As a mom of three boys ages 3, 6 and 8, I can honestly say that on a daily basis I feel like I am living in the midst of a toy explosion. I can’t tell you how many times I have tripped or stepped on Legos, balls, Hot Wheels and their latest collecting obsession – rocks.
I wish I could say that my boys were the problem, which in some respects they are, but ultimately the fault is mine. We have too much stuff and being the pack rat that I am, I have a hard time letting something go especially if I can keep passing down the line from one son to the next. I admit that I even drive my husband nuts because I will keep broken toys too. My boys are rough on toys so if they find function from a broken toy by using their imagination I’m all for it. Generally they break something about once a day so if I can prolong the life of something I spent cash on, I do.
I have always had the toys somewhat organized in bins but when we moved earlier this year into a home that was much smaller than our previous one I had to put my toy hoarding days to an end and quickly come up with seven solutions for our toy storage problems.
1. Bin Sorting
Bins come in extremely handy for organizing toy clutter. One thing to keep in mind is that there are bins of varying colors, shapes, textures and sizes that will fit your needs. Bins organize while at the same time add style and function to any room.
2. Keep Like Items Together
I have bins in each room where toys are kept. The bulk of the toys are kept in my children’s bedrooms and the overflow is neatly tucked away within wicker baskets that match my entertainment center in our family room. The bins in the family room are for the kid related objects that I like to have some supervision of like art supplies, work books, play-doh, board games and the like. The bins in my children’s room are canvas and in those they sort their toys according to type. Some examples of those bins include little cars, medium to large cars, animals, blocks, action figures, balls and stuffed animals. I also enjoy using stackable clear plastic storage bins for larger shelving units or on top of their closet.
3. Encourage Your Children to Get Involved
I have learned that cleaning up with my children helps the process move quickly and efficiently. I notice that when I am involved my boys are happier because it becomes a group effort to keep our home looking nice. For easy cleanup the boys know which bin to put their toys based on the type. I encourage all the boys to pay attention to where the toys belong – not just throw them in to the first bin they see. They learn that every item has a place and that it’s also what you expect from them when they are saddled with the task of cleaning up after themselves.
This is also really helpful for adults to discover if there are certain items due to size or location that are particularly difficult for your child to put away by themselves. Sometimes we forget how small they are and what it’s like for them to reach for items at their height level. To make things easier organize your room so that they most used toys are placed towards the bottom and the lesser used or toys or those that require adult supervision are stored higher up. Working together is a great way for adults to adapt and change the arrangement of a particular room to make it more child-friendly for clean-up time.
4. The Catch All
I also keep one large empty basket, which I call the catch all basket, in the family room for a quick clean up. This one basket I use for everything and then each night, or every couple of days depending upon what’s inside, I go through it and have the boys put the items away where they belong. It’s a simple and easy way for everyone to keep a handle on the daily toy explosion.
5. Label, Label and then Label Some More
I’m a label lover, it’s true. I love seeing the labels on the bins. Plus it definitely helps reduce the whine claiming, “But I don’t know where it goes!”, which is something that my boys say constantly. Having the label helps because not only can my oldest son read what item goes where but so can my husband or babysitter. My husband is just as guilty as the boys are of throwing things in bins just to clear the floor. The labels allow for no excuses. Keep in mind that for younger children that aren’t able to read you can label bins with pictures too. This is very helpful for encouraging involvement from my 3 year old.
6. Earn Some Extra Cash While You Are At It
You and I both know that we spend tons of cash on toys each year. Some of the toys our children outgrow quickly and others are extremely well loved for years. Many of the larger toys that your children outgrow, including outdoor toys, are extremely coveted even in used condition. I have sold many toys through Craigslist and our annual garage sale. With a little elbow grease most toys can look almost new again. There are many daycare centers, parents and grandparents that are willing to pay for your gently used toys. If a toy was particularly expensive when you purchased it than it most likely has a good resale value.
7. Help Those in Your Community
Selling toys can be time consuming and sometimes the easiest, and more rewarding thing to do, is to donate them to your local charity. Every couple of months as a family we collectively go through our toys and books. We re-sort each bin and make sure that if any toys are in the wrong bin that they make it to the right one. During this time to we go through and remove any toys and books that are no longer being used and we donate them to charity. I love that this process reminds our children that they are lucky to have so much and encourages them to think about other children that are less fortunate. This process is also really very helpful in preparation for birthdays and Christmas. My kids are always extremely eager to make room for new toys!