TOYS: Purging, Organizing, and Storing

posted by Andrea | 11/6/2012

The photos above shows just three of the toy catalogs that came in this past Sunday’s newspaper… and that means Christmas is right around the corner.

It also means that if you have children of any age, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be getting at least a few toys this year. Plus, if any of your kids have a fall birthday like Nora, you’ll get double the toys!

Since Nora’s first birthday is just over 2 weeks away… and Christmas is only a few weeks behind, I figured it might be a good time to post about how we manage our toys.

Truthfully, we do not have many toys — at least compared to everyone else we know. As you’ll see by the pictures in this post, we have 3 small areas of toys in our house and that’s it.

However, I know that as Nora gets older, her “toys” will get larger (play kitchens, bikes, doll house, etc), so I just want to get into the habit of decluttering every year before her birthday and Christmas… otherwise our house might look like this all the time :)

If it’s been a while since you’ve gone through your toys, make some time to get started this week. I just finished going through our toys… and I made a little room for more!

Here’s what I did…

Purge.

We have a few baby toys that I put in a closet upstairs where I’m also storing a couple small bins of baby clothes/blankets/etc. I also threw out a few books that Nora had basically ripped apart and a couple broken toys.

This was not a major step for me — partially because Nora isn’t old enough to have a say in what toys we keep and get rid of, but partially because we just don’t have many toys. However, if you have lots and lots of toys, this will definitely be the most time-consuming part of the process. However, it’s worth the effort.  :)

Organize.

I’m actually not a big fan of OVER-organizing toys, because you know as well as I do that they won’t stay that way. And even when kids get older, they still probably won’t take the time to meticulously organize their play areas.

So while I do pick up everything off the floors before dinner, if people are coming over, and after Nora goes to bed at night, I don’t go crazy making sure everything is perfectly organized all day long.

I also don’t have “specific spots” for each toy. I have a couple different baskets that we dump toys into, a shelf for books, and  an Off The Floor Organizer that hangs on the back of a door — but I don’t care which toys go where.

Sometimes I think Nora has more fun searching for a specific toy that might have dropped to the bottom of a basket than she does actually playing with the toys!

And although I don’t have older children, I’ve helped MANY moms organize kids’ bedrooms and playrooms. The ones that turn out the best and are the easiest to KEEP organized don’t necessarily look like a magazine. They have practical places for both kids and adults to put toys away when the time comes. So don’t beat yourself up if your toy storage isn’t pretty!

Store.

As I mentioned above, we don’t have a mass amount of toys that require storage — and right now, we don’t really have a play room either. Since Nora is still young, she basically wants to play where ever we are — which means her toys need to be primarily in the living room, kitchen/dining area, and office.

I recently cleared off the bottom 3 shelves of a bookcase in our living room to make room for Nora’s books and toys.

This is where most of her toys are since this is where we spend most of our time. The office is right next to the living room so she’s always close by.

And speaking of the office, we have an Off The Door Organizer on the back of our office door closet for some of the toys we don’t necessarily let her play with all the time.

If the door is closed, she can’t access them, but when it’s open, she can easily find what she wants — or point to it and we’ll get it for her! {This is also where I store and organize our busy bags — which I’ll be blogging about in another week or so)

In the kitchen, I have a small red cabinet that’s just the perfect size for Nora’s toys. She loves digging though this cabinet and pulling out ALL the toys inside; and I love that it’s out of the way so I’m not tripping over her as I make dinner!

Plus, when the door is shut, you’d never know there were toys inside.

So like I said before, I do realize that once we have older children, our toy organizing method will have to change, but for now — this is what’s working for us.

And we have plenty of room for a few more birthday/Christmas toys :)

What are your best toy organizing tips? 

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27 comments

  1. Lee, LPN

    11/06/2012

    Friends of ours have 2 older active kids, who get all kinds of educational toys when they are ready to receive & make use of them. Gifts are also given for accomplishments. Thus, the parents don’t buy or accept gifts for their kids’ birthdays. Cake & ice cream, yes. Gifts for being another year older, no. Any birthday gifts that the kids would otherwise receive are donated to a local charity for sick, homeless or developmentally-delayed kids. I LOVE IT! These kids are learning to acheive, and learning compassion, and are not consumed with ‘the gimmes.’

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  2. christine D.

    11/06/2012

    We found toy ‘rotation’ to be a great way to manage toys, especially when you have more than one child and relatives/friends that donate the toys their kids are done with. We would sort out the toys and store 1/2 of them away from the kids for a month or 2, then we’d rotate those toys into the toy box and remove some of the other toys. Every few months, the kids felt like they were getting ‘new’ toys and they loved it. It help keep the clutter down in our house too!

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    Jen Reply:

    Here is one kids product worth buying,
    It’s called the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse and in it you can grow a pet like plant that actually closes its leaves one by one when you Tickle It!

    See video..this is worth sharing,

    http://www.ticklemeplant.com

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  3. Katy

    11/06/2012

    My 2 year old son loves tractors, trucks too, but mostly tractors. They were taking over our living room (we don’t have a play room). We bought a large wooden barn at a craft show and use it to store all of his tractors, and any other toys with wheels. He has fun putting his tractors in the barn for the night, making pick-up time easier. It also has a “hay-loft” shelf, that we use to store his puzzles. The best part is that one long side of the barn is open, but the other side is solid. That way when we don’t want to see the toy clutter, we simply turn the barn around so the solid side shows and the open side is against the wall. We have gotten a lot of compliments on it!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Love the creativity Katy… and I’m sure your son love his barn!

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  4. Jenny

    11/06/2012

    Thanks for another great article! Every time I seem to have an issue with organization you seem to come up with another solution! Love you blog!

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    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome Jenny — glad to help :)

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  5. Jen

    11/06/2012

    I love the behind the door storage! I can’t wait to see your post about the busy bags! i know my preschooler would love them!

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  6. VeritySa

    11/06/2012

    Where do you get the circular black clips that are holding up the clear ziplock bags??

    I love that idea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks! They are actually just clips for curtains… found at almost any hardware store or super market (and really cheap!)

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  7. Karen

    11/06/2012

    What we have done is take 2 to 4 bins with tops, put a variety of toys in each one and rotate the bins. We would bring up bin 1 for the week (we stored ours in the basement) and all that week our children only played with what was in that bin. At the end of the week, we brought up bin 2 and brought bin 1 back down. This enabled a good mix of toys through the week, but not ALL those toys in EVERY room. :) Also, it helped to keep the clean up and organizing to a minimum.

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  8. Susan

    11/06/2012

    We have 7 children, so a lot of stuff! We rotate toys, try to pare down, and purge. These were things I didn’t really learn until I had several children and saw the absolute necessity of it. I am excited right now because just today I sold $42 worth of toys!

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  9. Audra

    11/06/2012

    For our sons first Christmas we bought him a cube organizer and the cloth cube bins to go with it. This was the best thing we ever did. Every night before bed he picks and puts back the bins. we do have them some what organized in them (vehicles, legos, balls, little people town stuff, stuffed animals). He enjoys putting them back together and keeping them organized. Toys are easy at reach but out of sight when not being used.

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  10. ErinK.

    11/06/2012

    Love your blog!

    I just wanted to give you a word of warning. As your daughter gets older she may decide to start climbing…both the bookshelf and the cabinet can be dangerous if she climbs on them…I know…my son pulled a small bookshelf over on himself (he wasn’t hurt except for a bump on the head) but it was REALLY scary! Just thought I would pass on something that truly never occured to me!

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    Sara Reply:

    Love the ideas for toy storage, agree with this comment about bookshelf safety.

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    Marie Reply:

    I was thinking the same thing. My husband actually tethered or screwed ours to the wall. We also have an aquarium and did it to the stand as well.

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  11. Alissia Haig

    11/06/2012

    We bought a couple of storage ottomans from Target. They are brown leather, double as benches/extra seating when we have company, and keep all the toys hidden beneath the lids :) All while not screaming “toy storage” :) have had them for 3+ years now & they held up great.

    We also do a toy “rotation” method…the girls love the excitement for playing with “new toys” and we keep the amount they have access to manageable

    Lastly, I try to check a few times a year and “slim down” our supply :) Anything broken, missing pieces and not age appropriate (or that they never really play with) is either sold via craigslist or donated.tossed.

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  12. robin

    11/07/2012

    We have a PBK table with 2 huge drawers that roll underneath. Found it on craigslist, and use it as the coffee table in our family room. It has a “lip ” all around the top so that toys don’t roll off. I love this table so much, that I would (gulp!) pay full price for a replacement if the need arose. Although it has held up amazingly well with my 3 boys using (abusing?) It daily for the past 6 years!!

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  13. Doreen@househoneys

    11/07/2012

    Toy storage is always a challenge it seems. I own a residential cleaning business and as such have seen many examples of what NOT to do, i.e., turn your house into one huge permanent playroom!

    i completely agree with you about not storing specific toys in specific places. That would be an exercise in futility and frustration ;). I wrote a post about it a few weeks ago too. Like you, I know now that the holidays are here many people will have yet more stuff to deal with. Check it out if you get a moment. http://www.househoneys.com/5-tips-for-toy-storage/

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  14. Ottawa Storage Provider

    11/07/2012

    Thanks for these nice ideas. I love the hanging organizers t the back of your door. I used to organize my kids’ toys in a huge cabinet filled with baskets and small containers. Do you think having one place where they can get all their toys is better than having different storage areas?

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  15. Mamaria

    11/08/2012

    We do foster care for three boys ages 1 year to 2 1/2 years. The longer we’ve had them, the more I’ve pared down the toys..

    I kept an eye on what they actually played with. Many toys that were strewn around the room were only being pulled out and scattered as they searched for one item at the back of the toy cupboard. Out of that well-stuffed toy cupboard, I saw that they consistently spent most of their time playing with a few trucks and cars, a few mega-blocks (not the whole set), and the wooden railway. Most other stuff was ignored. I either purged or put in storage until I could pick up all the toys in the living room in 3 minutes or less. Even when I’m exhausted, I know I can manage three minutes of clean up and have a restful, tidy living room again.

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  16. markbutler

    11/08/2012

    Usually thing placed in unorganized manner but when we talk about the season, occasion, we try to manage these thing in organized manner to make room, house, and the office to look more beautiful and nice.

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  17. Shade

    11/11/2012

    I found all these wonderful articles about organizing and what to do if you are an empty nester, dealing with your kids stuff… But what about parents that have acquired their parents possessions, due to death, or being moved to a care facility, and helping them, the parents storing their parents stuff, to understand it’s ok to let it go, where to start, and how best their children can go about turning what could be hoarding into fast cash so they can help their parents claim their home back from all the stuff?

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  18. Jenny

    07/28/2014

    Just curious about the black bookcase. Did you just make a cheap store bought one look worn out and country? or did you purchase it like that?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Jenny, I actually got that bookcase for free off the side of the road when we were first married (it was a matching set of 2). They are SO junky and just that pressed board (basically glorified cardboard) but after I painted and distressed them, they look pretty decent!

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    Jenny Reply:

    Thanks! that is what i have been thinking of doing, just buying a cheapo pressed board one and then repainting it. I appreciate you answering me!

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