Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Organizing Toys


I don't think I've bought a single toy in my four years as a parent {maybe one or two odd exceptions to this?}... yet somehow, they multiply. In incessant droves from well-meaning, generous folks who love me and my kids and are a true blessing to us. We love the people- but sometimes I get overwhelmed by all of the toys!

I've worked a lot over the past 6 months or so to narrow down our selection and organize it in a way that promotes creative play, makes clean-up easier, and storage a whole lot more manageable. I think we are finally getting into our groove, so I'd love to share what works for us. It may or may not sound like a good idea to you- everyone is different, so please feel free to adopt what works and heartily reject what doesn't ;).

To start with, I collected every single toy from each corner of the house and threw it in a big pile in the center of my living room, right before putting my kids to bed for the night. Purging and sorting through toys with wide awake kids is virtually impossible in my experience!

We put on a movie and I went through it all, piece-by-piece, putting all the pieces of sets together, throwing away broken items, and sorting each toy by type {vehicles. food. figurines. lego. baby toys}. Yes, it was kind of a headache, but Netflix is good aspirin.

My kids are young enough that I still feel confident making the decisions for them of what to keep and what to toss. I took a close look at my sorted piles and asked of each item: Do they play with it? Do I want them to play with it? What do we like about this toy? What don't we like about it? From there, a whole bunch went into the "donate" box.

My daughter isn't big into stuffed animals or larger dolls, so I pared down the massive collection {so impossible to store!} to about 5 favorites. That adorable toy broom? Most often used to whack a sibling or knock mom's stuff off the counters- gone. I also got rid of almost every noise-making or light up device, because well, for one, annoying, but two, apparently hampers the creativity of children. But really, just annoying is enough for me.

Once I had a sense of what I was keeping, it was easier to designate the size of bin or type of storage each kind of toy needed. All of the toys went into new bins, and all of the bins have been labeled. This process took awhile. I kept all of the toys without bins locked away in a room my kids don't go into, and picked up appropriate containers as I had time and chance.


All of the toys with new homes went up high out of my children's reach, or hidden in drawers. Our new mode of operation is that the kids ask for what it is they want to play with. I pull out one or two bins at a time, and before they can have something new they have to pick up the old toys first.

For some people this might sound too controlling, and I get that. In our case, it works really well. Part of the problem my kids had with cleaning up is that too many toys can be just plain overwhelming. Now it is an easier, {slightly less} painful process that occurs several times a day.

I've also noticed that because they don't see every toy every single day, and because they aren't trying to play in a messy pile of toys, each toy tends to hold their attention longer. They seem to really enjoy the stuff they have a lot more.

There are still things they can grab to play with without my help- books are on a low shelf in S's room, W's construction trucks line the shelves of his bedroom, dress ups are in pull-out bins under S's bed, and the sun room at the back of our home houses a large doll house and riding/push toys {zebra, car, doll stroller}.

Probably the biggest sanity saver for me is that I no longer keep any toys in my living room. While we bring out toys and play in there during the day, every night it becomes a kid-free zone. Beautiful! I store pretty much everything in the top of my daughter's closet, and in a dresser in my son's room. Having the main area of my home empty of kid clutter prevents adult sensory overload. At least for me and my husband.

Who, speaking of, still feels like we could shed additional toy weight. And he may be right. But we have made a ton of progress, the toys we have seem in nicer shape and are put away nicely almost every day, and I don't feel quite so overwhelmed. Big progress in my book!


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