Whether you’re bracing yourself for visitors or eying new gifts for your family, there’s possibly no better time to tackle toy clutter than during the lead-up to the holidays. Here are 10 practical solutions to make peace with your toy clutter now, so that you have a system in place to automate clean-up later (pro tip: outsource this step to the kids).
1. Check yourself.
First things first: if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already deep in the trenches of toy saturation. While there are ways to organize and redistribute what you’ve acquired and grown out of, the best way to embrace toys is to rethink the amount you get in the first place. In fact, studies suggest that too many toys actually reduce the quality of play. More and more, research is proving that fewer toys drive healthier play and deeper cognitive development. At the same time, exposure to a variety of play opportunities fuels learning. So, how do you provide more variety with fewer toys? Find and join a toy library like ours or take advantage of your local Buy Nothing group to create your own rotations. The best part: taking these steps are fantastic for our wallets, homes and environment.
2. Use baskets.
Baskets are great for toy storage because they’re low to the ground, accessible to little ones and multi-functional. Toys might feel like a lifestyle at the moment, but eventually kids will grow out of them and baskets make for all sorts of functional and decorative uses for your household well beyond toys. Use different shapes, sizes and styles of them to suit your style and the types of toy categories you’re looking to organize by. Keep toy organization categories broad to make your life easy (think general “buckets” for figurines, legos, building material, stuffed animals and doll care, kitchen play, etc.). Get smaller baskets for more specific toy sets that you want to be sure to keep isolated, and get the kids involved in grouping them to ensure easy clean-ups.
3. Reuse furniture.
As with all of these suggestions, make the most of what you have. If you have to purchase more storage organizers to accommodate more and more toys, you’re probably defeating the purpose. Reusing your own furniture or furniture you find second-hand is a great way to subtly store and organize children’s toys without overwhelming a room. Furniture like folding desks, bookshelves and dressers serve purposes well beyond studying or storing books and clothes. The only (major) caveat is to make sure that you don’t store toys in locations that would be dangerous for a child to access. To a kid, toys placed on top of bookcase are a climbing challenge that’s too good to pass up. Same with anything you might want to place on or near glass. In these examples, the more everyday toys are stored in reachable areas and the lesser used toys are stored in more hidden locations (both of which are secured at the back to a wall).
4. Blend it in.
There are some toys that are better off being left out of sight and mind (in our household these include the noisy, battery-operated delights that we tend to have a love-hate relationship with). When we need them, they’re golden. When we don’t want to deal with them, they need to disappear. One of the best ways to make them “disappear” is to categorize them for what they are and place them (preferably late at night, after bedtime, with noise machines on) into a hidden but accessible emergency back-up location. In these cases, living room toy storage disguised as a coffee table or ottoman really comes in handy. Just make sure you have an understanding with your little one(s) to never actually climb into or hide in them. If your child may be prone to doing this, consider drilling a few inconspicuous holes or avoid this storage hack entirely.
5. Take advantage of unusable space.
Sometimes the best use of space for toy storage are places you can no longer use for what they were intended for. This is not to say you should take over, say, your oven if you’re not prone to cooking, but do consider more unexpected locations for toy storage like this non-functional old fireplace. This particular fireplace was cut off on the second floor, rendering it useless. Apart from putting in a few non-flammable candles, it’s much more functional as a decorative and accessible storage area for children’s books. This rounded metal wood carrier would also be very suitable for toys of all kinds. What’s great about this particular toy storage fix is that the carrier makes is easy to carry from one room or location to the next.
6. Put it on display.
Toys are meant to be played with, and play is literally the work of a child. The best way to ensure the toys you have get played with is to put them on display and/or rotation. Rather than let an abundance of stuffed animals, for example, overwhelm your child or you during playtime, consider showcasing them for all their glory. A hanging shoe organizer provides a fun and convenient way to do this, giving your child a new way to see their stuffed animals and decide which ones to play with for a particular occasion.
7. Take over shoe shelves.
Shelves overall are great for storage of all kinds, but shoe shelves are especially useful for children’s items because they’re generally low to the ground and have less clearance between their shelves, which makes for easier item grabbing without the risk of a pile up. If you could use more shelves than you have, shoe shelves are also great because they’re relatively cost-effective, light-weight and come in environmentally friendly materials like bamboo. Here they’re used for board game storage, providing a direct line of sight into each game and (if you really wanted to) an easy way to group games by age or type.
8. Opt for cubbies.
Cubbies are a classic toy storage approach that also serve a purpose well beyond toys. Use a cubby for toys now, then graduate to using it for mudroom storage, a hallway or plant bench, or crafting gear down the road. Well-built cubbies aren’t cheap, but consider eying daycares, schools and parenting groups to score pre-loved ones still in great shape.
9. Repurpose a bench.
Benches with a built-in shelf or storage also naturally provide a working surface for toy play, coloring and other activities. The bench in this example is an old repainted piano bench that’s now being used to store coloring and activity books, items that otherwise get tossed and ripped about.
10. Stack it up.
Rolling carts with drawers make for a fun, customizable way to organize storage for smaller and/or flatter play items, like tinker toys and art material. The drawers in this example are removable, making it very easy to drop a tray of crayons or tinker toys into the middle of a table and empowering kids to let loose. Once a child gets older, it’s also fun to get them involved in grouping and labeling each drawer or shelf of the rolling cart.
How are you tackling your toys?
At a time when holiday shopping promotions are at their peek, focusing instead on finding ways to do more with the great toys—and space—you already have will free you up for more quality family time at home. If you’ve also been tackling toy clutter, what solutions have you found to be most helpful? Please comment below to let us know, and share this link with others who might find it handy.