Let’s be real here: toys aren’t pretty. Sure, some toys are cute. But I highly doubt that anybody ever went into a home, looked at the pile of Legos and plastic toy trucks on the floor and thought, “marvelous, simply marvelous!” So, this one is for the parents out there. Today, I’m going to help you ease your toy storage woes and help you find a solution that works for you and your littles.
Before we get into it, I do want to say that by no means does having disorganized toys in your home say anything about who you are as a person or as a parent. Toys are a sign of a happy kid. If anybody judges you for that, that’s their problem. Not yours. If you’re looking for toy storage solutions, please let it be out of your own free will to be more organized and not out of the will to please somebody else!
The Very First Step (Always)
The first thing that you have to do when organizing is called purging. In this case, when you’re purging toys that means that you have to comb through what your kids already have and determine what can stay and what should go. How you decide to create those guidelines is totally up to you, but you should definitely get rid of toys that are broken or not played with anymore as long as they’re not sentimental. The goal here is to reduce the number of toys that you have to deal with.
When you’re purging your toys and games please only throw away items that can’t be salvaged because they’re broken. Try to donate, sell, or recycle as much as you can!
Keeping It Manageable
Keep in mind that purging is only a temporary step. If you don’t get ahead of the problem, you’ll be back where you are now in a sea of toys. Then you’ll have to take the same steps again. All that before your child has even outgrown the toys they currently have. What this means in practice is that you have to limit the number of new toys coming in. Have relatives on birthdays and holidays gift something else that your child can enjoy, such as experiences! That also means that you can’t go buying new toys every chance you get, either. Keep it limited to a number that you can manage. Or, keep it limited to only when your child is growing out of their current toys and it’s time to upgrade.
One tip of advice that I can offer is what I call “the closet trick”. The closet trick will help keep your child interested in their toys for longer and keep your home neater. It’s easy to adopt the closet trick into your own toy storage repertoire. What you do is split the toys up into four different equal sections – save for the select few “favorites” that you child probably has. Leave those out. Each of the four sections represents a season. So, at the start of each season, swap out the current toys your child has out with the new season’s toys. That way you have less toys to have to constantly clean up AND your child wants new toys less often because the rotation of toys makes them feel new and surprising. It works!
Toy Storage by Category
Now that you’ve purged out the toys that you don’t need anymore, it’s time to figure out how to organize them based on what they actually are. For example, don’t store art supplies with video games. That doesn’t make sense. I’m also not a fan of the traditional toy box that becomes a catch-all for toys. That makes it seem like a child isn’t an equal member of the home and thus can’t share in its space. It’d be like mom having to store her cosmetics with her books or dad having to store his tools with his movies. We treat ourselves to organization and the idea that everything has its place, so I believe that we should extend that courtesy to our children as well. Plus, when everything has a home, toy storage becomes more manageable to keep clean and tidy.
Kids have a lot of electronics in their lives these days. There’s Leappad for reading, handheld video games, video games and systems dedicated to kids like the Nintendo Switch, and even tablets and computers! This is not a comment on whether or not kids should be exposed to this much tech or not, but rather an acknowledgement that it happens, and there’s a way to organize for it.
I recommend keeping your child’s electronics together. The best home for them would be to have a dedicated space for them in the entertainment center in your living room. Fabric boxes and built-in drawers and cabinets are perfect for this.
Books are not easy to organize, believe it or not. I even wrote a whole post about it because books are notoriously and deceptively tricky to keep organized well! Children’s books aren’t any different. Consider keeping a shelf of your own book shelf open for your child to put their books. Alternatively, you can get them their very own bookshelf for their room. It’s a good reminder to them how important and fun reading is and will help them build the habit from a young age.
However, the absolute best way to manage your child’s books is to use a library instead of buying new books. Of course, people will still gift them, and some books are just really sentimental. But the reality is that kids grow out of books faster than we think, and it’s not very ecological or economical to buy new ones all the time.
Art supplies can be annoying in the fact they have no defined shape (like books or board games) and they’re often messy to store. So, what do you do with your assorted arts and crafts supplies when you’ve got toy storage on the mind? Well, here’s my top tip: Pick up a small plastic bin from Target or a similar store and store it in a cabinet or deep drawer in the kitchen.
The plastic bin will ensure that any leaks or spills won’t ruin your cabinetry. Plus, it’s easy to clean if a spill or leak does happen! If you store your art supplies in the kitchen, you gain the added benefit that you won’t have to travel over any rugs or carpets and any messes can then be easily cleaned up.
This has always been my own weak point with storing my own stuffed animals. I’m by no means a child anymore, but I have held on to stuffed animals that have meaning for me. I have four that are near and dear to me. I even tried to save this really adorable bear that my boyfriend had got our dog on her first Christmas with us! When you have a kid, I can imagine that it gets a million times more difficult. So, let’s not even put purging them on the table right now.
My absolute favorite way to store stuffed animals is to create a plushie hammock. The hammock goes in the upper corner of your kid’s room. They’re super easy to put up and cheap to make. You can use anything from an old bed sheet to some woven rope. Then, keep all the stuffed animals up there until your child wants a specific one. That way you can keep them organized and tidy. Then they can decide that for themselves when they get older which to keep! Maybe just try to keep the buying of new ones down to a minimum!
Puzzles & Board Games
Like books, puzzles and board games seem super easy to store… but they’re not. They are never the right shape. You end up playing a game of Tetris trying to get them organized and it’s just… annoying. So, how do you store them? Simple. A big ole’ box.
There are two ways that I love to store board games with a big box. One is a beautiful old travel trunk or chest. These look gorgeous in the home and are great for storing board games and spare blankets. The other way that I love to store board games and puzzles is with a piece of furniture that doubles as a chest. There are a lot of great couches and coffee tables that do this, and it’s perfect! That way you have enough room to just stack them up and not care about saving space or making them look nice. Easy peasy.
A Final Word on Toy Storage
Please don’t ever drive yourself wild trying to perfect the art of storing toys. Kids, by nature, are messy and crazy. It’s no wonder that crazy messiness is often reflected in their homes as well. Toys are meant to be played with. Kids are meant to be messy. This is one of those things that I don’t think anybody would blame you for if you just stuffed a toy box in the corner of the living room and called it a day.
Until your little one becomes your big one, toys are going to be your Bane. They’re going to need constant chasing down, purging, organizing, and you’ll need to find new toy storage options all the time. UNLESS you get ahead of it. Let your family know that you don’t need new toys. Keep a rule with yourself that you won’t buy new toys until a certain age. Using the closet trick we talked about above will help you keep that promise to yourself. And it will still keep your child entertained and happy.
Still, if you’re in the pursuit of mastering the art of toy storage and organization, I’m proud of you. You can get a handle on it with some diligence and pre-planning, and your home will be happier for it!