When we moved from our one-bedroom apartment to our three bedroom house, I was surprised by two things: how much bigger our home felt, and how quickly we were able to fill it up with stuff. And mostly kid stuff.
We are now two additional kids and almost-four years later, so you can bet even more stuff has been accumulated. And seeing all. the. things. makes the perfectionist in me really sweaty. As much as I love seeing my kids play, I hate stepping on or around their things all day.
The variables are stacked against us though: three kids, two genders, different preferences, shared bedrooms, small house, and a lot of toys, books, and art supplies. After a lot of trial and error, and as a real-mom-without-a-house-cleaner, I can sum up my tips for toy organization with:
1) PURGE and ORGANIZE OFTEN
2) USE CONTAINERS
3) MAKE YOUR KIDS CLEAN UP!
1) Purge and Organize Often
I would love to be a minimalist toy owner. But kids gotta play! Plus, they are toy magnets. While we do a good job of limiting our own toy purchases, I find it nigh impossible to turn down a free hand-me-down toy from a neighbor and I most definitely enjoy having my kids get a present or a hard-earned prize that makes them so, so happy.
When we do bring toys into our little home, I try to do my best to only get something that will be well loved by all the kids and for a long time, such as the dollhouse, play kitchen (from ikea), doctor's kit, and trains. Most of the other toys are great gifts from relatives (like dolls, trucks, and sticker books), or the little toys they somehow collect (prizes, party favors, etc.). However, that last category of toys are tossed when the kids aren't looking ASAP, if I'm being honest...
In fact, I gradually purge all the time--by collecting random toys and clothing that need to be donated and putting them in my donation pile, throughout my daily tidying up. If purging is a regular occurrence, it takes far less time and stress! I also do a more intense purge every few months.
2) Use Containers
Because we live in a 1,200 foot house, I tend to encourage my kids to play in their room, but they are more than welcome to also play in the front room and the nursery. So basically, we have toys everywhere. BUT they all have a place where they belong! That, coupled with intermittent rounds of purging is what has kept our home from looking like a hoarder house. And whatever survives my wrath needs a place to reside. Girl, you've got to get yourself some containers, STAT!
The OCD in me realllly comes out while I prepare for my baby's birth, so the whole house has been purged and intensely organized quite a few times. I feel like we are in a good place--for now--with how our toys are stashed away.
My older kids' room was where most of my work went during my last round of nesting. With the baby coming, my girl and boy needed to share a room (most of their toys were already there--just poorly organized). I stuck to mostly gender-neutral colors, but added some fun with their yarn letters and gender-specific quilts my talented mother made, and pillows I made.
|This is where I apologize for the lighting in these photos... This room is very dark, unfortunately, and near impossible to photograph well. This was my fourth attempt within the past six months to get good enough photos for the blog.|
|The basket under the dresser holds their shoes. We also have a large basket by our front door that we keep one pair-per kid so they can quickly get out the door.|
|A corner spot for purses, backpacks, and the tent.|
They have a little desk that is colored on every single day. My kids love, love art so there is almost always a little project getting worked on there. Those containers are Perch containers, and we are SO SO glad we bought them. In the closet, I have more containers for Bella's dolls, their stuffed animals, marble set, and other play items that aren't used often, but we still want to keep (like felt stories).
Toys aren't limited to the bedroom though! In the family room's bookshelf, I have a big basket that has trains and wooden blocks, but also some other odds and ends toys. In the two white containers, I keep most our crafting and art supplies. By the fireplace (which you can see here), we house library books and smaller puzzles. Speaking of books, we also have a ton in the nursery, which you can see here. (The nursery photos also show where I keep the dress-up stuff!)
In the kitchen, I've got their play kitchen.
3) Make your kids clean up
Everything in our house has a "home" where it goes. For the most part, my kids know where everything's "home" is, so I don't have to be all obsessed about it. One of the keys to keeping our home manageably-clean is that my kids can play, play, play as long as they do their best to put their stuff away in their proper place before they move on to the next thing. (This is a work in progress, just in case you thought they got that part down. They don't!) And another big key to a clean house is my kids are only allowed to watch their one show of the day if they have had a nap/quiet time AND have cleaned up every single toy in the house. This usually happens as I'm about to cook dinner. They are extra motivated to watch Octonauts, so it's a win-win for everyone!
I'm definitely not an organization expert. Just a real mom who also likes a pretty house, but doesn't want to be a slave to her things (and her kids' toys). So remember: 1) PURGE and ORGANIZE OFTEN, 2) USE CONTAINERS, and 3) MAKE YOUR KIDS CLEAN UP!
Some other great moms are sharing about their kids' toys, if you'd like to check them out! I'd venture to guess that mine is the most long-winded... (You can sign up to participate in a similar series at either Madeline or Kiana's blog, while you're at it.)