Our family recently prepared to move and determined that we needed to cut down on our stuff addiction. Despite my enthusiasm for becoming “stuff free,” I dreaded tackling the toy room with its overabundance of toys for three and perpetual chaos.
I’ve shared some of my toy room organization and art room organization ideas in the past. Looking back at those ideas, I still like them and see them as long-term successes, with a few important tweaks. The toy room organization process needs to be a group effort and our family needs a new philosophy about toys. We are still waiting to set up our toy room in our new home, but discovered some important first steps. Here are 7 Ways to Sort Toys and Keep on Top of the Clutter.
- Quick Bins. We needed an initial way to sort through toys without it being time-consuming. This also needed to be a simple process that made sense for my 4 and 6 year-olds. We tackled the toy room initially by making “keep” and “donate” bins. The kids simply found their toys throughout the room and sorted into the two bins, without having to explain or agonize. This process helped them find toys they no longer played with, outgrew, or wore out. The “donate” bins were much smaller than their counterparts, but they helped us prepare for the second part of the process.
- Keep One/Donate One. Once we had our initial “keep” bins, we began a keep one/donate one process. This was beyond my 4 year-old and challenging for my 6 year-old, but worked very well with my 8 year-old. She understood the idea (finally) that more is not always better. We sat together with her toys and she picked up one to keep, then one to give away. For every toy she kept, she had to find another to give away. I didn’t micromanage this process and I encouraged her not to feel guilty or like she needed to explain or worry that giving away something would hurt my feelings. Once she got in the groove, decisions were made efficiently and we cut her “keep” pile by at least half.
- Keep Toys that Fit Your Space. I am always trying to make rooms fit the items I own, rather than keeping the number of items that fit comfortably in space I have. We currently have a certain number of bins per child because we are moving. When we get to our new space, we might need to re-evaluate this number. You might have a certain number of toys or types of toys or toy categories. Whatever you choose, the toys should fit the space you currently have without overcrowding or overloading.
- Let it Go. I am sentimental in many ways, but I am learning that I can still love something and keep a memory of it without also keeping a thing attached to that memory. I was amazed to see the relief my daughter felt in letting go of dolls she no longer played with or old toys of mine she’d adopted for a time. It’s okay to outgrow toys. It’s okay not to keep every toy for the next kid (people will want to gift them new toys). It’s okay not keep boxes of toy memories. When kids let it go, someone else can enjoy it and they can make room for a new hobby or interest.
- Get One/Give One. Practice letting go of toys throughout the year. Want a new lego set? Time to let a toy go to make room for it. Love that stuffed dog? Find a lovey to let go. Encourage your kids to do steps 1 and 2 before birthdays and Christmas in preparation for presents. Create a realistic limit to your toys and stick to it. This will ultimately help your kids learn to organize and enjoy what they receive.
- Don’t Collect Them All. I couldn’t believe it when I watched my daughter put some of her Pet Shop animals and houses in the donate/sell bin. With her birthday coming up, she wanted to collect a new set of animals and connecting stores. Without prompting, she told me she was letting some go so she could begin a new collection. This didn’t make her ungrateful or mean she didn’t love those toys. She recognized that she couldn’t care for so many Pet Shop toys well, so she was making room for a new interest in that category.
- Think Big Picture. Sometimes I get caught in the number of presents I’m giving a kid or excited about a steal I find at the consignment store and forget to think about the impact this has on the toy room feng shui. I also think surprises or sales items make the best gifts, when my kids are happy to give me a specific list of items to go off of or even ask for two or three things they really want. Resist the urge to spontaneously follow a good deal or guess at things your child might want. If they won’t be prepared to give one for that item, then it’s not a good deal.
When our family reaches the organization stage, I suspect we’ll be going through these steps again, but I’m excited by the progress we’ve made. Once we get our new space organized and practice toy room maintenance, I”ll be sure to share what I’ve learned.