Fight Toy Clutter And Win

“My house will NEVER look like a toy store threw up all over it. Gah. Primary-colored pieces of plastic are practically offensive to my line of sight.”

I’m fairly certain I at least thought that exact sentiment if I didn’t state it out loud more than once before having children. Thank goodness it didn’t hurt too bad when I fell off that pedestal.

The truth is, it’s next to impossible to make your house look like children don’t live there when children, in fact, do. I learned to embrace that by the time Kendall was a toddler, and never looked back. I’m not going to spend my energy fighting to keep toys completely hidden and breakables proudly displayed.

About twice a year, though, I do spend a great deal of energy taming the clutter monster that the toys tend to morph into. Because, while I’m okay with this house looking like KIDS live here, I’m not okay with it looking like pint-sized HOARDERS live here.

Here’s how I attack it:

1. Dedicate a whole day. I know it can seem overwhelming and it may work for others to tackle just a little at a time, but knowing me, if I don’t do it all at once, it will never get done.

2. Find 3 baskets/boxes/bags that are big enough for you to put stuff in: to donate, to store, to trash.

3. Take everything out of where it’s at. Get it all on the floor, or put it on a bed, whatever. Give yourself a visual of what you’ve got. This will not only help you to see if you’ve got 20 too many Tonka trucks, but also will give you an idea of how/if you need to reorganize things.

 4. Be BRUTAL. Take the emotions out of this. Really think, does my child ACTUALLY play with this? Are they too old for this? Is it broken? Is this something they are REALLY going to want to bring to their house when they are adults?

5. Make tough decisions. For me, if the kids haven’t played with it in the last couple months and it’s not something seasonal (which we have very little of, anyway), it’s gone. If it’s missing a vital piece, it’s gone. If they’re too big for it, it’s gone. I very, very rarely hold onto something of theirs to pass down to them as adults. And by “gone” I mean it either goes to the donation bin, is trashed, or I think long and hard about if it’s going to actually be of use to another baby around here before I put it up in the attic.

6. Designate specific spaces for toys. We keep toys in 4 places. We have a playroom, but I’m not okay with that room being overrun by toys. There is a storage unit in there for toys, books, crafts, and games. If they can’t fit in it (or to the side of it for larger toys), then we need to get rid of something.

We also keep toys in 3 baskets under the TV…

And each of the kids has a couple small toy bins in their room.

If these baskets and bins start getting stuck because they are packed full of toys, it’s time to get rid of some. Any toy that comes into this house has to live in one of those spots (with the exception, obviously, of things like tricycles, tool benches, and other large items, which we try to keep to a minimum).

7. Group like-items together. It’s really worth it to make a trip to the Container Store or even Target/Walmart to get some bins that help keep toys in groups that make sense vs. a black hole of a toy box. This not only helps your kids find the toys they’re looking for faster, but it also helps teach them how to put them away in the right spot.

8. Place toys in rooms that make sense. If you have the space to keep all the toys in a playroom, that is awesome. Not a lot of people do though. What I like to do is to keep the toys that each child doesn’t like to share much in their bedrooms.

Of course, we always encourage sharing, but we get that there are some toys that belong to my 4-year-old that are special to him and not suited for play with his toddler sister.

I keep things like blocks/Legos/Lincoln Logs, trains and cars in the playroom since there is enough floor space to spread out and play with those in there. The toys under the TV are mainly play food since it’s right next to the kitchen and the play kitchen. We also keep some outdoor toys and balls in there since it’s next to the back door.

9. Rotate. I try to rotate toys from the living room to the playroom and back every time I re-organize (other than the ones that make more sense to stay in that room). I know people will also rotate bins of toys into and out of storage to keep things “new,” but since our only storage option is the attic, and I avoid it like the fiery hell-hole it is, that solution doesn’t work for me. Could work for you, though!

10. Avoid collecting too many toys to begin with. Step back and look at your freshly organized spaces and remind yourself that kids don’t need a whole house full of toys to have fun. Every time I organize and de-clutter the toy-spaces in this house, I’m reminded how much I 1. detest kid’s meal toys and 2. need to re-commit to letting less junk in this house.

I’ll admit, it’s a battle that’s getting harder as my son gets older. He suddenly, passionately feels he NEEDS certain toys, and I’m not going to deprive him of any and all of them just to make a point. But we don’t come home from every shopping trip with a new toy, and I try to keep purchases of new (or new-to-us) toys to holidays/birthdays and when he’s worked really hard to earn them.

What about you? Do you feel like you’re winning against the toy clutter monster? What are your tricks?