find them. If she hasn't missed an item in a month or two, it's fair game for donation or disposal. Just cart it away in a black garbage bag, so she won't see it go.

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