Saturday, February 07, 2015

My 9 best tips and principles for keeping kids toys organized

After 11 years and 2 boys, I think I have toy organization pretty well handled. Our method is cheap and straightforward, and it's usually not too cluttered around the house. Here are the tips and principles that work for us:

- Cheap wire shelving This is the framework of our storage system. We've partially re-purposed the entry coat closet into a toy storage area, with adjustable wire shelving. It's about 1/3 coats, and 2/3 toys. The wire shelving can be fairly cheap if you don't go all "California Closets", and just stick to the basics you can find at Lowe's or Home Depot.

Our hall closet
- Plastic bins, with blue painters tape for labels. If our toys were out in the open more, we'd probably use something more attractive, but since they're in a closet, this works well. Instead of something more fancy, I just use blue painters tape for labeling, writing on it with a Sharpie pen. These are very easy to remove when I need to use the bin for something else.

- They don't need that much! The animal bin above used to be twice as big, but it didn't add to the "play value", and they just don't need that many of one type of toy. So we sorted through them, and got rid of duplicates and ones they didn't play with. Now everything needs to fit in this bin. If more comes in, something needs to go out.

- Make some toys completely inaccessible. We have a lot of toys - not as much as some familes, but still, they don't all fit comfortably in this closet. So we rotate things out occasionally to the garage. We usually do this every couple months. Some things that get played with a LOT (Legos, Knex) don't get rotated out. When we bring some of the toys back inside, the kids are much more interested in them.

- Pay them to get rid of toys. A year and a half ago, we went to Switzerland for 2 years. We had to get rid of a lot before the move. So, I went through all the stuffed animals, and allowed them to each keep their 5 favorite. My kids were a lot happier giving up the rest when I gave them 25 cents for each, which I didn't mind doing because they don't get an allowance.

- Big clean-ups - about once or twice a year, we do a big clean up. This means everything goes out of the closet, and gets organized and re-evaluated before it goes back in. This is a great opportunity for a garage sale, with the kids deciding what they'd like to sell, and allowed to keep the money. I've tried to have the kids do this on their own, but so far that hasn't worked - they need lots of supervision.

- Have a "lost pieces" bin. This saves time if there's lot of items that belong somewhere else. I just drop it into the "lost pieces" bin, and it will eventually get put back when we do a big clean-up.

Our "lost pieces" bin
- Cheap milk jug bin - this is great when you run out of regular bins, and still have things to put away. It's just a one-gallon milk jug, cleaned up and with the top cut off!

- Clean up before video games - My kids, like most, love playing video games, and are allowed to do that every day for a certain amount of time. Before that happens, though, they need to do a basic cleanup around the house. Linking the cleanup to something they want to do - video games - is a great way to make sure it actually happens.

So there you have it - my best tips, gleaned from years of dealing with frustrating clutter. I hope they give you a few ideas as well!


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