Toys have the crazy ability to multiply and spread to every corner of your home. If you’re ready to change that, these six practical tips can help you keep the toy chaos under control.
Living with constant clutter is no fun for anyone. It creates cursing parents when they step on random Lego pieces and complaining kids when they can’t find their favorite toys. And let’s not forget the risk of toys getting broken because they’re buried under a huge pile of crap.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. You gotta stand firm and set concrete rules, boundaries, and expectations. It’s the only way to control the madness.
Once your kids are on board with the mission, you can all enjoy some clutter-free living.
Set “No Toy” Zones
It’s nice to make certain areas of your home a toy-free zone—every day, and forever. Have a meeting with your kids to discuss “no toy” zones. You can even write them down and post them on the fridge or in another highly visible area.
Here are a few popular off-limit zones you might want to consider enforcing:
- The kitchen: The exception to this one might be fridge magnets. However, if your kids throw them on the floor, pack them away.
- Your bedroom: It’s okay to say no to your personal space being invaded by toys. This can also apply to your home office.
- The bathroom: If they have bath toys, keep them confined to the tub. No other types of toys should be allowed in this room. You definitely don’t need a toy truck getting lodged in the toilet!
- The living room: Some families use their living room as a playroom. Even if you do, though, you can still specify certain rules, such as no toys on the couch, coffee table, or TV stand. Not only does this prevent toys from going missing (many disappear under couch cushions), but it gives you somewhere to sit without fearing a toy soldier will stab you in the tushy.
The golden rule of decluttering is that everything needs a designated space if you want an organized, clutter-free life. This theory works because once you’ve put everything where it belongs, there’s no more clutter on the floor. Magic!
So, spend some time with your kiddos deciding where everything belongs. This stage of organization is very time-intensive, so try to block out a weekend for it. However, once you have everything situated, it’s super easy to maintain.
Here are a few top ideas for organizing:
- Bookshelves: Make sure you have enough space to properly store every book, with extra space for those to come. Try these wall shelves, this colorful option, or this cute cube shelf.
- Underbed storage: You want to utilize every nook of storage space in your home, including under the beds. You can get some plastic bins or canvas storage bags.
- Locking cabinets: Putting locks on cabinets can really keep the toys under control. It prevents your kids from pulling everything out at once.
- Big bins: Investing in solid storage bins will help a ton! Just make sure you label everything so your kids know where the “blocks,” “dolls,” or “Play-Doh” goes. We love these because the bright colors make them easy to identify.
- Small bins: This set of four is perfect for smaller items, like crayons, doll clothes, or Lego pieces.
- A “catch-all” Bin: It’s also good to have one or two open bins for when things get out of control. Your kids can dump everything in one of these, and then sort it all out later. It’s a quick way to immediately see your floor again.
- A pool noodle: This might seem silly, but it actually works! If you scrunch a long pool noodle under your couch, it prevents toys from rolling underneath. Brilliant!
Packing away at least half your child’s toys is a great way to keep things under control. The key is actually hiding them. Then, whenever you pull them out, it’ll be like they’re brand-new again!
We suggest storing them in a closet or cabinet with doors. You can also install some baby latches up high and out of reach of nimble little fingers.
Make sure the toys are in a sealable container or bin, so they’ll remain dust-free during their time-out. Label them clearly so you know what’s inside—you can even go all out with this cool label maker. You might also want to put the date of storage on the bins or set an alarm on your phone so you’ll know when it’s time to change out toys.
The time between rotations is entirely up to you. If you want, you can just wait until your kids seem bored and restless. If they’re young enough, opening the “new” old bins will be like Christmas. Wow, a new truck! Yeah, sure.
Just don’t forget about the hidden toys! As annoying as they might be, they’re are meant to be played with.
The true secret to toy management is owning less stuff. But how do you actually enforce that when your kids are bombarded with tons of crap every birthday, Christmas, Easter, or just for the heck of it?
One approach is to require that your children donate one toy for every new one that enters the house. This keeps your toy-to-home ratio in balance.
Another idea is to set aside one day each month to collect all ignored or rejected toys. If it’s been sitting around collecting dust, it’s time for it to go. You can set these in a donation bin in the garage for a month or two just to make sure your child won’t miss them or cry over their disappearance. Then, take them to the thrift store or consider selling them.
Finally, you can also request that friends and relatives gift experiences rather than clutter this Christmas. Stuff like gift cards for dancing or horseback riding lessons, money for summer camp, or even a contribution toward your child’s savings account are all ideal.
Clean as You Go
Try not to wait until an unsurmountable toy mountain appears in the center of the living room to start the cleanup. Instead, teach your children to maintain order by doing short cleanups throughout the day.
Let’s say your child pulls down a bin of wooden blocks. When she’s done playing with them, she puts them all back in the “blocks” bin. Then, you help her put the bin back on the shelf. Only after everything is put away is she allowed to pull down the next bin of toys.
This approach is more effective if you’re able to store the toy bins out of your child’s reach. Yes, this means helping them transition to the next activity, but trust us, it’s worth it to live clutter-free.
As your child gets older, she’ll understand and appreciate this system, and learn to follow it without adult supervision.
Inspiring Books and Shows
Children learn by example. You can take the lead as a role model by showing them how you clean-as-you-go and get rid of things you no longer use. But in the end, they might need outside inspiration to kick them into gear.
Here are a few effective books and shows geared specifically toward toy organization and clean-up:
- The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room: Mama bear loses it when the cubs’ room becomes unbearably messy. This book shows how they team up and create a solid organizational system for the shared bedroom. They use labeled bins, a toy box, and a cool pegboard.
- Cami Kangaroo Has Too Much Stuff: This colorful, fun book shows how it’s impossible to find a particular item when there’s too much clutter. Kids will relate to the adorable kangaroo, and the book offers plenty of practical tips on how to clean, sort, and purge.
- Daniel Tiger’s Clean Up Time: This effective, entertaining video shows the importance of cleaning up your toys. It’s highly recommended for preschool-aged children.
- Little Baby Bum’s Tidy Up Song: This fun video shows young children putting their toys in bins and storing them on shelves. It’s geared toward both toddlers and preschoolers.
Helping your kids create a solid organizational system takes a bit of planning and time. Once it’s in place, though, it’s easy to maintain. Just stay firm on the rules, and soon, you’ll have move space to move around. Plus, the toys are bound to last longer!