I really never thought that we overdid it with our kids and toys. I don’t feel like we are always giving them new things. Actually, we hardly ever get them new things. Really, it’s holidays and birthdays that refresh and replenish the toy supply at our house. It is very rare that we just randomly bring home a new toy. And yet toys have taken over my entire house. We have a toy box in the living room, but that quickly filled up and then the toys began to be piled NEAR the toy box. And then that pile leaked out into an entire corner of our living room. We finally ran out of room in the corner, and ended up emptying out all the shelves in our entertainment center and using those for toy storage, too.
And that wasn’t even the bulk of where our toys were! The kids’ rooms were piled high with toys. In closets, in drawers, under cribs, in corners, in boxes, in crates, in buckets, in baskets. They were everywhere!
And that wasn’t including our actual PLAYROOM! Yes, we have a playroom in our house. I so seldom mention it because, quite frankly, I’m scared to go down there. We have a split-level home with three floors, and the playroom is on the third, bottom floor. When we moved into the house, we fixed everything up except that room. We figured we’d get to it eventually. But until we get to it, I’m kind of scared to go down there. The floor feels weird on my feet. And it has wood paneling walls, which I am morally, ethically, and emotionally against. But the playroom does actually have toys in it. Mostly, they are old toys that the kids have outgrown and the toys that were left over after our yard sale. It’s full of toys. It’s like a toy graveyard down there.
I have been plagued by the toy situation in our house for some time, but I haven’t had a large enough chunk of time to do anything about it. And then summer came and I decided to dedicate my life and time to organizing our house. Nothing else can be organized until the toy situation is under control. So, that’s what I tackled first.
I started in Bean’s room, which is like the hub of the toy enterprise in our house. All toys go through the gate keeper, and Bean is a mean gate keeper. Someone asked me to share how I am able to organize with two kids running around because, as any parent knows, nothing will undo your organization like children. For this project, I knew I had to get Bean involved. If he had a job and a role, then he would be less likely to flip out because I was messing with his stuff. (Side note: He has actually said to me before, “Mom! Stop messing with my stuff!”) So, Bean’s job was to help me sort.
We began by putting out the buckets that we were going to use to store things. We lined these up in the center of his room on the floor, so that he could get to them, too. I know that all the magazines and Pinterest images and Martha Stewart and everyone say that you should have super cute, matching bins for storage, but let’s face it. I’m poor and desperate. At this point, I used whatever I could grab around my house. Eventually, I’d like to buy cute, matching, colorful bins, but storage ain’t cheap, y’all. So, hodgepodge it is for us!
Once we had our bins set out, I examined the categories of toys that Bean had. Most of what he has are small pieces to larger sets or groups (i.e. Mr. Potato Head and his 1,000 moving parts or Legos or approximately 6,381 toy cars…). Once we narrowed it down to several categories, we began sorting through his toys and putting things in the correct bin. Our categories ended up being: cars, Legos, Mr. Potato head, blocks, figurines (Bean calls these his “guys” and they are his favorite thing in life) wooden tool sets, train sets (he has two of them, so we made two different bins), and animals/dinosaurs.
Though I didn’t share this with Bean, anything that didn’t fit into one of these categories was getting tossed or donated, depending on the condition. He has so many toys and these categories represent his most commonly used. Anything else is just taking up space. So, I made a separate pile for “everything else,” and that became two boxes of donated stuffed animals and toys and two full trash bags of toy pieces or parts. That meant, the random box of plastic Easter eggs that has been sitting around since April? Tossed. And the 10 inflatable beach balls that are never played with, only cost a dollar, and had at least one hole in each? Tossed. And the musical instrument collection was 95% lost and the remaining 5% broken? Tossed. Toys that we were keeping because we didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by throwing it out? Tossed. Sad, but true. If it wasn’t getting regularly played with, it wasn’t staying in the house. I think the majority of what we ended up throwing out were pieces and parts of things. If a toy didn’t have all or the majority of it’s parts that make it functional, then it had to go. That really helped us eliminate a lot of toys.
As I said, we started in Bean’s room. We went through his all the toys in his room with a fine tooth comb, sorting things into piles and then throwing out anything that was pile-less. I kept things organized while we sorted by using a big blue bin. I’d fill the bin with toys, then we’d sit down on the floor and sort through that bin. When we finished all those toys, I’d go refill that blue bin with another round of toys, we’d sort them, and then I’d go back and refill it again. This was helpful because I could actually see progress being made. Whereas if I had just gone through his room randomly, it would be harder to see what we were doing.
When we finished Bean’s room, I started taking the bin into other rooms and filling it with toys. So, we literally sorted the toys one small batch at a time. This not only helped me see progress, but it made it super easy to stop mid-sort if we had to for diaper changes or potty breaks or snacks or whatever without messing everything up. I’d come back and know right away what still needed to be sorted.
As we sorted, I ended up adding two more piles that didn’t have categories or bins. One of these was a pile for toys that needed to be in Gracie’s room and toys that belonged in the bath tub. You won’t believe how many toys we ended up putting back in the bath tub! The kids got in the tub that night and it was like Christmas all over again! Another pile that I ended up sorting through were toys that required a little supervision to play with. Things like puzzles, coloring books, games, or flashcards that could easily become ineffective if pieces were lost were put in a pile. For now, these things are in a giant pile on my dining room table, but my next organizational project is to create a toy closet with crates of toys that require some adult assistance.
It may not look like it, but our toy collection is much, much more organized and manageable now. We organized Bean’s bookshelves and bins, and he was really excited about sorting things into specific spots. At school, they are only allowed to play with one bin of toys at a time, and I think that’s going to be the new rule in our house. There’s just to reason for Bean to pull out everything he owns and throw it around the room. He’s too old for that now. I’ve seen him at school, and he knows that he has to clean up one activity before he can start another. So, there’s no reason he can’t follow that rule at our house. It will definitely require some real supervision and instruction to begin with (I had to remind him about 10,000 times on those first two days after we organized), but I think that after a couple weeks, he’ll get the hang of it. Gracie is pretty content playing with whatever is out, so it will be my job to make sure she has one bin of toys out at a time.
I know that things will probably not stay as organized as we made everything this week, but it certainly feels nice to have created a clean, organized slate. Now, there aren’t toys that permanently live in my living room. I can’t tell you how much storage space we’ve claimed back out of closets and drawers all around the house. Which frees up more space for more organizational projects!
See how that works????