It wasn’t an avalanche. It didn’t happen all at once. It was a very slow drowning.
I only had one child who had received a very modest amount of Christmas presents. Our families had followed all our rules requesting nothing that made noise and not too many small pieces. We placed the toys on the floor around her little bedroom so she could reach them as she toddled about. The next Christmas brought more toys, which we then spread around the living room floor. Several Christmases and another child later, we were drowning in toys.
We had planned for a nursery, not a toy store.
It quickly became apparent that we were lacking a system. Toy storage was at the top of the list of needs, but a system for managing those toys would save our sanity. We needed a way to inventory what we had and to manage the influx of new treasures every birthday and Christmas.
After a particularly rage-y day (you know the kind when you step on that toy for the last time), I went scorched earth on the toys. I recommend going scorched earth at least twice a year. Pro tip: the weeks leading up to Christmas are a particularly good time. Here’s what you do:
- Throw away anything broken or damaged beyond repair. See my thoughts on broken toys.
- Make a pile of toys your kids don’t play with or have grown out of. You can donate, resell, or save these toys for future kids/grandkids. Just get them out of your playroom.
- You know all those toys from happy meals and the dentist? Fling them into the sun. (Just kidding. Don’t litter.)
That should take care of a good number of toys. Now that you’ve trimmed the fat, let’s organize everything that’s left in A SYSTEM YOUR CHILDREN CAN MANAGE THEMSELVES. I can’t stress enough how thoroughly liberating it is when your kids can put away toys without needing a traffic cop (i.e., you). Storage is key. When a kid doesn’t know where something goes, their motivation to clean up drops by 4,000% (my own research).
The Toy Box Dump
A classic toy storage solution that has stood the test of time. My father-in-law made this toy box that also doubles as extra seating when we have people over. It is the easiest for kids to use when cleaning up, although we have found that our kids have trouble locating a specific toy afterward. Still a worthy investment for larger toys that are hard to categorize.
I use storage bins for two purposes. The large storage bins are for our rotating toys. We have several storage bins full of toys that rotate into the playroom. Every few months, we pack up one storage bin, send it to the garage, and bring out a new storage bin. It keeps a steady stream of fresh toys flowing for the kids and reduces the amount of toys inside the house at any given time. The small bins are great for organizing similar toys. We have a hot wheel bin, a bouncy ball bin, and several other random collections. We operate under a “if it fits, it ships” policy and store these small bins inside the toy box to make toys easier to find.
This is my favorite way to organize toys. It’s so simple that even my two-year-old can understand the system. Kids can easily slide the cubes out and put toys away themselves. The BEST thing we ever did was label them. Neither of my kids can read yet, so I added pictures of all the toys that belong in each cube. Using the pictures, my kids can find the toy they want without dumping everything out AND put it away in its correct place. Some generalities were needed, including a picture of a kid’s face on a cube for anything they felt belonged to them.
Wire Storage Cubes
I love that these can be configured to fit any space. Ours are currently in the middle of our playroom and facing two directions at one time. The top row is open to one wall and is used for toys. The bottom row opens to the opposite wall and is used for books.
Stuffed Animal Bean Bag
We don’t actually have this, but it’s on my wish list. It’s a great solution for all those stuffed animals that doubles as a bean bag chair.
Dress Up Hanging Rack
Last Christmas, my daughter asked for dress up clothes. We already had a large selection of dress up clothes that were always strewn about the house. Her grandparents came through with several new princess dresses, but they also included a dress up storage closet and hangers! *Note to grandparents: toy storage is always a welcome addition to all those Christmas gifts.* My father-in-law made this one, but they can be found in many places online.