Toy clutter

Living room with toys strew all over the floor and fireplace

You are probably living with toys all over your house: in the family room, on the kitchen floor, in every bedroom. When you’re on top of it and you get the entire house picked up, BOOM! Everything manages to come back out before you can make yourself a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine) to celebrate your awesomeness. Every birthday and holiday brings even more into your house with no hope of ever keeping up.

Come join me in my fantasy land: the kids are in their playroom, taking out blocks from their designated container, building towers together for 20 minutes by themselves before cleaning them up and putting everything back on the shelf.

Short of getting rid of most of the toys when the kids aren’t looking, you’ve got to come up with a plan to deal with all of this stuff. Toy rotations and organizing toys by type are the best ways to keep everything corralled. Toys are easier to locate when kids want to play and easier to pick up when they’re done. When they have less choice and less stress, everyone is happier.

For younger kids, especially the immobile ones, I like to put one type of toy in each box (one touch and feel book, one board book, one car, one rattle, one teether, one stuffed animal). You rotate through 4-5 boxes, changing them out every day, week, or whenever you remember. As our kid has gotten to toddling around the house on her own, our main play areas are the family room and playroom so the main bin is in the former with the extra bins in the latter. Every so often, I switch what’s in the bins so that we can make new combinations of toys: balls in the stacking cups, then next week, we can do stuffed animals on top of the stacking cups.

You can try the toy rotation if you have older kids, but they tend to notice (and comment!) if something specific is gone. Your daughter may always want the Legos available and cars may be your son’s favorite toys. If that’s the case, then keep them available, even if you rotate all of the other toys.

Another idea is to separate them into containers by type of toy: all the cars in one bin, all Legos, all markers. The kids can pick and choose which specific bin they want to play with at the moment. The key to both toy rotation and toy compartmentalization is that they must pick up each bin before getting out a new one!  If your kids are struggling with the idea, read about toy time-outs and how you can make kids more accountable.

You may find that a combination of the two works for your family: rotating the crayons for markers, the stuffed animals for the cars, and the blocks for the balls, while keeping their go-to toys always available.

In your perfect world, there would be fewer toys. But that’s another dream for another day.

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Organizing Champaign-Urbana

Professional organizer in Champaign-Urbana, with a philosophy of reduce, arrange, maintain.

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