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Solutions for
Conquering the Clutter!

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Toy Storage
Taming Toy Clutter

Toy storage: Does this situation sound familiar?

The alarm goes off. You get out of bed and step on a small action figure your son dropped beside the bed just before he climbed in on top of you in the middle of the night.

You stumble to the bathroom and find that the bathtub is full of plastic boats and dolls your daughter didn’t pick up after last night’s bath time.

On your way to the coffee pot, you wade through puzzle pieces and a sea of stuffed animals that litter the floor before you arrive at the kitchen.

Does this sound like your morning routine? Trust me, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Want to know how to change it? Read on!

On this page, you will find helpful tips and strategies for:

  1. Taming the toy clutter in your home (sorting)
  2. Suggestions on toy storage
  3. How to teach your little ones to pick up after themselves

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Toy clutter can be divided into the following main categories:

  • Action figures and other small toys,
  • Board Games,
  • Books,
  • Cars, trucks and related items,
  • Creative (polymer clay, crayons, paper, pens, stickers, etc.),
  • Dolls and related items (clothing, furniture, etc.),
  • Educational and building (Lego's, blocks, etc.),
  • Puzzles and board games,
  • Stuffed toys and animals,
  • Videos and video games,

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The trick to taming toy clutter is to utilize the general suggestions for any other organizing process (see the Start Here section for more detail). Generally it involves:

  • Sorting and throwing away broken and unused items
  • Sorting the items that are left into categories of “Keep” and “Donate”
  • Purchasing, making or repurposing items in your home to store the “Keep” items
  • Restrict the number of new toys entering your home
  • Adopt a rule that for every new toy that comes in, one or more toys must find a new home or be tossed.

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Many professional organizers recommend getting the kids involved in every step of the process. You can actually make it fun and teach valuable lessons in the process.

Getting the kids involved has the following benefits:

  • They learn mom and dad are not their personal maids,
  • They learn to take responsibility for their possessions,
  • The kids don’t resent mom and dad for getting rid of their toys,
  • They learn that less is more (less clutter, more time and room for fun),
  • They learn to donate to others less fortunate,
  • They know where to store the toys they keep,
  • They help create the toy storage system and, therefore, are more likely to use it,
  • They are more likely to do well in school and life.

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The Sorting Process

The sorting process is the most time consuming. Depending on the volume of toy clutter, it can take as much as an entire day just to sort and get rid of broken and unused items and sort the keepers into the categories. But don’t let that idea scare you or stop you from staring the process! It will be well worth it when you’re finished. Promise!

If there are toys all over the house, pick one room to do the sorting. Put all the toys in a pile in the middle of the room. Grab your stash of trash bins and boxes and free sorting tools. Pick one spot to start then, simply work your way around the room dealing with one item at a time.

Here are some questions you need to ask about the toys as you begin the sorting process:

  • Does the toy have missing or broken parts? (If the answer is “yes,” Trash it. If the answer is “no,” proceed with the rest of the questions).
  • Has the toy has been actively played with in the past 2 to 3 months on a regular basis? (If the answer is “no,” put it in the Donate pile.).
  • Should the toy be saved for a younger sibling to play with? Will the sibling actually play with it? (If the answer is “yes,” put it in the Keep pile. If the answer is “no,” put it in the Donate pile.).
  • Does the item have collector, financial or sentimental value to you and/or your family? (If the answer is “yes,” put it in the Keep pile. If the answer is “no,” put it in the Donate pile.).

Sorting Do's & Dont's

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  • Do put on some fun music.
  • Don’t feel over-whelmed.
  • Do turn off the TV (you and the kids will both find it distracting).
  • Don’t feel that every puzzle, stuffed animal and doll will become a priceless heirloom that needs saving. If the item is readily available in stores and has not been played with in months, it probably needs a new home.
  • Do prepare ahead. Make sure to have your free sorting tools, trash bags and toy storage for “Keepers” ready before you begin.
  • Don’t keep anything that is broken or has missing parts. Anything that has missing, or broken parts goes in the trash – period!
  • Do encourage your children to donate a major portion of their toys to children less fortunate. Kids have a loving heart and like to help others.
  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Do stick to the less is more rule.
  • Don’t let the kids off the hook or do it for them. They need to work through the process regardless of how boring they say it is or how much they complain.
  • Do take the Donate items to your local charity. Take the kids with you so they see good works in action.
  • Don’t hesitate. Take the Trash to the trash can immediately.
  • Do congratulate the kids for a job well done and pat yourself on the back.
  • Don’t second guess decisions made about toys and bring back anything that was put in the donate and/or trash pile.
  • Do talk to your kids as you work through the sorting about the benefits of having a more organized space and the benefits of helping others less fortunate than they are.

Whew! Finished? Congratulations! The hard part is done!

What to do next?

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Final Process

There are about as many ways to store toys are there are toys. What works for you will depend on:

  • Your budget
  • Your kids, their needs and how they look for things
  • Your home space limitations
  • Your family preferences

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Here are some guidelines for toy storage that you can use:

  • Consider where your children currently play. Do they play only in their room, the family room, the living room, the den, or all over the house? Do you want to continue your current practice? Would it be beneficial to confine toys to certain areas of the house and reclaim other areas for adults? Realize that changing the current routine will take time, patience, practice and persistence on your part!

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  • Get creative in looking at areas in your house for potential storage. Example?

    Most young children have under utilized space. Use half the closet for clothes storage and hang rods low enough for kids to reach. Use the other half for toy storage. Put a small book case in the other half and put small bins for toys on the shelves.

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  • You can spend a great deal of money on cute, expensive storage systems specially designed for kids. However, storage systems don’t have to be expensive. With a little creativity on your part, you can use what you have and repurpose items already in your home. Example?

    Utilize baskets you may already have on hand for toy storage. Cover old shoe boxes with bright colors (put pictures on the front of the toys that should go in the box) and use them for small toys. Utilize old laundry baskets for larger toys like cars and trucks. Use hanging cloth shoe racks for both clothes and toys (I like to use the ones designed for men’s shoes for toys – they are larger and accommodate wider toys than the ones designed for ladies shoes). Use a mesh hanger to capture and contain all those wild stuff animals that stray around the room. You can use old picnic baskets (or get some cheap at garage sales). They are light weight, have lids that won’t pinch tiny fingers and they look decorative!

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  • Try to refrain from using large bins, baskets or other containers. It can easily become a toy “dump.” Kids “dump” the toys out on the floor to find what they want. Then all the toys must be put back into the “dump.” Smaller containers are best for toy storage. I like using clear plastic. If you can’t see through the bin, basket or container, paste a photo or picture of the types of toys that should go in the container on the front. Laminating the photo or covering it with clear packing tape will make it last longer.

Final Toy Storage
Do's & Don'ts

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Here are some of my favorite Do and Don’t suggestions for toy storage:

Toy Storage Do’s

  • Put smaller open bins on shelves where they can be seen, reached and return items to their proper location easily.
  • Have separate places for the various categories of toys.
  • Stress that each toy should be returned to its proper place at the end of each play session before anything else is brought out.
  • Color code the back of puzzle pieces (large puzzles only) with a colored felt-tip marker. When they get mixed up, you can easily tell what piece goes to what puzzle (red with red, blue with blue, yellow with yellow . . . you get the idea).
  • Make a final sweep at the end of each day with your child and have them pick up and put away toys at the end of the day. You can make it a fun time (tell them you’re going on a Safari and capturing wild toys that escaped)!
  • Use chore charts, rewards and other positive feed back.
  • Work with the way God made your child. Some kids are natural neat-nicks, others are not. Love them the way they are made!
  • Type up a list of rules or put it on your kid’s chore charts so they can easily see and remember what’s required of them.
  • Keep a transport basket (picnic baskets or laundry baskets work well – something light weight with handles). Have the kids use this basket to pick up toys in other rooms and carry them back to their correct room for storage. Example: If kids are allowed to play in the living room, but the toys are kept in their bedroom, have them use the basket to pick up toys in the living room during the clean sweep before bedtime and carry them back to their bedroom. Make sure the toys are put in their proper place before lights out.

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Toy Storage Dont's:

  • Don’t become a shrew and yell at the kids every time they forget to put their stuff up.
  • Remember, change takes time for everyone. Don’t forget to make it fun.
  • Find a special song on CD or tape. Make it your clean up song.
  •  Your kids will know what to do when they hear that song.
  • Don’t forget to do your final clean sweep with the kids before they go to bed.
  • Missing one night will only make it worse the next day.
  • There’s also the possibility that both you and your kids will fall off the cleaning wagon.
  • Don’t forget to go over the rules daily, if necessary, in the beginning.
  • Remember everyone, including you, is learning new skills.
  • Don’t allow kids to bring more toys into a room if the transport basket or other storage container is full.
  • They must put up what they already have in the room before anything else can be brought in.

Moving Forward
Toy Storage & Toy Clutter

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If you’ve gotten this far, Congratulations!!

You and your kids have made great progress! Doesn’t it feel good?

I know what you’re thinking: "Great, but how long will it stay like this? What do I do moving forward?

Great questions!

Taming toy clutter will most likely be a daily routine for you as well as the kids. I know that may sound tiring (who needs one more thing to do each day?); however, just like saving money, little things done routinely add up to big savings. For mom and dad, this means saving time, money and frustration.

Time spent picking up little things daily takes less time than dealing with a huge pile later or never.  Don’t let it get bad, you can feel over-whelmed, and most people avoid tasks that seem over-whelming.

You will know whether your kids have certain toys and how many. You can more easily resist your kid’s urges for new toys if you understand what they already have.  This will save money as well as time!

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Remember these things for future toy storage clutter control:

  • Set up rules with your kids about caring for their toys. Get them involved in setting up the rules.
  • Always keep the 3 P’s in mind: Patience, Persistence and Perseverance.
  • Realize that you won’t feel like staying on top of it every day. Cut the kids, and yourself, a little slack and a large dollop of mercy.

Enjoy your kids, they are God's special gift to you!

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