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How to Organize Toys

June 28th, 2013 - 1:17 PM

Tips from the toy organization expert

I don’t claim to be an expert at many things, but I know toys. I can tell you just about anything you need to know about the latest Skylander® product to hit the market, which Lego® set has which character, and I can bake a cake in an Easy Bake Oven like a champ. I’m not a toy collector per se, but I do have 7 kids (and 6 are under 10), so I’ll proudly wear the “toy expert” badge.  

Maybe you’ve come down the stairs only to step on a block, or you can’t get into a closet without an avalanche of stuffed animals falling on you. Do you feel like your house is being overtaken by dolls, blocks, and stuffed animals? The last time we moved, it seemed like we had box after box after box of toys—and we vowed to make sure that didn’t happen again. Maybe you’re in the same situation as you pack for your upcoming long distance move. Whether you have one kid or several, it’s definitely possible to take control of the toy situation. Let me offer a little expert advice on how to pare down your toy collection, plan out an organization system, and keep the toy clutter to a minimum.

Plan for Your Toy Organization System

Where do you currently keep your toys? Do you have a toy room, or are all the toys in a child’s bedroom or your living room? Where do your kids play with their toys? It makes sense (for the most part) to keep toys where kids use them. However, you may need an overflow space. For example, we have a toy room that houses most of the toys, but we also have some shelving in the garage for toy boxes as well. Whether you want to organize an entire room or just a corner, you need a plan. Figure out what space you want to keep the toys in. The size of your space will dictate how many toys you can work with. If you need to take your toy collection down a size, clean out broken or unused toys. My kids actually like doing this. They will show me things they no longer want. If the toys are in good condition, we can pass them along to friends or donate them. They love the idea of helping out a less fortunate kid by giving them a fun toy. If the toys are broken, we toss them. Not only will you discover unwanted toys during this process, but your kids may find something they were looking for!

Once you have your toy collection down to a manageable size, you are ready to organize. I would start by grouping items together. Get all the toys and figure out what groups you have (action figures, dolls, blocks, puzzles, etc.).

My Best Advice for Organizing Toys

Take those toy groups and get plastic bins for them. Not only do they keep like items grouped together, but your child can easily locate the toy they want in the correct bin. If they are looking for their Spiderman, they will know to get in the action figure tub. We put a note card on the front (as there is usually a sibling who can read close by), but if your kids can’t read yet, you could attach a picture showing what goes in each bin. For smaller items, like puzzles or toys with little pieces, you can use smaller shoebox sized plastic bins to keep the parts together. Not only do the bins make finding toys easy, but they are also a contained size, which helps keep the toy collection to a fixed size.

Keep the most commonly used bins in easy reach of the kids, whether that is on the closet floor or on lower shelves in the toy room. On upper shelves, put the less-used toys. This is a great way to practice toy rotation. When you bring out a bin that hasn’t been used in a while, it’s like getting new toys! We have shelving in our toy room full of these bins. Toys for the little kids are on the bottom, older kids in the middle, and toy rotation bins up top (Pro tip: keep things you only want them to use with adult supervision up top as well.  That’s where the glitter stays in our house). We recommend our kids only get a couple bins out at once; it helps keep the clutter down. They have to put one bin away to get another one out, but cleanup is easy as they just have to dump everything in the correct bin.

For our bigger kids, we keep some of their toys in our overflow area (shelving in the garage) because they can easily access them. But the same organization rule applies – want to take out a new bin? Put one away first. It helps to teach kids how to organize toys as they play so you don’t have a toy disaster after playtime.

Our playroom is a fun place, but it is mostly shelves and toy bins. Sure, I’ve seen some beautifully organized and decorated toy rooms on Pinterest, but I’ll bet after playtime, the room never looks the same again. I just want functional toy organization that lets my kids play with all their toys, and then put them away quickly after. If you want something that looks a little nicer, you could always get some cabinets. On the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, she used some wooden pantry cabinets to hold their plastic bins. It is the same as using open shelving, but you can close the cabinets for a cleaner look.

How to Keep Toys Organized

Along with putting toys away after play, we try to practice the “one in, one out” rule. That means when they get a new toy, we try and choose one to donate or give away (or find a broken one to get rid of). This helps us not have a heap of unused toys. With seven kids, this is imperative to keeping our toy collection under control. If this sounds a little extreme, you could do toy cleanouts twice a year, probably before birthdays and Christmas. This way, you are ready for the influx of toys.

I hope these tips help you organize your toys. Once you figure out how to organize toys in your home, playtime will be much more fun. The kids will be able to find what they want, and clean up easily (which will make you happy!). If you have any questions about toy organization, just leave a comment. I’ll be happy to help you figure out how to organize the toys in your home.