How I Organize My Kids’ Stuff

I saw something floating around the internet awhile ago that said something to the effect of:

1. Happy kids

2. Clean house

3. Your sanity

Choose 2.

It’s popped into my head on more than a few of the, ahem, “rougher” days since and although I certainly find it to be true at times, for the most part keeping some semblance of all 3 doesn’t have to seem impossible. I think it is possible to have happy kids, a clean (enough) house, and your sanity all intact, if not on all, then on most days. So today I’m going to share how we keep our kids’ toys under control, organized and mostly out of our way. Now I’m no organizational expert or super experienced mom. I’ve been doing this for less than 5 years, but I do have 3 small children who want it all and have generous relatives to oblige them, which we love and it’s a blessing but…at one point we lived in a 900 sq ft apt and my husband and I were both working full-time and I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and I felt completely powerless and out of control with their stuff. It affected me, like really affected me on a daily basis. And then we moved – again – and had sort and reorganize – again. We’ve done this more times than we’d like to remember over the last 5 years and we’ve learned a lot. So here are my 3 tips for controlling kid toy clutter.

STEP 1

Buy a reasonable number of pretty baskets, colorful cubes, and a storage ottoman/lidded trunk or two. Make sure you like whatever you choose and that your kids can pick up each type of small container you get. You won’t mind having these displayed in your living room if you like the style of the container and let’s face it, kids want to play where we are, so toys will be a part of main living spaces.

STEP 2

Keep out only the toys that will fit in the containers from step 1 and store or give away the rest. This is a great way to pare down toys. My biggest obstacle in getting started controlling our toy chaos was determining which toys stayed and which went away. I struggled with this for too long but then I changed my perspective to, “How many containers will reasonably fit in our home?” and it jumpstarted my ability to pare down. Determining how much space we, as a family, are willing to dedicate to kids’  toys was an important step. It felt good to say: This is our boundary. This is enough, and we won’t feel guilty that we are depriving our children of the joys of play, because we aren’t.

STEP 3

Don’t wait to start this until you have the perfect number of baskets and bins for each category of toy with them all perfectly labeled. Determine how much space you have, get your containers and get started! None of our containers are labeled. I’m not a labeling person, but if that’s your thing, go for it! Just don’t let a lack of labels prevent you from starting.

In Practice

We’re pretty flexible with how this system works and that’s part of what makes it feel so freeing for us. Our bins and baskets go a little something like this. Cars, dress up, babies and their accessories, super heroes/figurines, legos, blocks, baby toys, misc.

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We have a misc basket downstairs and one upstairs. Once we get all the categorized stuff put away, there tends to be all these little pieces that don’t go with anything. When we get to that point of cleaning up, the kids love it because their last basket to fill is just everything. Everything that’s left gets tossed in.

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Cleaning up needs to be manageable so we have a few small clean up times during the day. They often occur before naps/quiet time and before bed, but they may also occur the few minutes before they have to stop playing to wash up for a meal or sometimes I assign them each one room to clean. We also have family cleaning frenzies. This is something we used to do when I was a kid and I still do it for myself as an adult so I’m teaching my kids to do it with me. I set a timer for 10 minutes and we clean as much as we can as fast as we can but it’s only for 10 minutes so we never feel overwhelmed. You’d be surprised how much you can do in 10 minutes!

All of the toys that don’t fit in our designated number of toy containers are stored in plastic bins in the attic. Every so often I will get a request for a certain toy or asked to get some “new” toys so we will do a trade. They understand everything still has to fit in the bins we have in the house, so a trade makes sense to them and we avoid any disagreement.

For large toys, like their keyboard, baby stroller, and vacuum, we have a large shelving unit in their bedroom closet. It holds baskets of smaller toys and all the larger toys they have out at the time. Shelves make it easy for them to put away and take out whatever they want and the highest one is useful for me to keep board games, puzzles, and other toy items I don’t necessarily want them to have access to without supervision.

I hope you can use these tips to make your life with toys more pleasant.

What systems do you have in place for toys in your house?

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