Spring Clean Sweep: Tips for Organizing Toys

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For the most part, the toys we deal with right now are pretty easy to wrangle.  As the kids get older and toys become more complex, I envision color coded bins with easy-to-read labels (possibly photos) to assist in organizing them.  For now we are dealing with baby and toddler toys, so I use a basket system with a few specialized tricks that make clean up a cinch!

Each big toy clean out begins with one thing: gathering ALL the toys into one spot.  For this session, I grabbed every single toy downstairs that doesn’t stand alone.  Kitchen, living room, sunroom– no room was left untouched.  I dumped the toys into one large pile, creating kiddie utopia:

{I realize that half of you will think that pile is huge, and the rest will think, “that’s IT?”  Keep in mind we had several larger toys– an easel, play house, toy piano, etc. out of view.  Plus some toys upstairs.  Unless you think that pile is huge, in which case forget I said anything about other toys.  *wink* }.

Here’s how we wrangle them, step-by-step:

1.  Line up our toy baskets:  I have a large basket in each room to make for easy end-of-day cleanup, so in this case I gathered all of them in one spot.

2.  Put toys with small parts together:  Mrs. Potato Head got her arms back, puzzles received lost pieces, and piggie got her coins.

3.  Pull out any pieces that belong in other locations: play kitchen tools in the play kitchen, music items in our music bin, crayons in our art bin, etc.

4.  Decide what stays, what goes, and which toys end up in purgatory: anything we no longer needed went to the consignment pile, and anything that wasn’t appropriate for their age yet or they hadn’t used for awhile but might in the future went to purgatory in the basement.  Note that each time I do this I accidentally leave one of the “go away” piles in plain sight so of course THAT is the pile they find and play with.  Works every time. 

5.  Now you have a slimmer, put together toy pile!  Organize the rest into the large baskets.  I went through and made sure each basket had some sort of ball, doll, baby toy, etc.  Then I sorted the rest of the toys into the baskets, and put the baskets back in the rooms from which they came.  DONE!

Specialized toy storage ideas:

I store puzzles two ways, and I love them both for different reasons.  One way is in puzzle bags, which make them easily portable.  The other way is a Melissa and Doug wire puzzle holder.  Got it from Amazon for about $12 and it is AWESOME.  Since most of our puzzles are M&D, it works perfectly.

Musical instruments go in a bin.  It’s nice to have them live in one place, PLUS sometimes I am not in the mood for hearing them so this makes them easy to…. ummmm… “misplace” for a few days when I need a break.

We love art in our home, so we quickly outgrew just one bin.  Now we have a bin each for painting, coloring, and craft supplies labeled with vinyl letters like the music bin above.

As for books, that’s another post altogether, but here’s how I store books in the playroom.  Books on shelves don’t work in the playroom because the kids just pull them right off.  Books in baskets make corralling them much easier!

This big toy cleanout session took under an hour.  It wouldn’t have taken as long except I had some “help” which added a few extra minutes of time.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Look, even Cookie has recovered:

Now, time for a nap.

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11 Comments

  1. I struggle with keeping toys cleaned up. Recently we’ve only had 2-3 toys out at all times (plus ten babies) and every week I rotate new toys in. I also have a cabinet of toys we play with everyday. Then once we’re done they’re put up before we get new ones out.

  2. Ugh! I am just coming out of a toy coma. For about 3 years we had toys for a grade school girl and a grade school boy and a toddler girl! Way too many toys. Fortunately my two older ones are now starting to grow out of toys and want their “part” of their playroom to be a work out room – another project!!

  3. Our playroom is the most organized (and coolest) room of our house. We rely heavily on bins and toy storage units! Even though they aren’t labeled, Sof knows which toys belong in which bins!

  4. Oh, man. This post was stressing me out because our toys were just about to get out of control, and then on the very same day, without knowing about this post, hubby put one of these together on its side and filled it with baskets!!

    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/70103085

    And ta da! Toys are totally taken care of. 🙂

  5. Designing your own vinyl lettering that is chic and effective can be done by many vinyl transfer providers… I used http://www.thesimplestencil.com and labeled a storage bin for each child which holds their school/artwork and pictures that we want to save… the kids have fun periodically going through them and it makes them feel special and know their keepsakes are safe and valued. (and it saves my countertops and desk from becoming overwhelmed with clutter).

  6. I NEED big baskets such as the ones you have! I think I might be able to see my toy room (a.k.a. living room) floor again if I can wrangle all our loose cars into baskets such as yours!

    We also use a small laundry basket for books in the boys rooms. While I am not a huge fan of the books being placed in there haphazardly, it gives me peace of mind that they won’t pull a bookcase down on them if I turn my back for a moment!

  7. I love those large baskets you have used for the toy storage! I think I may need a shopping trip to pick similar ones up for our toy room (a.k.a. living room).
    We also use a bin for books (ours are small laundry baskets). While I’m not a fan of how the books are haphazardly placed at times, it does give me peace of mind that the boys won’t pull a bookcase down upon themselves when my back is turned!

  8. I used to have the same type of process when my kids were toddlers…. works well!
    Now that they are 10, 7 and 5 I’m really struggling to organize. Toys get passed down to the youngest so I have a hard time getting my older two to get rid of anything… baby toys have an emotional hold on everyone it seems and no one wants to get rid of anything! yikes! I feel like I should put my kids on a kid version of “hoarding, buried alive”!

    1. Maybe you could explain to them about other kids not having toys. Sugjest they give some of the toys they don’t need or play with to other kids so they can have some hting to play with.

  9. Pingback: Free Printable February Organizing Calendar | Making Lemonade

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