This weekend I had a big blowout party for my son’s fourth birthday. A room full of sugar-high, screaming four-year-olds didn’t faze me. It was the end of the party–when I saw a mountain of presents as big as my bed–that I started to panic.
My son was beyond thrilled as he shredded the outer wrapping to get to his brand-new racetrack, spaceship, etc., but all I could think of was: “Where on earth are we going to put all these gifts without the apartment turning into a toy store?” And with Christmas right around the corner (and some overly generous grandparents) I knew I had to take action now and get organized for further toy onslaughts.
Manhattan-based professional organizer Laura Dantzler, owner of Let Laura, calmed me down with easy-to-follow tips to turn my challenge into child’s play.
Tip 1: Create Good Habits Early On
“It’s important to agree upon cleanup rules and consequences,” says Dantzler. “Young children love to help, and teaching them to put their toys away is a great place to start.”
She also suggests taking your child’s interests into consideration when setting up an organizing system for his or her room. If your child is an aspiring artist, set up a corner with an easel and separate boxes for crayons, paints and crafts. If he or she loves to play dress up, put costumes, old scarves or hats and other fun pieces in a bin.
Tip 2: Forget Fancy Toy Boxes
Use open bins or clear boxes to see all the different toys and what’s inside. Keep favorite toys where kids can easily reach them, suggests Dantzler, but she warns against using large bins to put everything in. “Teach kids how to group similar items together, such as arts and crafts projects, dolls, board games,” she says. “This makes it easy to find things.”
Tip 3: Label, Label, Label
Use pictures for kids who can’t read and labels for kids who can for easy toy finding. Not only will you make it clear for yourself or any babysitters during clean-up time, but it’s also a way for your child to recognize the words. (Warning though, label makers are additive. If you’re anything like me, once you start you’ll find yourself labeling everything in your home).
Tip 4: Have a Cleanup Container
Keep an easy-to-carry container to go around the house and pick up toys from the day, suggests Dantzler. “Even with designated areas, toys will end up everywhere. Do a quick cleanup each night and ask your child to help you return the toys to their correct spot.”
Tip 5: Display
Put up a corkboard or bulletin board in your child’s room to display kid’s artwork, photos and projects. It will give them a sense of pride to see their work up on the wall–and it will also eliminate pieces of loose paper lying around the house.
Tip 6: Rotate and Donate
Store infrequently used toys on a higher shelf in the closet or out of sight for several months. (Label and date the boxes for reference). Switch them every few months to make it feel like there are always new toys. And when your kids outgrow their toys pass them on to another younger child and make room for the inevitable next round of birthday gifts.
How do you help keep toys in check?