It’s the middle of the night and you wake to get a glass of water, knowing that the kids’ toy organization project is still on your to-do list. An obstacle course awaits. On the long, dark walk to the kitchen, you step on something. You feel the pain of metal poking your feet and the vertigo as wheels roll under you, barely giving time to catch yourself before falling. You grab what almost took you down. It’s your son’s truck, in the middle of the hallway. More cars, Legos and odd parts are scattered throughout the house. And it’s always like this, in what seems a never-ending battle to find the ultimate toy storage system.
For parents of small children, toy clutter is a constant challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. Professional organizer Amy Trager offers tips on culling, sorting and smart storage that make staying tidy a lot easier.
She says to start your toy organization project with sorting. “Gather all the toys into one area. It allows you to really gauge how much there is of what, and then parents and kids can pick their favorites and find missing parts.”
Encourage Kids to Donate Some Toys
Organizing also often means getting rid of excess belongings that take up space. Some kids are better than others at giving up their toys. Amy says it’s also often the parents who want to keep toys because of the memories, even after the children aren’t the slightest bit interested anymore. She suggests having the kids go through their toys alone. “It also helps to explain to the child that whatever toys they decide to get rid of will be given to child who may not have toys of their own. This can be motivation enough for some children.
Another tip, have physical limitations that prompt the child to make choices. “Provide a bin or drawer and say, ‘anything that can fit in the container can be kept, everything else must go.’ It forces the child to pick favorites pretty quickly,” says Amy.
Put Every Toy in its Storage Space
A key piece of the organizing effort is to find places for the toys that are left over to “live”, other than all over the floor. Set up containers around the house to keep toys wrangled and teach kids to put away their things. Budget-friendly bins can be found at stores such as Target and Walmart. They can even add to the décor of the room.
“Consider aesthetically pleasing baskets for common areas such as family or living rooms,” suggests Amy. “Just make sure they are easy for small hands to use and are big enough to hold whatever your child would be playing with in that space,” says Amy.
Tight on space? Another toy organization idea is to “think vertical” says Amy. “Attach shelves and wall storage systems where there is a lack of floor space. Pegboards can be really versatile, and take advantage of bookshelves.” Just make sure all toys are within the child’s reach.
Use Labels to Keep Toys Organized
Like most organizers, Amy is big on labeling. “Use either words or pictures of what belongs in each container. Make sure every toy has a home so kids can easily get their toys and put them away without assistance. Then give the kids a tour of what goes where.”
For homes with several children, Amy says color-coding is a good solution for helping toys stay sorted. “Color code by kid or toy type. Blue containers for dolls, red for cars, or green baskets for Sally and yellow for Tommy.”
Taking a little time to set up a system to keep toys organized can go a long way to keeping your home tidy and well-managed – and safe for you to get that glass of water or anything else you need.
Photos courtesy of Amy Trager