One of the questions I get asked a lot is "where are all of your toys?!" Maybe you've been thinking it.
Sometimes I shove stuff out of the picture (all bloggers do), but for the most part, we have the toy situation figured out. Toy storage, organization, decluttering, decrapifying, simplifying, it can all be tricky.
But once you figure out what works in your home and for your family, you can get the mess manageable and keep the toys from taking over.
Maybe you want a little bit of a background before I start.
Our home has 1200 square feet, plus an unfinished basement and an unfinished upstairs/attic. (Here's a home tour and a floor plan.) We have two bedrooms, 1 bath, and six people living here (yes, we are crazy). Our kids are 4.5, 3.5, 2, and 5 months old.
And let me throw in a disclaimer that this is what works for us. It might not work for you, it might not work for us in another year or five. But I'm willing to change things up and amend what we do to best fit our family.
Basement Toy Storage
This is the key factor that keeps toys organized in our home. Let me say that again but louder. THIS IS A KEY FACTOR THAT KEEPS TOYS ORGANIZED IN OUR HOME. 😉
We have a large storage shelf in the basement that my husband built. It was fairly easy to build, inexpensive, and took one day to put together. Here is a post on how to build a basement storage shelf. It's pretty basic, but is sturdy and gets the job done!
Each type of toy is in a different bin. Larger sets are in larger bins, small sets are in smaller bins (from Walmart, Target has similar ones). Long toys such as our puppet show theater and roll-out car rug are stored behind the small bins. The price of bins can add up quickly, so I saved money by buying a few bins at a time over the years.
I found the blue bins at Goodwill for $1.99 each because they were missing the tops. This worked out as a blessing in disguise, because with no tops there's no cramming to get the lid shut. 🙂
Puzzles and Board Games
I have a storage shelf that keeps both the puzzles and board games up high and we take them down one at a time. I bought most of them second hand so I don't feel bad about pitching a game if it loses pieces. Jigsaw puzzles are in big, labeled ziploc baggies in a small, clear bin on the toy storage (see above).
Upstairs Toy Storage
The other key to keeping the toy situation under control is that there aren't many toys on our main floor.
We have a few toys that are always in the family room. Two basket-boxes, an old penguin bucket that was mine as a kid, and whatever humongous baby toy thing my youngest is using at the time. Last month it was the swing, this month it is the bouncer. 🙂
The Duplo Legos and blocks get played with daily and the random toy box is filled with some of their favorites that don't belong to a set. A big Thomas the Tank Engine, some cars, dinosaurs, little figurines, etc.
We don't have many toys in the kids' room.
This started when we were transitioning my now 4.5 year old into a toddler bed. I took everything out so she wouldn't play instead of sleep and it kinda stuck. The kids have stuffed animals in their beds and a bookshelf (more on that below), but other than that, no toys are stored in there. Sometimes toys hang out in here but they're not stored in here. Now that we have three kids in a room there really isn't any ROOM for toys in there, haha.
Grandma and grandpa gave the three older kids each a Leappad 2 for Christmas. The Leappads, cartridges, and cords go in a big basket on top of the fridge and they can ask me when they want to use them. This helps to limit screen time, sneakiness, and losing the accessories.
I also keep my dSLR camera up there because I'm prone to forgetting where I put it. 😉 If we had a tablet, that would go up here too. The laptop is "stored" under the couch.
DVDs are stored in the entertainment center. I've limited the DVDs to ones that aren't online. We watch most of our kid shows streaming on Netflix or Hulu and borrow from the library. You can also read about how we ditched cable here.
Stuffed animals stay in the kids' beds. They can come out and play during the day, but when it's time for bed, they go to bed too.
I will say this: stuffed animals used to annoy me. I saw how much fun my kids had with them and changed my mind. So we have what feels like a ton of stuffed animals and my kids have a blast. Okay, they're cute, but in moderation. 😉
We have a bookshelf in the family room. (Also note the diapers and homemade baby wipes in the green basket.)
and a bookshelf in the kids room (read more about the built-in book rack here)
Guys, books are so tough. They're good to have and good for your kids but they can get out of control. I try to go through them regularly and buy most at Goodwill or garage sales. We have some sentimental ones and favorites, but if I buy them cheap, I don't feel as bad about donating them for another family to enjoy. We also borrow from our library.
I'm always making something which leads to my kids wanting to make stuff too. We keep paint, paper, crayons, brushes, and all of their stuff in a drawer in the hallway built-in closet. Much of my craft stuff is in the top drawer, their stuff is in the middle, and the bottom drawer is fabric.
The stuff in the drawers are more "shoved" than "organized", but it works. The art supplies have a designated place and they're out of sight when not in use.
Ohhhh, baby stuff. This could be a post on it's own. You have to figure out what works for you, but here's what works for us.
Small baby toys go in a basket in the family room so they are easy to find. One baby carrier stays in the car, the other stays in my closet. I have two baskets for diapers and wipes: one in the family room and one in my room (in my opinion, you don't need a changing table). Extra cases of diapers are stored on a shelf in the basement.
Big baby things (BBTs) are unavoidable. Some of our BBTs are a Pack and Play, crib, swing, a jumperoo, a Bumbo, a table for them to stand and play, toys to push when learning to walk. I know I'm forgetting some. When we are not using them, the BBT goes in the attic, basement, or to a close family member to borrow (even better!). If I can help a friend or family member by letting them use my BBT, then yay! I will!
If it gets broken, no big deal, I'll find one at a garage sale if I want another one.
While we are talking about lending baby stuff, I feel like I need to add this in (even though it hasn't happened to us). If you want something back, let them know. But know that things happen and it might get spit up on or damaged. If you see things as replaceable, it's okay. If you want it returned in pristine condition, DON'T LEND IT OUT. That's okay too! If they ask, kindly decline, or mention that you'll help them find one secondhand.
Doing the Toy Rotation
For us, the basement storage system is enough to establish a rotation of toys. We have all of the bins down there, they get one at a time (more if friends are over or I'm feeling generous), they pick them up, and then pick a new one. They can bring a bin upstairs, but the toys get put back in the bin at the end of the day. Stuff happens and gets crazy and cars and trains might stay upstairs if we really like em. A bin may stay upstairs for a week or more if they're really into that toy.
They're toys, they're meant to be played with.
Lately we've been keeping the basement clean and they prefer playing down there since there is more room to spread out. Cool, as long as we stick to the one bin at a time thing. If they want a new toy, I ask that they come get me, we clean up, and get a new one.
Don't Go Crazy
I've been guilty of ALL of these at one time or another. Going crazy includes:
-buying too much "stuff"
-buying too much little dollar store crap
-buying lots and lots of toys at garage sales because "hey! they're cheap! and it's Melissa and Doug!"
-getting too attached to... everything.
-holding onto toys that the kids don't care about (for sentimental reasons)
-not letting them help you sort and get rid of stuff (aka giving toys to another kid)
-spending too much on a toy and then feeling bad about getting rid of it
-thinking that it's going to stay clean forever.
It won't stay clean. You're going to go crazy at some point.
You are going to have to continually sort and re-sort and re-evaluate and maybe buy more bins.
But they're toys. They're meant to be played with. You have a home with kids, do your best but make it a fun place. 🙂
Did I miss anything?
Do you have a great toy organization method I need to know about? Any questions for me? I'll meet you in the comments section!
As always, if this post helps you out, I'd love it if you shared on Instagram and tagged me. I'm @whbsblog. 🙂 Thanks!