By contributor Cheyenne Bell
Christmas has come and gone, and if you have kids, you’ve inevitably ended up with a new lion’s share of toys to add to your already-overwhelming collection.
Now is the time to get the toys under control before they begin to take over the whole house!
Here are some simple ways to start the process of organizing it all:
1. Toss It
If it’s broken, missing pieces, or your kids have outgrown it, either toss or donate it.
Be brutal with this step.
I promise, your kids won’t miss the broken toys as much as you think they will and if it was really important to them, replace the item with one that is not broken or missing pieces.
Also, consider donating duplicate/similar toys. Your child probably doesn’t need 23 Melissa & Doug puzzles, so if there are a few favorites, keep them and donate the rest to a charity or thrift store, or sell them in a garage sale and make a little cash!
2. Categorize It
Use bins or tubs to keep like items together. Put all trains in one bin, Barbies in another, Legos in another, and so on. Then, take a polaroid photo of the items and tape it to the outside of the bin so that little ones can recognize where to put the toys back when they’re done playing with them.
Small plastic tubs are very easy to come by, especially this time of year, and can be found for very cheap. Some of my favorite small tubs have come from the Target Dollar Spot, the Dollar Store and Wal-Mart. Keep your eyes peeled and buy more than you think you need because, I promise, you can always find a place for them!
I like to use storage bins EVERYWHERE. We have some in the playroom. And some in my daughter’s room. We are a bin-happy family and it really helps us to keep the clutter under control.
3. Rotate It
Start rotating the toys to keep things fresh and exciting. Keep several toys out for a month or two at a time with the others put away in a closet or toy box.
After a month or two, switch the toys that have been out with different toys from the closet or toy box. Your kids will have a renewed interest in the “new” toys and you will be spared from having everything out all at once.
Here is a great article discussing the art of toy rotation.
4. Display It
Use your wall space to keep books and toys off the floor and in your kids’ line of sight. Encourage your kids to read more by making their books accessible to them.
Display the front covers of books as opposed to only the spines by using picture ledge shelves to store books facing outward and hang them at a level that your kids can reach on their own.
One of my favorite ways of doing this is to hang painted IKEA spice racks and fill them with my kids’ favorite books. The spice racks are very inexpensive, solid wood, and very sturdy. You can keep them their natural birch color or paint them to match your kid’s room. So versatile!
You can also hang crates or bins on the wall to maximize your storage space. You can find simple, unfinished crates at many craft stores.
5. Bag It
Use laundry bags to store balls, blocks, and stuffed animals. I use a simple mesh laundry bag to corral all the plastic balls that go with my kid’s ball pit.
Use pencil bags to store smaller toys like puzzles pieces, small cars, markers and crayons. I use this trick with my daughter’s many puzzles. I cut the picture off the front of the box and put it and all the pieces in a pencil bag I found at the dollar store. Then I consolidate all the pencil bags in a large 3-ring binder. It’s saved a ton of space and kept those small pieces all in one place.
6. Hide It
Every time my mother-in-law comes over, she always comments that my living room looks like no kids live in my house. Part of that is because I clean my house like a mad person before my in-laws come to town, but it’s also because I’ve gotten very good at hiding all of my kid’s toys in a way that they can still access them, but I don’t have to look at them (or trip over them) all the time.
For me, I “built” a sofa table that acts as storage. I bought two 2-cubby bookshelves at Target and set them up, standing vertically, at each end of the sofa. I then bought 4 1X2X6 pine boards, stained them to match my coffee table, and simply laid them across the two bookshelves to create a table top.
Finally, I bought two canvas bins for each of the bookshelves and there is where I keep all the kid’s toys. The bins are easy for the kids to slide in and out to access their toys and cleaning up has become a breeze!
There are so many other ways you can keep the toys out of sight when they’re not in use (large baskets, a small bookshelf with bins, an old trunk); you just have to think outside the box a little!
So there you have just a few ways you can start getting your toy clutter under control. The possibilities are endless! Just use a little creativity (or spend five minutes on Pinterest!) Happy organizing!