It's January. We all have big goals and high hopes for 2021. And if you're a parent, you now have big bins of toys and higher hopes for getting them organized (or out of the house...). Same, and I'm here to help!
With three kids, six years old and under, in a 3 bedroom house, we sometimes feel like toys are taking over. There's LOL Dolls in the bathtub, legos in my pantry, and Peppa in the fireplace (what?!). Kids love spreading their joy... all over the house, all the time. But I promise you, you can have a home with kiddos that feels organized and well, like you don't own a daycare.
Let's tame those toys!
1. KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE
I can't tell you how many times a parent has told me (or I've told myself) "I didn't know we had that!" Unless you take everything out of the space – out of every bin and basket – you won't really know what you're dealing with. And then you'll likely just keep getting more of the same toys... which means more clutter, which means it's harder to find things, which means your kids will be digging for things and dumping stuff onto the floor to find them... okay, sorry to give you anxiety. You get the point.
While you're taking it all out, begin to categorize toys as you go:
Keep – You can sort within this categories many ways: by child, toy type, amount of use, etc.
Donate – Make sure toys are in good condition
Relocate – Items that need to go into another room (such as a craft cabinet, or another child's room)
Rotating Toy Bin – More about this below
Recycle/Toss – Items that are broken. Try to recycle them first, it not, toss responsibly
TIP: Use old Amazon boxes to place all toys to donate in. This will make it so much easier to transfer them between house, to car, to donation spot. I can't tell you how many plastic bags I've had rip. And your spouse will thank you for getting rid of those boxes :) Before you donate, call your local donation spot to make sure they accept toys.
You've already started this process as you emptied the space and sorted into categories. Now go one step further. Remember that you just got a handful of new toys to find homes for, and your kids will have birthdays coming up... and the reality that it just seems like their toys reproduce overnight. So give yourself the extra nudge to let things go. Ask yourself:
When was the last time my child played with this?
How many of these do we have? I
Does it work anymore?
Has my child grown out of this?
Based on your answers, you can decide what you need to do with each item.
This is when the question is asked: Do I edit with or without my kids? Yes, it is easier to edit without your kids. Mommy gets to do some toy purge therapy!! But you need to know your own kid(s). If they are under 3, it's less likely they'll have a huge attachment to many things, besides a special toy or lovey. But if they're older you might want to strike a balance and find a way to involve them. I include my kiddos once I've decided what they absolutely don't play with or know they even have. Then I walk them through what we're saying bye bye to if it no longer works, or anything we have too many of.
TIP: This is where the rotating toy bin comes in. If your kiddo(s) are clinging to any items you believe shouldn't stay, it can go in this bin, which will live in a different location in your home (ours is in the garage). I fill it with any toys the kids don't want to part with, even though I do. After a few months you can rotate these toys back in or have another discussion with the kids (or you know, take it to the donation center). This bin also help keep toys feeling fresh and exciting to your kids while not overwhelming your space.
3. CLEAN YOUR SPACE
If you've read any of my other posts, you've heard me say this before – you don't want to create a beautifully organized system in a space that isn't properly cleaned. Wipe down those shelves, clean out any bins, and use a magic eraser on the walls.... kids LOVE seeing their finger prints on walls :)
4. CREATE NEW SYSTEMS
Below is a picture of my kid's closet "before." It looks fairly organized and tidy, but the systems weren't working for us anymore... especially me. They all worked 3 years ago when I set them up – they worked for my kids ages and the toys we had in them. But now that my kids are older (6 and 3), more independent, with very different toys, I need new systems that help them/me keep it tidy (tidier).
When creating your systems, ask yourself:
What items do my kids play with the most? Put these lowest, in a very accessible area. Think about an easy way to store these items – maybe a bin without a lid so your kids are more likely to help put things back.
What items make the biggest mess? Consider putting these items up higher so that you can manage when they are used. What items do I want to help them with? Similar to above, these items might be messy or even loud (don't want the drum waking up the baby during nap time).
What are my kids heights? Put your younger child's favorite toys within reach for them, and your older child's favorite toys above.
What items need new/different storage? Maybe your containers are broken, or they just don't work for the contents. For example, do you really want the big trucks in a bin? Does that make it so only a few fit and your kid ends up dumping them all out anyway? Or Maybe you're tired of hanging up all the dress up items and they can happily live stuffed into a bin for your kids to easily access. Or maybe you need more clear containers that your kids can easily spot the items in, instead of dumping out various bins looking for that one item.
5. ORGANIZE & LABEL
Once you feel good about your editing session and have a system planned, time for the satisfying part: you'll start putting everything back in its new, more efficient spot. Psssst – you don't have to do it perfectly the first time around. Phew! Play around with different setups and test out what works, what looks good, what feels right for how your kids use the space.
Once everything is in its right place, time to label. Your kid's age and stage will determine the labels that work best (and by work, I mean that they do what they're meant to do – help the people who use the items know what's in the bins). If you have young pre-readers, you might want to do picture labels.
If you have newer readers, make sure the print is large and clear. Otherwise it's choosing labels that you can easily change. I like writing directly on plastic containers, using blank business cards to slip into label clips, or reusable sticky notes. This way, I can update the labels as often as I need to.
More tips and tricks:
Use organizing items you have around the house as toy storage. I used a hanging shoe organizer as a home for my son's trucks. This was a huge win since those trucks take up so much space in bins and my son LOVES putting them back now. This setup could also work great for Barbies. Plus, my kids are at the age where it's almost impossible to get them to put there shoes in there anyway. They each have a basket for their shoes instead, and that works much better.
This Christmas my daughter doubled her American Girl doll collection (from 1 to 2), but those dolls come with a ton of accessories. So I needed to get creative about a better way to store the dolls and their stuff. I didn't like how we were tossing the doll into a bin – I want to teach my kids to take better care of their items that require care. I had an extra back-of-door organizer in my garage (I always use them for clients), so I turned it into an American Girl doll station. It could also totally work for barbies... or basically any other toy collection your child has.
Consider replacing the bulky containers that toys came in for smaller containers. We had obnoxiously big bins for rainbow looms and jewelry making items. I downsized from two huge bins to one bin.
If a current container is creating more trouble than good, swap it out (like I did above with the old lego cases). Here, I upgraded the open Lego Dots sorter for individual containers, thanks to emptied Welly bandage boxes. We love taking these handy little boxes in the car or to restaurants (you know, when we went to restaurants). So this upgrade serves multiple purposes: better containment for little pieces, now individual for all my kids, and eco-friendly!
You don't have to go out and buy all new items! Shop your other closets for containers, bins or baskets that work better. It might even help you refresh your other areas as well!
In the end, put in the hard work now to make it easy for you in the long run. Creating well-organized systems for my kid's spaces always saves me time because it helps them know where all their items are, they're less likely to trash the room in order to find items, they're more likely to care for the space, and upkeep is easier for me. Win win for everyone!
You can find a vide of the "after" on my Instagram, and you can find all products here:
Clear divided containers (that fit within the acrylic bins)