An Update on How We Store and Organize our Toys

posted by Andrea | 12/11/2015
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store and organize toys

Just over 3 years ago, I shared a post about how we sort, purge, organize, and store our various toys.

At the time, Nora was barely a year old… and the two boys weren’t even a thought yet!

Since that post, we have had 2 more babies, 3 more birthday parties, 4 more Christmases (3 for Nora and 1 for Simon), and have amassed boatloads of new and “new-to-us” toys, games, books, crafts, and other kid activities!

Thankfully, we also finished renovating the play room upstairs, along with new bedrooms for both Nora and Simon (also upstairs) so we have plenty of space for all our new things.

However, since I get lots of questions about how we organize all our kids’ toys, books, games, and craft supplies, I thought it was time for an updated post. My plan is to just go room-by-room and share what toys and other kid items we have in that space — as well as how we store them.

LIVING ROOM:

I’ve never been a fan of lots of toys in the living room; however, since we don’t have a finished basement, a family room, or a den, it’s inevitable that the kids will end up playing in the living room at various points during the day (especially when I’m working in the kitchen and they want to be close by.)

We have a select few toys in the living room, along with all our DVD’s, CD’s, games, books, and puzzles — since they almost always need a grownup to help them with these.

Here’s how we store things:

  • We have 1 bookcase in the corner of the living room, and the bottom 3 shelves are for kids’ things. The top shelf has our Little People Nativity on it right now (usually it’s a few of our favorite wooden toys).
  • The middle shelf has all our non-board books (we go to the library every week so we really don’t have a need for too many extra books at home).
  • The bottom shelf has 2 baskets — one for blocks, one for infant toys.
  • Library books and DVD’s are stored in the brown “basket” next to the bookcase.
  • Board books are on the shelf in our end table (the Bumbo seat is under that table as well).
  • All DVD’s, VHS’s, and CD’s are in the green basket under the TV cabinet.
  • Busy Bags are stored in the tan basket under the TV cabinet.
  • All games, puzzles, and cards are stored in the ottoman.
  • The baby play mat and bouncy seat are folded up and stored behind the couch.

We work REALLY hard to keep our living room clutter-free — which means being very diligent about putting all the toys away at various points throughout the day and not letting toys from other parts of the house “creep in”.

KITCHEN:

We store all our craft supplies (paint, crayons, markers, glue, stickers, paper, cards, beads, buttons, etc.) in the red hutch behind our dining room table. This arrangement has worked very well for us for more than 2 years now since we almost always do crafts at the table anyway.

Read this post to see more pictures of how we store our craft stuff.

OFFICE CLOSET:

About 3 years ago, we created a really cute little play room for Nora in the large walk-in closet under our office stairs.

We have since rearranged things a bit and basically emptied out that closet minus a kid-size table and chairs for Nora and Simon. We don’t really keep many toys in there anymore — just a chalkboard and our Thomas ride-on toy, but the kids just love to hang out in there!

Nora calls the closet her “office” and often likes to color in there alone while I’m working and the boys are sleeping. We have a little radio in there so she can listen to music too 🙂

Eventually, I’d like to come up with a way to better utilize this space for storage purposes — but right now, they can have it as their little hide-a-way!

PLAY ROOM UPSTAIRS:

The playroom upstairs is actually quite small — only about 11′ x 11′ and it’s right at the top of the stairs. It’s not the most amazing play area, but considering our old farmhouse basement would not be suitable for little kids to play in, we are thrilled to have the extra space for toy storage.

Right now, the playroom houses:

  • The play kitchen I made for Nora’s 2nd birthday and all the kitchen food, dishes, pots, pans, etc.
  • Another table and chairs to use with the kitchen and food.
  • All the dress-up clothing (in the toybox and on the hooks).
  • All our Little People toys and accessories (I’d ideally like to find a better way to store these)

We truly don’t have that many toys in here — but when you have Simon going crazy with the food and Nora pulling out every piece of dress-up clothing we own, it gets really messy REALLY quickly!

NORA’s ROOM:

Both Nora and Simon’s rooms are very large — so since we don’t have a huge playroom, it only makes sense to let them keep some toys in their rooms. James currently doesn’t keep any toys in his room.

  • Tent and sleeping bag
  • All baby doll items (at the end of her bed and some in her closet)
  • Musical instruments
  • Stuffed Animals
  • Blocks
  • Rocking horse

The wooden storage cabinet is something I got from my great aunt. I had intended to paint it but never got around to it. We use Cresbi Crates to organize the toys, musical instruments, and stuffed animals as the crates fit perfectly on the shelves.

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SIMON’S ROOM:

We currently hardly keep any toys in Simon’s room because, without fail, the toys in his room always seem to be the toys Nora wants to play with when Simon is napping.

Here are the few toys we do keep in his room:

  • LEGOS (we have the huge ones for little kids)
  • Small workbench with tools
  • Basket of cars, balls, and a few of Simon’s favorite toys

OUTSIDE:

I can not even tell you how much outdoor kids’ things we have accumulated over the past 4 years — I swear, the bikes and scooters breed overnight! Thankfully we have lots of storage space for outdoor toys as we have a large 2-stall garage and an even larger outbuilding.

Here’s a very basic rundown of how we store outside toys.

  • Sand toys go in the sandbox
  • Yard games, bats, balls, etc. are in the small lower cabinets in the garage
  • Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and driveway paint are in the top cabinets in the garage
  • Bikes, scooters, cars, roller skates hang on the side (or sit on the floor)
  • Strollers and bike trailer hang on the back hooks in the garage
  • We store the pool and all pool accessories in the shed that we just built 🙂

That’s everything… at least until Christmas!

Personally, I feel like we have a lot of toys and I could potentially get rid of 50% of them without anyone noticing… but for the most part, all our toys get played with on a regular basis (I don’t rotate toys in and out).

I do try to purge items on a regular basis — whenever they are broke, missing a part, or just not played with anymore. Sometimes I feel like I’m tossing things every day — but I’m fairly confident that if I didn’t stay on top of our toy clutter, things would get out of control really quickly!

As with almost everything, there is no one “right way” to organize toys or other kid gear. In fact, I regularly switch up our toy storage to meet our needs (sometimes on a weekly basis!) We just got a bunch of new things for Nora’s birthday, and I’m positive we’ll be getting more for Christmas in a couple more weeks. Once the new items come in, we make a space for them — which often means moving (or purging) something else.

Continual maintenance is key when it comes to toys!

Do you have any great tips for storing toys and other kids’ items?

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13 comments

  1. Carrie

    12/11/2015

    A hanging pocket organizer works great for smaller toys. It is best if the pockets are clear so the toys are visible. Book shelves sometimes have adjustable shelves so bigger toys can fit. Also a good idea to anchor the bookcase to the wall in case a child would decide it was a good idea to climb the shelves

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes! we used those when we had more toys inside our office closet. Now, we don’t have a need for the over-the-door organizers for toys, but we use them for lots of other things!

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  2. Heart and Haven

    12/11/2015

    I have 4 kids at home (8, 7, 3, & 15 mo) so I have to keep toys simplified & organized. For the most part we try to keep open ended play items that are good for multiple ages.
    – Playroom: We turned our downstairs bedroom (our 3 boys share a room) into the playroom with 90% of our toys in there. We use (2) IKEA expedits turned on their sides as bench seating w/storage baskets underneath for toys organized by categories (trains, cars, wood blocks, mega blocks, puppets, kitchen play items.) Rubbermaid container of magnetic alphabet letters and car tracks set. We have one shelving unit that holds the larger toys (weeble wobble treehouse, little people sets, musical instruments, toy story figures and another small bookcase for books (separated by reading level) and puzzles. We installed shelving in the closet where we keep craft & art supplies.
    – Living Room: I keep one small basket of baby toys in the living room & one basket of wood alphabet blocks
    – Daughters Room: my daughter has a barbie house & barbies in her room, as well as her porcelain tea set.

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    Trisha G Reply:

    I have a question for H&H–I have tried to organize our toys into separate bins like yours, but my kids just throw them wherever when they clean up (4, 3, and 10 mo). But then they can never find what they’re looking for and pieces get lost so most things don’t get played with. Do your kids keep them separated or do you do it for them? If they do, how did you teach them to do so? Are my kiddos perhaps too young for me to be pushing it right now? I’m just so overwhelmed with toys that my husband and I boxed up 90% of them about a month ago and put them in the shed. I need them to pick them up themselves because I’m just not going to do it for them every day. I would love to know the process you went through to teach them to be organized.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Trisha!
    I’ll respond first — just because we have a 4 year old, an almost 2 year old, and a 5 month old — so we’re in a similar situation as you are.

    I think for me, the key is just not buying toys that have millions of little parts. We so have some sets of blocks, but the kids definitely know how and where to put the blocks away. We also have one small basket for all our Little People and they can do that, then we have a box in our play refrigerator for all the food — and they can do that.

    Other than that, we don’t really stress putting everything back in the “right place”. As long as the stuffed animals and toys are put away in a “toy place” we’re fine with that.
    So far, it seems to work well for us and both Nora and Simon can put things away (however, we are usually there with them helping them along the way).

    Also, we will often do mini pick-ups as we play so things don’t get totally out of control to the point where they are too overwhelmed to even know where to start picking up.

    Finally, I would honestly encourage you to consider selling or donating all those toys you boxed up — especially if your kids haven’t even missed any of them. With Christmas right around the corner, there’s a good chance they will be getting more toys, so it might do everyone some good just to pass along the toys you have in the shed!

    Good luck!

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    Heart and Haven Reply:

    I keep our toy categories very simple (I think basically just what I mentioned above). When we had a bunch of random “little toys” I found it harder to keep separated by type and the toys would be spread all over when they were trying to look for “x” item.
    I do start when they are little to help clean up and will assist. For instance, I will ask my 15 mo. and 3 yo “Get the train tracks and put them in the basket”. I will ask them for specific toys to put away (else they get overwhelmed at that age to just “clean up”. I figure it’s just as easy for my 15 mo. old to fill a box with toys as it is to empty it ;-). Obviously cooperation can be a challenge at this age, so I have to try to make it a game for him to have fun or “help mommy”.
    I will have the kids reset the room several times a day (ie. before lunch, before dinner, before bedtime) so it doesn’t get too messy. We work on practice, not perfection….so some days are better than others :-). For the older ones, I set a timer for a reasonable time, and whatever doesn’t get put away goes in “time out” in a rubbermaid bin in the garage for a day. This way they all know the expectations & consequences beforehand.
    Set up a system that works best for you and your kids…whether it’s one toybox that everything goes in, or some other system. Part of that will depend on the type/size of toys the kids play with.

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    Trisha G Reply:

    The “timeout” thing is what I was going for when we boxed them up. I actually set a timer and told them everything that wasn’t put away by the time it went off would get boxed up and they chose to pick nothing up. I was only going to keep them out there for a few days, but like Andrea said, Christmas was just around the corner and they’ll be preoccupied with their new stuff. My thoughts are to wait for a few more weeks and then start giving them toys back that they specifically ask for as long as they continue to pick them up. They have had a much easier time putting them away since they don’t have so much to deal with. Anything they don’t ask for I think I will donate. Or have them decide what to give away. I hate the thought of giving away things behind their backs! I know they’re little and probably won’t even notice, but it still seems disrespectful. Plus I would like to teach them to purge their own things. I don’t know. I’ll think about it.

    As for keeping things separated and organized, I think I need to reset my expectations of them and be more willing to take the time to teach to do it until they get it down themselves.

    Thanks for your responses! I will keep working on it. 🙂

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  3. Emily

    12/11/2015

    I agree with Lisa above. We used to have a playroom and it was much harder to keep stuff organized and the room clean. Now we have similar setup as you and it’s easier to keep up with. Less overwhelming for the kids to clean on their own too. I just did a big toy purge and it’s awesome to have some empty shelves. 🙂 I love clear plastic bins for toys as my kids actually play with them because they can see what is in there.

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  4. Organize 365

    12/11/2015

    Andrea-

    I actually think your toys stay more organized because you have them in different rooms of the house. A centralized playroom is SO over-whelming to clean and for the kids once they get out more than 2 different kinds of toys. 🙂

    Lisa

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good point — I guess I didn’t think of it that way.

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  5. Heidi

    12/11/2015

    The Little People are going to be the end of me! 🙂 I can’t figure out a good way to store them either, but the kids (and me too) love them! They’re such great, timeless toys but I can’t seem to figure out a way to store them where we don’t lose the people and then they’re such big toys that they’re hard to find a place out of the way. In fact, I’ve got the princess castle ready to be purged, but the girls will go bananas when the princess people leave… If you find a great way to organize them, please share! 🙂

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    Amy Reply:

    Same here, except with Imaginext instead of Little People (we have 2 boys). I LOVE Imaginext toys, but they are so big! I keep all the men and little pieces mixed together in a basket, but the castles, ships, etc. are lined up against the wall. Santa is bringing the new giant T-rex playset for Christmas, and I am running out of wall space!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I know, I remember when we got our first Little People toy. I thought “on no, little parts and pieces. However, my kids play with our little people toys EVERY day and love them so much. I’m excited to give them some of the new Little People things I have wrapped up for Christmas!!

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