It’s hard to organize things for people who think about things differently than you. Your children and their toy clutter are no exception. Just because a kid popped out of your body doesn’t mean they can maintain an organizing system you designed. In fact, because you are their parent, they probably don’t want to even if they could!
Our challenge as parents is to play to our kids’ strengths and to keep systems as simple as possible. The only exception to this rule is if you have a child who color-codes their toy storage and gets excited about helping you unload the dishwasher. If you have an organized child on your hands, stop reading this right now and go watch a movie!
For the rest of us who don’t have soon-to-be professional organizers for children, controlling toy clutter should focus on 3 things:
- Reduction: Constantly thin out your kids’ toy collections.
- Containment: Create a simple storage system for all the toys.
- Routine: Make time every day to quickly clean up toys around the house.
Do you think your children have too many toys?
They do. All American kids have too many toys. There are toys they never play with. Toys they’ve forgotten about. And toys they’ve outgrown. There are probably even a few that are damaged or broken.
Make it a point to regularly prune your kids’ toy collections. Small kids tend to fall in love with whatever toy is in front of them, even ones they haven’t played with in months. If your kids are under 7 years old, it’s a good idea to thin out their toy clutter while they’re in school or out of the house. See this video for a great example of organizing during school hours. If your children are older and have a better understanding of charity, you can involve them in the process and emphasize the importance of donations*. Even with kids over 7, some personalities are just not into it and you may have to do some sneaky removing.
As you sort through all the toys, use 3 containers for your piles.Pro tip: Placing items directly into a bag or trash can as you sort saves time because you only handle each item once. Click To Tweet
Donate bag: High quality toys in good condition which are no longer played with or wanted. This includes toys your kids have outgrown.
Trash can: Sadly, most donation places do not accept kids’ toys because the retail prices (and quality) of most toys is so low that people don’t shop for second hand toys anymore. Most of your toy clutter will go in the trash.
Hide box/bin: Toys you’d like to get rid of but your young children may miss. Also good for a toy rotation if you do that.
When you’re done, put the date on the hide box and store it out of view. If your kids don’t ask about anything in the box after a few weeks, it’s probably OK to send the toys to a new home.
Drive the donations to your favorite, local donation center right away. If you don’t have time right away, at least put the bags in your car.
Once you’ve thinned the toy collection, it’s time to organize. Containers, bins, and boxes, stored close to the ground, are the best storage option for kids’ toys. Decide what should go where and label each bin. Keep the categories broad and generic. Remember, you want to keep it as simple as possible so they can clean up their own toys. Leave off the lids on containers for easy clean-up.
Pro tip: Labeling is helpful, but optional. If your children are very young, take photos of their toys and attach the pictures (along with the name of the toy) to the bins in lieu of a label. This will help them identify which toys should go in which box even before they’re able to read.
Create a routine
Make a quick toy cleanup part of your kids’ evening routine. Treat it as though it’s just as important as dinner and bath time. When your kids pick up their toys, reinforce the behavior with a positive comment like,
I’m proud of you for remembering to pick up your toys.
Your room looks so nice when all your toys are put away.
Taking care of your toys helps them last longer.
If you have a few nights (or weeks) of toy chaos, relax. It happens! Regroup and start the process over.
Reduce the number of toys, contain the collection, and resume your cleanup routine.
Thanks for reading! I appreciate you taking time to join the conversation about toy clutter with me. How do your kids respond to organizing their toys? Have you found a chore that even a not-so-organized kid can handle?
*Get Organized Already works with kids over 7 to take the parent-child drama out of the equation. Call today to get some professional help for your toy clutter 323.230.0297
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Also published on Medium.