Cleaning & Organizing

Our Secret to Keeping Toys Organized

Want to know Our Secret to Keeping Toys Organized?

Well, I started by getting rid of a lot of our toys!

I have always been a huge believer in consistently purging. I have always made an effort to keep my kiddos’ toys to a minimum. I have always rotated the toys. All of that was going on around here, but folks, it still wasn’t enough. I had to get tough as nails, and ever since taking all of this to a whole new level, things have been so much better around here.

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

While it may sound easier to just not even bother and to allow our play spaces to become free-for-all areas, I try to keep the spaces simple by only having a small variety of toys available at a time. I have learned the hard way that this keeps my kids from feeling overwhelmed, but it also keeps me from flying around in a fit of rage doing what experts refer to as angry cleaning! Have you ever angry cleaned?

I have so done this (many times…ahem), and I recently read that research shows that most ‘angry cleans’ take place on Sunday night. I’m not sure who is doing such extensive research regarding this topic, but you know what? I think they’re on to something! In preparation for the week ahead, I was going through the house to tidy up from the weekend, and I would take one look around and fly off the handle (Who me? Yes, me.).

Sure, my kiddos had done their nightly pick-up, but the play areas were still a mess. Why? Because there were too many toys. As simple as I was trying to keep things, my kids were still overwhelmed with the cleanup. So there I was…yes, on Sunday nights…throwing out toys and yelling something about how I was going to load up 3/4 of the mess and dump it back at their grandma’s house. Yes, I said it. Ask my husband. He witnessed this scene on a regular basis, until I finally did something about it.

In this post, I’m sharing the best tips that have worked of us. These strategies have resulted in my kiddos being less overwhelmed and me doing a whole lot less angry cleaning. Feel free to take what you like and leave behind what won’t work for your family. Oh, and while you’re at it, be sure to share your favorite tips with us in the comments below – I love hearing fresh ideas that might make things flow more smoothly around here!

Okay, now on to the tips!

Our Secret to Keeping Toys Organized: Tip #1

Purge those Toys!

Let me warn you before we get started…our approach may seem brutal to some, but please understand that hoarder genes run STRONG in our family, so in our home, we fight clutter with a vengeance.

Let’s make it easy here at the beginning:

  • Broken Toys – Throw them away!
  • Worn Out Toys – Depending on their condition, either toss them or donate them.
  • Toys with Missing Pieces – Same as above: Depending on their condition, either toss them or donate them.
  • Toys Your Kiddos Have Outgrown – Sell or donate! – If a toy has been VERY special to your child, I suggest finding a way to display it in their room or store it with their keepsakes. Throwing out a meaningful item could result in the need for therapy.

Disclaimer: Be sensitive in this area. Some kiddos are incredibly sentimental, and while you may not believe it (especially as you read this post), I am very much that way. So, please, please, please – for the sake of sentimental souls everywhere – handle all of this with much care! Therapy is expensive! On the flip side, however, not every old toy can be special or your attic will begin to look like the Land of Misfit Toys. There’s a fine line here – See if you can find it for your crew! 

In addition to getting rid of toys that are broken, worn out, outgrown, etc. are there any other toys you can purge?

  • Do you have two of any item? (Anyone else have this problem from time to time? #firstworldproblems)
  • Do you have any toys that no one ever places with…not ever?
  • Do you have any silly fluff toys that serve no purpose? (Any toy in particular coming to mind right now?)
  • Are you sick and tired of changing batteries and want to purge some of those [loud and slightly annoying] battery-operated toys? Go for it! I love toys that teach – especially when they encourage the use of my kiddos’ imaginations – and those kind of toys usually don’t require batteries!)

Ready to grab a garbage bag yet?

I love having my kids help me with the purging process – especially just before AND after their birthday or before AND after Christmas! While we parents fear the weeping and gnashing of teeth that can come along with this kind of thing, push forward with it, mama! Make it a regular routine that is part of your family’s life, and maybe even see if you can find some creative ways to make it fun for everyone! Consistently tackling this chore trains kiddos early to grasp some really important life lessons such as:

  • It’s not healthy to keep EVERYTHING.
  • It’s important to purge the old to create space – literally and figuratively.
  • It’s also a great time to encourage sharing with others less fortunate AND to teach kids how to make money off any of the purged items that they choose to sell. My mama taught me these kinds of things at a young age, and I am so glad she did! HUGE life lessons here, friends!

P.S. Looking for some clutter-free gift ideas for kids? Check out these 5 Non-Toy Gift Ideas for Kids!

Our Secret to Keeping Toys Organized: Tip #2

 Organize those Toys! 

How do I organize our toys? I can answer that question with one word: Baskets…but just a few of them!

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

Please do not drop everything and run to your nearest Home Goods to purchase 438 baskets in which to organize your kiddos’ toys. You have GOT to start with the purging process. You have GOT to get rid of toys before you can successfully organize. You have GOT to do a major clean out of your toys before the whole situation can become manageable. Whether you’re talking about toys or clothes or your kitchen cabinets or the madness that can be the garage, to continue organizing an overwhelming amount of STUFF does not truly solve the problem and simply leads to more frustration in the end!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am preachin’ to the choir!

Okay, moving on…

After you have purged, purged, purged, and kept ONLY the very best favorite toys that your child actually plays with and learns from and enjoys often, it’s time to organize!

Here’s a little glimpse in to what we do!

This will look different for every family…for every season of life – depending on the age of your kids, etc…but for now, this is what is working for us!

In our living room, we have three large decorative baskets:

These three baskets retail for around $50-$75 each, but I found all three of them at yard sales and didn’t pay more than $5 for any of them. You may already have baskets on hand that would work for this!

One houses books (that I swap out seasonally).Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

One houses blocks (that we build with often).

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

One houses our play animals – most of them are Schleich animals which we love (No batteries – Just imagination!).

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

Not only do these three baskets fit with our family room decor, but they also make clean up easy! Even at a really, really young age, my kiddos know where these items go when they’re finishing playing with them. Our family room has been a great training ground for toy clean-up.

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

Is this where I tell you that I refuse to clean up toys? My kids are responsible for their own toys. This is part of the reason why keeping toys to a minimum is super important around here. The amount of toys must be manageable for a toddler to clean up – I am not kidding. The training can be exhausting at first. The pay off is worth every second! 

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

In our playroom, we have a variety of baskets: 

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

and couple of these little red Ikea storage units. These are perfect for larger toys! Green Toys and B Toys are our favs!

As I notice my kids getting tired of toys, I will rotate them out of play for awhile. I store books/educational activities in our homeschool closet…Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

…and I store toys/activities on a high shelf in the playroom closet.

Rotating items creates space and gives my kids a break from things they’ve grown bored with over time. After several weeks, I will pull the items back out (rotating other things out of play), and it’s always a fresh start.

For storing smaller toys that are out of rotation, I use these fantastic clear bins from IKEA. I love the way they stack! They are also perfect for storing homeschooling resources, art supplies, Playdoh sets, Mr. Potato Head’s body parts, you get the idea.

Some Final Thoughts and Tips:

In the kitchen, I keep a book/toy basket near my cooking area. This gives my youngest ones something to do while I’m cooking dinner, and when it’s time to clean up, they know right where everything is supposed to go! This has been a huge help to me – especially during that difficult hour (or two) before Daddy gets home from the office!

The kitchen area is also where I keep our art supply/messy sensory supplies.

Simplify Toys - Toy Organization

In the bathroom, taming the toys has been easy with this bathtub organizer basket from Kidco.

In the bedrooms, I keep the toys to a minimum. Most of our toys are kept in our family room/playroom area, but I like to keep a few quiet books/toys in a basket in their bedrooms so they have something to do when I ask them to play quietly in their rooms. (Another area where the training can be exhausting, but well worth the effort!)

In the garage, there is a large plastic bin for beach toys…a large plastic bin for Nerf guns and accessories…a large basket for balls, frisbees, etc., a small plastic bin for smaller items like sidewalk chalk, bubbles – You get the idea. This will definitely be an area that changes as my kids get older, become more involved in sports, etc.

I keep our games/puzzles in the homeschool area, and we use these during school time or on family game nights.

Now that my boys are getting older, their day-to-day play mostly includes outdoor toys like their bikes and Legos!  They are wild about Legos – to peek inside the space we’ve created for this, hop over here to read about our Tinker Lab.

Tinker Lab - STEM Toys and Activities - This Little Home of Mine

Every evening, before bath time/bedtime, the whole family works together to do a quick cleanup of our living spaces. Mama tackles the kitchen with the older kids while hubby guides the younger ones to do a tidy of the living room/play room area. The basket system makes this a quick tidy! We have settled in to a nice little routine with this. The training pays off – I promise!

Looking to do some purging of your clothes closets?

The answer to this one simple question could lead to a complete overhaul.

How to Simplify Your Wardrobe

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3 Comments

  1. This is something I really really need to do (and I’ve been saying that for a long time!). My boys are 3 and 1 and I totally see how having ALL THE TOYS out all the time is overwhelming, and mostly just creates messes for me to clean up/step on! Thanks for being so detailed here, I’m pinning this for later and will hopefully tackle my toy clutter sometime this week!

    1. Hey Erin! Just checking in to see how things are going with this! I’ve been reorganizing a few of our spaces this week, and I’m definitely trying to stay focused on keeping things tame with the toys! 🙂

  2. This is really helpful! Do you have any suggestions for keeping smaller toys away from little children? Mine are 5,3, and 1. Even my 3 yr old still occasionally mouths things, but I don’t want to limit my 5 yr old to toys that are baby-safe. By the way, we really like the spinaroos by B toys that you recommended! I bought them for my youngest to play with while I do school with the older ones, but they all love them! Definitely not purging those soon 🙂

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