After the holidays the year my daughter turned two, I realized my living room looked more like a toy store than a place to relax and hang out. So as we began to take down our festive decor, I looked for ways to stash her cache of Legos and puzzles and fairy wands, so I could keep the place looking neat and practically toy free. Here’s what worked for me for organizing toys:
- Cull the toy numbers—and don’t be afraid to be brutal. New toys received means you can donate old and outgrown toys to a local charity (or stash them in an out-of-the-way storage area, if you’re saving them for younger siblings).
- Make an organizing plan. Divide the remaining toys down by type (all Legos together or all Legos and blocks, for instance). That made it easier for my daughters to find their favorites, and made cleanup much easier as well. Let the size of each collection dictate the type of storage you need for it (for instance, a small basket for Legos, or a big bin for dress-up clothes). And streamline where you can—for my daughters’ extensive jigsaw puzzle collection, I put each puzzle in a small plastic zip-top storage bag along with the “cover” of the box—that enabled us to fit more puzzles into the same small space.
- Trade in your standard coffee table for something with storage. Try a storage ottoman or bench (my daughters stash their stuffed animals in our trunk-style coffee table), or one with shelves for baskets beneath—those baskets tend to be just the right size for a collection of cars or a well-stocked stash of arts-and-crafts supplies. An old-fashioned blanket chest can make a nice substitute for a traditional coffee table.
- Get some solid shelving. Sturdy shelves make a nice home for picture books—and paired with attractive fabric or plastic boxes or woven baskets, they can be used to organize toys beautifully. Consider keeping the shelving units low, and make sure they’re solidly attached to the wall, to minimize the chances of a climbing mishap.
- Make room in other storage units. Consider placing your DVD, CD or video game collection in a set of plastic-sleeved books to free up some space in your media cabinet for board games or other toys.
- Look beyond the obvious. Covered baskets, including hampers can keep large amounts of mess at bay. (We use two big hampers in our playroom to house my girls’ extensive collection of dress-up ensembles.)
- Consider hiding it all in plain sight. Want to be able to stash away your toddler’s toys whenever company’s coming (or when you want that moment of Zen)? A folding screen strategically placed in a corner lets you block off that Thomas the Tank Engine table or any other large items that can’t fit in a bin.
- Limit toy creep. Toys that haven’t found a home in the living room need to stay in their designated places—or at least, be brought there at the end of the day. (I’ve instituted a “no-creep” policy in our house, and toys left out after bedtime are placed in the chore box—my girls need to pitch in around the house in order to get them back.)
And next year, before the whirl of the holidays sets in, consider making a pre-emptive purge of any neglected toys to make room for newer treasures about to arrive.
What tricks do you use for organizing toys? Tell us below.