Managing Toy Chaos

Have you ever stepped on a small toy with your bare feet? If you have, you are not alone! I can promise you right down to the bottom of the Lego-Imprinted soles of my feet that there is hope for this “kid-astrophic” dilemma.

As the mother of an eight year old boy, I have discovered that as he gets older, the toys get smaller. Those once chubby fingers that used to clutch stuffed animals and rubber balls have grown to a size that can grasp the most intricate of blocks, visible only by parents with the use of a NASA developed microscope. We don’t even know the toys are in our path until we are hobbling to the nearest chair, cursing toy manufacturers across all continents.

Let’s start by blaming Grandma and Grandpa. You know who you are—gentle souls who can’t wait to have your child alone so they can stroll the aisles of Target and fill the cart with unnecessary doo-dads and plastic paraphernalia. When my son arrives home with his new loot, I vow to seek revenge by strategically placing those small items on the Grandparents living room floors to create a Mattel Mine Field. Let’s see how THEY like it!

Now that we’ve determined who is at fault, it’s time we find a solution to the Toy Chaos.

I’ve visited plenty of homes that sport large toy boxes, over-sized bins and overflowing shelves. It’s no wonder that kids leave them on the floor. Trying to put them away or find the toy of choice again is a chore for them. Coupling stuffed animals with sporting equipment and “littles” in the same bins creates frustration for both children and parents.

Let’s get started.

The most important factor in resolving this issue is to make sure your child clearly understands your intention and you have his/her buy-in. Equally important is to explain to them that they are responsible for the clean-up of their toys.

Tip: When working with my customers I always ask that they don’t shop for new bins until they know exactly what will hold each toy and the amount of space needed.

The best way I’ve found to get toys organized is to first do an Inventory. Choose an area in your home that has ample room for sorting. Have a garbage bag and donation bags on hand. Assist your child in collecting toys from all the rooms in the house and sort them into individual “like item” piles. This visual is a good way for you both to see the actuality of how many toys are in their possession. Take a photo. This will be your “Before” picture. Next, work through one pile at a time discarding broken toys and separating toys he/she has outgrown.

The tough part now is negotiating with your child and determining how many of the remaining toys they actually like or play with any more. My dad would say, “good grief! When I was young all I had to play with was a stick”. The solution that always works in our home is explaining to my son that by donating them, other kids who don’t have toys have a chance to enjoy them just like he did. Oh…I have to add a side note here—Christmas 2015 will most likely be the last year he falls for the “we-need-to-get-rid-of-toys-to-make-room-for-Santa’s-new-haul” shpeel. Jot down a quick list for taxable charitable contributions then place all of the donation items in bags and carry them out of the room right away or store them in your car. This will create less of a chance for your children to change their minds about letting them go to a new home.

Toy Storage Buying and Organizing

  • I’ve found the best selection of organizing totes and storage at Michael’s, JoAnn Fabrics, The Container Store, Target and Amazon.
  • Take photos and measure each of the piles. This will help when you’re in the store determining container size
  •  Use the vertical space in the room. Will a shelving unit fit? If so, place toys on the shelves at kid-height. I use the top shelves for toys and craft supplies that need parent supervision. i.e, bubbles, sticky stuff and fabric markers. Also be sure that the unit it secure in case they like to climb.
  • Clear, stackable totes work best so your child can see the contents
  • Stylish clothes baskets work well for stuffed animals. If your child’s bedroom ceiling allows, purchase a net for the animals. If you purchase a net, be sure not to place any heavy items over their bed.
  • I purchased two 10-drawer rolling organizers for small toys. They’re easily accessible and the drawers can be pulled out to carry to a craft table or another room for play. There are many different manufacturer’s and they come in multi colors. Michael’s Craft Store and Joann’s carry them. Amazon as well.
  • Large zip-loc bags are nice for games or toys with multiple pieces. Some brands now carry extra large sizes.
  • Label the bins
  • For craft supplies, test all the pens to be sure they work before storing them.
  • There’s a great place to recycle crayons! Check out the website: http://crazycrayons.com/recycle_program.html
  • Set the rules for toy pick up. Use “if/then” statements. This goes for Grandparents too…
  • Set a date every 3-6 months to repeat the process.

Just like any other organizing project, it’s important to stick to the rules and maintain the system. Your kids (and your feet) will thank you for it in the future.