I recently had the opportunity to help a family tackle their playroom. The amount of toys had reached a level where the children were not able to enjoy their space, because they did not have room to play and could not find the toys they wanted. This is a common problem, one we had in my house growing up. And the more kids you have, and the wider the age gap, the more toys there seems to be. This is especially so if you kids happen to have grandparents who’s love language is gift giving. I know this was my grandparents’ language! They loved to spoil us!
So what to do in those situations?
Declutter first. Don’t try to figure out where to put everything away before you do this. You will only find yourself discouraged, and the kids will just create a wreck again trying to find everything! I encourage you to let you children be a part of this process. Encourage them to create a pile of things they no longer play with, or that do not interest them so those items can be given to others who will enjoy and play with them. Make this a positive and giving experience. Don’t try to pressure them to keeping things just because a certain person gave it to them, or because they just got it. If something is truly significant, such as a homemade gift from a favorite relative, store that item in the attic for when your child is able to recognize the importance, and hopefully pass it on to their own children. If your child is too small to help in this process, pay attention to the toys he or she normally gravitates to. They will tend to play with only a few favorite items. When my youngest sister was small, she was content to play with pencils and pretend they were people and rarely played with her actual toys!
Sort the items. Often, this will be part of step one, but if not, make sure you sort like items together before finding places to organize them. For example, baby dolls and accessories, dinosaurs, books, craft supplies… you get the drift. Decide what room these items should reside in. For example, my family did not have a playroom, so most of our toys were kept in our bedrooms. A few shared items were kept in a closet. Craft supplies and playdough were kept in the kitchen, because that was the only room we were allow to use them in, for the sake of keeping the amount of crayon on the walls and paint on the floors to a minimum. Once this sorting process is done, you will be able to see how much stuff you have kept to evaluate what size and type of storage accessories will best meet your needs.
Find your boxes, bins, and baskets. I love uses those fabric cube shaped bins. They fit so nicely on bookshelves or on top of dressers. I have used them for everything from craft supplies, to stuffed animals, to books, to board games. They are small and lightweight, and have the added bonus of a grow-with-you look. In college I started using bins for my socks and underwear, due to limited drawer space. Clear bins are great for little ones, so they can see what is inside. I recommend keeping items in smaller bins so that children can easily pick them up to play or to clean up. If you have multiple children, I recommend storing toys by height. Keep items for younger ones near the bottom, so they can reach. If you have toys you only want the older ones to access, keep them higher up and out of the reach of the little ones. You can also utilize things like wicker baskets that you already own. This is great for stuffed animals, or for baby toys, as they can sit on the floor.
Remember, it’s ok to be messy. One of the questions I get frequently when children are involved, is “How do I keep it clean?” In a quick answer, you don’t. Life happens, and so do messes. Toys are meant to be dragged out and played with. The key is to establish a pattern of behavior with the kids. If they have a clearly defined play space, it’s less likely the toys will travel across the house. If you have clearly defined where the toys go when not played with, it’s easier for them to put the toys back in place. Make sure you make cleaning a habit. Model the behavior. Let them help you clean your stuff. Give them ownership over their spaces. A great tip I love is to teach them that before they drag out another set of toys, they need to put away what they are no longer playing with. For examples, if you are done with the Playdough and want to play Barbies, you have to put up the Playdough first.
I hope this makes your life a little easier, and play times more fun! Let me know if I can help in anyway, whether it’s through the decluttering process or in the organizing.
Peace and Love,