C.S. asks from Green Bay, WI on August 04, 2008
Help! or Toy Situation Is a Nightmare!
My two little ones are only 2 and 3-1/2, but you'd think we have seven children in this house if you saw our playroom in the basement. It's insane. We have very well-meaning siblings (with older children) and neighbors (with older children) that love to hand off all of the toys their kids don't use anymore... we have so many 'half-sets' and 'spare pieces' of so much down there, I can't keep anything straight. Everytime I think I'm going to get tough and just "throw it all out!", I start to piece through things and think, "well...maybe they'll want this for playing store one day." or "...this would be great if that missing piece ever turns up..." or "maybe when they're older, they'll love this..." We're expecting a baby in three months and I have to get this house organized. Can anyone give me some straight-forward, past-experience advice on organizing toys. Now, I realize there are books on this subject, so I know it can be quite a can of worms... but again, anything that really, really helped you would really, really help me...
N.S. answers from Minneapolis on August 04, 2008
Don't know how much space you're dealing with, or if you're on a tight budget, but my number one favorite piece of advice for this problem is to invest in a number of "tall and deep" storage cabinets that lock. If you get them without locks, you can use removable or magnetic child safety locks (for safe proofing your home).
Thanks to California Closets and it's many discount store knock-offs, and space saving furniture stores like IKEA, you can have your nightmare realistically under control in one weekend. And with style. There are fashionable cabinets in all price ranges and at most stores. Just decide how many cabinets you'll need to house your toys. Be sure to purchase some bins that can fit inside to hold small loose toys. And purchase locks if you get cabinets that don't have them.
Devote one weekend to sorting and organizing the toys by child and toy-type. I highly recommend getting rid of toys they don't play with, or are missing parts. Realistically, if you haven't found the parts while cleaning the house, they're probably gone for good. Be sure to check with your children before you send the toys on their way. But don't let your children bamboozle you if you know they don't really care about the toy and are just being clingy. If you tell them they can sell the toys for money, or that some other child might enjoy it more, they might be more willing to part with them. Be merciless.
Once you clear the clutter and get the toys under lock and key, the rest will be up to you and the kids to work out a lending library/check out type system for accessing the toys. The good news is it's easier than you think.
This is what we've done at our house, and it's wonderful. Our clutter is very little, and the kids are much better at taking care of their toys and managing small pieces without my help.
The cabinets are organized by kid, and toy type. I use bins inside the cabinets to manage the toys, and have certain shelves resolved for bigger stuff like playsets. We dedicated an entire wall in our playroom area to an IKEA storage system, and two smaller California Closet-type cabinets in each child's room.
Each morning "each" kid can "check out" 3 - 5 items for the day. Once they pick their toys, the cabinets are locked. If throughout the day, they decide they want something else, they can trade one or all of their morning items. They can only have a maximum of two "check-outs" to cut down on my having to spend the entire day guarding the cabinets. Between each kid, they have more than enough stuff to keep themselves entertained for the day.
While the method doesn't totally eliminate messes, it greatly, I mean greatly cuts them down to size. Each night, right before bed, each child has to "check-in" each thing they took out for the day. If any pieces or parts are missing, the whole family goes on a recovery mission for the missing part/parts. Kids are responsible for keeping the shelves in good order, and at least monthly, we clean them out and remove any toys that they don't want to play with anymore, and we put them in a box and take them to Once Upon a Child (a consignment chain for kids toys and clothes) or the Goodwill. Any money we collect for a toy from consignment goes into their toy budget/allowance bank to be used for something new that they want to buy.
This system has been a real life saver for us. I devised this while I was on total bedrest with my last pregnancy. I couldn't afford to have big messes since I was dependent on others to manage the house while I was down for the count. The plan works so well, especially in helping little kids manage their stuff, I can't say enough in how it has been a life saver and a new way of life for us.
I'd like to add, for things like stuffed animals, we purchased one hanging mesh storage tower for each kids' room. You can get them at IKEA for $5. The animals are accessible, yet out of the way, and taking up very little space in the room. They also aren't that bad looking either.
If you don't have an IKEA in your area, you can order their entire stock on-line at www.ikea.com
1 mom found this helpful
D.P. answers from Minneapolis on August 05, 2008
Get some big totes or toy boxes for the large stuff so you can just toss them in. Get some smaller totes for the smaller stuff and also get some kind of organization system. We have two of the metal wire square systems from Target. Kids can take out one tote at a time and play with the stuff and then pick it up and return it when they are done. Pack some of the toys away and then bring them out once in a while to rotate the toys. The kids dont even remember all the toys them have! Rotating the toys helps with boredom.
Also, limit what you accept from family, neighbors etc. It is nice to have hand me downs, but dont be a dumping ground. And since you get stuff for free, dont be afraid to pass it on or throw it away if pieces get lost or broken. My mom loves to get stuff from garage sales...I finally told her to ask before she bought anything big and NO MORE stuffed animals (they love buying the super big ones).
D.L. answers from Janesville-Beloit on August 04, 2008
Use Freecycle.org! At that web site you then connect to a local group (mostly Yahoo groups) in your area. There are always people looking for missing parts of a toy or game. I have asked for missing parts and have on occasion gotten them.
Since I am a packrat, this has been my saving grace! I cant stand throwing anything "potentially" good out. But if it goes to someone else who wants it, boy, I feel like Mrs. Claus!
B.H. answers from Minneapolis on August 04, 2008
My daughter has a rubbermaid tote box for each type of toy like barbies, polly pockets, lego's etc. Every type of toy has it's own tote box. She can only have out 1 tote box at a time and has to put it away before she can take out another that way the pieces from one type of toy can't get mixed up with another vice versa and it keeps the mess down. I started this a few years ago and it works great.
N.S. answers from Minneapolis on August 07, 2008
I use a lot of storage bins, all different sizes. One thing that helps keep them organized is when we clean up, I sit by all of the toy bins and the kids bring me all of the toys. This way I can put them into the correct bin. Once they get a bit older they start to figure out what bin holds what toys. I draw pictures on the bins to help. A lot less missing pieces that way!!
M.H. answers from Minneapolis on August 04, 2008
We had a similar situation in our house and then I saw somewhere, Oprah or something, that getting a small toy box and keeping that full and NOTHING MORE will help keep the clutter down and keep you sane. It works so well in my house. I can even go to the toy section of the store and there are no tantrums. The rule is, the toy box is full, if you want anther toy then one has to go in it's place. So one in, one out. I ask Megan what toy she wants to get rid of to buy this toy and if she really wants it she will get rid of a toy, if she doesn't really want it she knows the rule and since she sees DH and I following the same rule she doesn't fight us. If you have a toy room or a bigger space to use for toys then get a couple of toy boxes but don't just start buying boxes and totes to keep the toys in, you'll just end up with more toys and more clutter. Stop keeping toys "just in case" if it isn't used within a week or two give it to goodwill or toss it. "Just in case" may never come and then you're left with a bunch of toys taking up space. I let Megan go through the toys with me and pick out which ones she likes the most and got rid of the rest, we made a game out of it and she actually enjoyed giving away the toys she wasn't using and she got to keep the ones she really liked. Now we only have a few toys, her room is clean, there is no clutter, and I am sane :)
D.S. answers from Minneapolis on August 04, 2008
You have two choices. Either you get tough with yourself and throw some of it away, or if you don't have the heart to do that, you find a way to tame it all. Here is what I did. I boxed up two thirds of their toys. I tried to keep pieces together, but my kids never played with things they way they were designed, so it didn't really matter if things got mixed up. Anyway, I took the two boxes out to the garage and put them in storage. The other third I organized on shelves or in bins. When my kids got bored with that set of toys, I would box them up and take out a "new" box of toys. It was like Christmas every few months because they forgot their other toys until they saw them again. When it was time to box up that last third, I sorted out stuff that was broken or no longer appropriate. Then every time I switched stuff I did the same thing. The boxes were always full because of the new stuff that they dragged in.
Eventually, I started to restrict the toys that came in the house to Lego's. They aren't ruined if you loose pieces, they never get tired of playing with them and they are universally available for grandparents to buy as gifts. My adult kids still have their collections and still play with them occasionally.