Spring Cleaning Party: Toys, Toys and More Toys

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Keeping kids toys organized is definitely an ongoing process and one that will probably be repeated over and over until your kids are grown and gone. However, having a simple organizational system and reducing the number of toys in your home will help keep the clutter to a minimum and make it easier for children to pick up their toys on their own.

Tsh shares some great strategies and before and after pictures today of her toy system, which includes using pictures and labels to help children see where the toys belong.

Let’s look at a few other strategies and methods for controlling the toy clutter:

Create Toy Sets

I’ve shared before that I love toy sets. Choose a few valuable toy sets for your children rather than collecting a mish mosh of various individual toys. Toy sets such as a train table with trains, a box of legos or various Little People sets allow children to use their imagination to create and act out scenes on their own. If you have more than one child, sets also allow children to play and work together.

Follow the “One Toy In, One Toy Out” Rule

Another important strategy for keeping clutter to a minimum is to follow the “one toy in, one toy out” rule. Whenever new toys are purchased or received as gifts, choose another toy to give away. Doing this keeps the toys from taking over your home, which often leads to more fighting and less playing anyway.

Create a Treasure Box for Each Child

While I am not sentimental at all, I’ve come to accept that there are little doodads and treasures that my kids find that they want to keep. As a compromise, they each have a little treasure box next to their bed to store these special items that don’t really belong anywhere else. The rule is that all of the treasures must be put away when it’s time to clean up, and they can only keep what fits in the box, which gives them control of choosing what to keep and what to toss.

Clean Up Every Day

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Cleaning up at the end of every day not only controls the mess and clutter, but it also means you’re more likely to notice – and find – missing pieces. It also teaches children responsibility.

While we do follow this rule pretty religiously, there are some exceptions. For example, if our girls have created a Little People village and are still playing with it, we’ll just clean up any lose pieces or other miscellaneous toys and leave the set out for later. However, we do clean up most toys – even if they say they want to play with them later – unless they’ve put a lot of time and effort into setting them up just so.

Conduct Your Own Toy Experiment

Marci from Overcoming Busy conducted “The Great Toy Experiment” at Christmas time. She packed up most of her kids toys and created an art room for them instead, keeping out just a few favorite toys. To her surprise, her children barely even noticed the change, and the struggle she expected over her decision to minimize the toy clutter never happened. To this day, her kids play better without the toys that had been cluttering their home before.

Consider taking a more drastic approach to the toy clutter and packing up many of the toys to be stored in the basement. There may be a few you need to pull back out, but maybe your kids will surprise you too and play better with less.

Reduce New Toys

For us, the biggest struggle for keeping our toys organized is the sheer amount of new toys our children receive on a regular basis. Although it’s an ongoing process, here are a few strategies we use to try to minimize the number of new toys coming in:

  • Add “no gifts please” to invitations for children’s birthday parties. Do a book exchange or ask for books to be donated to a local charity instead.
  • Include books and consumable arts & crafts on your children’s wish list for grandparents and other family members. My girls love arts & crafts and although our bins are overflowing already, I know that we’ll use these eventually. Because they’re stored out of the way, they don’t add to the daily clutter or contribute to fighting over toys.
  • Follow the one toy in, one toy out rule from above.
  • “Recycle” toys. My mom has an annual tradition of giving her daughters and granddaughters teddy bears each Christmas. However, with four girls, we’re talking over 70 Christmas bears just from her by the time they’re each 18. As a compromise, because our stuffed animal collection seems to be breeding on its own anyway, I asked if she could just give the same bears new bows each Christmas and regift them, and she agreed. I actually think it could grow to be a fun tradition over the years, and they won’t end up in the giveaway pile to make room for next year’s bears.
  • Make rules to limit gifts. My girls are incredibly blessed with three sets of grandparents and five sets of great-grandparents who love to send them gifts. After last year’s Christmas debacle – in which we had to force the girls to keep opening presents because there were just so many – we decided that we’re simply going to have to make a rule asking each of them to only send one gift per child, with a second book or consumable if they really can’t resist.

The math is staggering – that’s still 32-64 gifts to open, even if we don’t get them anything. I hate feeling like a scrooge, but we simply don’t have space for all of that stuff, despite the wonderful intentions behind each and every gift.

What methods do you use to control the toy clutter in your home?

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