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how to organize kids toys

Kids are little pack rats.  If you haven’t reached that stage, this includes all of them – no exceptions.  They will go through your trash and pull things out to play with, they will keep every trinket and want to keep every toy and stuffed animal they are given.  It starts off cute, and goes downhill quickly.

The more they hold on to, the crazier and more cluttered your house gets.  It’s time to back the living room!  Figuring out how to get control over the toys is the biggest hurdle, but once you do they will never complain.

storage bins

Most parents go with organizers and bins to keep things off the floor.  They are great and definitely help even those that only have a few things, but the real problem is usually quantity.  Wait until all the kids are nestled in their beds and then it’s time to go to work.

Throw Away Missing and Abandoned Pieces

If you have a toy bin or drawer, these are the items that end up at the bottom.  It’s the random puzzle pieces that you have no clue what they go with, stacking blocks that have lost all their other friends and many times this is where all the pieces of paper you thought were trash end up.  My best tip is to remove larger toys from the bin that aren’t misfits missing key parts, and then get a trash bag!  Your kids will never know that the paper doll they made 3 months ago isn’t at the bottom of bin (they didn’t know it was there in the first place).

Pull Out Unused & Outgrown Toys

Your kids are growing up.  It happens gradually so you may not have noticed recently, but they probably don’t play with the toddler toys as much as they did a year ago.  Remember they are still asleep, so this is your moment to decide what they have outgrown.  Pull items out and put them in a box to take to thrift (or to sell at a consignment sale).  Whatever you pull out you must follow through with and remove from the house before they wake up…  Put it in the trunk, hide it in the garage whatever you need to do, this is going with the old mantra of “out of sight out of mind.”

Sort Toys & Books Into 4 Piles

After doing step 1 & 2 you are ready to start solving the real problem… quantity.  In our house this isn’t just a toy problem but a book problem, so apply this step to both categories.  Split all the remaining toys and books into 4 piles.  You can try to be wise about it and give them building blocks, stuffed animals, games etc. in each pile.  Or, just divide up and not plan things out.  Now, get 3 storage bins with lids. 

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Take three of your piles and put each one in a bin.  Those are going on vacation!  The remaining pile is what will be left out to play with this week.  You now have 1/4 of the toys in your house that you had when you started!  Each week or every two weeks, pack up the current toys they are playing with and get out a new bin.

If you have never tried this you may be thinking that they will cry mutiny when they wake up.  The first day may be a little tough, just go to the park and they won’t care as much.  The real joy in this comes when you rotate in the first box from the attic.  It’s like Christmas morning all over again as they play with toys they haven’t played with in a few weeks (or longer).  It also forces them to play with their toys more, as they now have less choices.

One Note:  I mentioned stuffed animals above, but if your kids are like mine not all stuffed animals can be put into this rotation.  We have very loved members of the family that would cause long term therapy if they disappeared, so be a sweet parent and leave those out.

Stay on the Plan

Think of this as a toy diet.  You have reduced the amount in circulation, but you need to stay on the bandwagon.  When they a birthday or Christmas comes then more toys need to put into the 3 bins in storage.  Stay the course and don’t let what you have out at any one time get larger than the space you want it to take.  I would also recommend that you determine that size now.  When the bin or box you use to hold toys in full, that measures how many things have to be stored when new toys come in.

What About Cute Labels and Bins?

So you thought in organizing toys that we would put everything in it’s own cute little cubby with a label… You can try that.  It makes our mama hearts that crave office supplies and organization happy.  But, small children see this as a game.  Nothing ever goes back in the bin you want it in, the labels are suggestions but not to be actually followed.  In the end you have stacking blocks, legos and dominoes in every bucket.

Do you have any other tricks that help organize toys?

organize kids toys