Daughter's Toys Are Taking over the Living Room

Updated on April 29, 2014
A.F. asks from Bellmore, NY
17 answers

My five year old daughter recently had to lose her playroom (which she barely played in!) because we needed that room for her sister. My house has always been frustrating to me because of the lack of closets (we have three; one is currently storing baby items.) I am sharing my closet with my five year old because she doesn't have a closet. My husband is using attic storage for his clothes.

We have a basement to store most of Alyssa's toys but she rarely plays down there. It's an unfinished basement but she isn't aware of that. My main space is my living room/dining area combination. As it is, we have too much furniture in it. Now with an almost three week old baby, the cradle is taking up space. We have no den so I've limited the toys/paper/coloring books to a corner.

All day long Alyssa has toys on a sofa, coffee table and her little table. I try so hard to get her to clean up but she is five. She doesn't put things away as soon as she plays with them. I am too tired (not sleeping much at all) to constantly get her to put things away. So I end up doing it all day. It's exhausting doing this along with trying to make my house look presentable in case someone drops by. Of course it is rare that anyone drops by before calling.

I want to purchase storage organizers with bins but some of them are expensive. I am using plastic storage bins but they only hold so much. Any ideas for storage solutions? As it is my coat closet doubles as a partial linen closet (just for towels; don't ask where I store sheets!) and trying to store my vacuum cleaner in that closet is a problem with hanging coats. And I try storing a hamper in that closet too!

Thanks for the ideas.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for the ideas. I guess it's time to put most of the ownership of cleaning up toys on Alyssa. She attends daycare so she should be used to it. The only difference is that at daycare she has other children to help clean up. Alyssa is probably a typical kid who loses interest in toys quickly when she plays alone.

As for the one suggestion to move to a bigger house, right now it's not an option. It always seems easy to just think you can sell your house and buy a new one but I've learned after my husband and I lost money selling two other homes that, that isn't the case. Our house needs a second bathroom, updated kitchen and to be dormered. It's what we could afford four years ago in NY. Anyway, I do agree limiting the toys and putting ownership on Alyssa. Thanks!

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answers from San Francisco on

Only have out as many toys as she can handle. It's overwhelming for young children to have to manage too much stuff. Keep about a third out at a time, pack up the rest and put it in the basement. Then rotate the toys out when she starts to get bored with what she has.
When my kids went to preschool (at three) I saw that they were quite capable of cleaning up, they did it there every day (with a smile!) so I tried to keep my living room set up like preschool. We had one big plastic tub, a short bookshelf with puzzles and blocks, etc. and a toy kitchen. It wasn't hard to keep tidy because I wouldn't let it get out of control.
We got rid of stuff pretty regularly too. Don't hang on to everything, the clutter and stress of storing it all isn't worth it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I had a wicker laundry basket under each end table and under the coffee table for the kids toys when they were small. The majority of the toys were stored in the basement, and we switched them out regularly. When the living room needed a quick tidy the toys went into the baskets under the tables.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Get a semi-decent looking storage "tower" - there are some with wood frames and fabric "drawers", or metal frames with wicker baskets, etc. Sometimes they have little labels or a space for them - you can use a photo for what goes in each one. For example, Legos in one, animals in another, crayons/pads in another, etc. When it's time to clean up, you remove the bins and have the photo (from the box it came in, or one you took, or something from the internet) facing her. She plays "the matching game" and tries to put things in the appropriate box. Then you carry the 3 or 4 bins to the shelf unit and put them in, in any order, photo facing out. Make clean up part of the game. Most preschools and kindergartens have little "clean up time" songs they sing while doing this.

I saw a cute room divider/decor item on TV - buy one of those folding screens at a discount store, yard sale, consignment shop. It doesn't matter how yucky the screen part is. Then get a roll of wallpaper - self-stick - and cut plain sheets the size of the panels, and stick them in. The screen can be in the corner of the living room or the dining room, and any big stuff can go behind it - instant clean-up. That works for the baby equipment you aren't using but want to have handy.

Put the plastic storage bins in the basement - rotate her toys upstairs in manageable amounts. She can't possibly play with everything at once if you don't make it possible. Label the bins with the photos the same way you do the "drawers" above. That way you know what's where.

Can you get a decorative hamper at a yard sale? It seems that it is taking up valuable space in the closet. Not sure where your washing machine is - on the main floor or in the basement. If it's in the basement, can you put a hanging laundry bag on the inside of the basement door, where you can just stash stuff and grab it when going downstairs? Take the laundry down, throw it in the washer, bring up a plastic bin of toys on the way up?

Use a see-through plastic shoe hanging bag on any available closet doors or the basement door - use that for stashing your 5 year old's smaller toys at her level, and stuff you need at the upper levels (microfiber duster or rags, extra tubes of diaper cream, burp cloths, anything like that for the baby. If the pockets are see-through, it's easier for your daughter (and you) to see what's there, but again, you can use a photo for your daughter and, now that she's learning to read, put a written label up there as well (don't rely just on written tags though - pre-readers and many older kids are still very visual vs. "literate").

Stop worrying about people dropping over! You have a 3 week old baby and a 5 year old. Get a sign for your front hall that says "My house was clean yesterday, sorry you missed it." I have one, and my "baby" is out of college! Embrace the chaos, and repeat after me: "Dull women have immaculate homes, dull women have immaculate homes."

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I am with you. We have 4 people living in a 2 bed 2 bath condo. So for those out there saying to just upgrade to a bigger place.. well sometimes that is easier said than done. As much as we would LOVE to have a bigger space and house, it just is not in the cards right now. We could not even get what we owe on this place much less have any extra for a down on a bigger place. Then add in daycare and other bills. Moving right now is not always an option for people.

We have those cubes in a 6 square frame right now and I have a 9 cub one on order.

If you have a table, maybe change the chairs to box chairs, where you can lift the seat and store things.

If you have an odimin-(SP) Get one that you can store things in.

We also have a 3 squre cube set, that has a coat rack underneaths to hang thigs I put our bathing suits in there, and winter things for the summer time.

Also, put some of the toys in storage and change them out every couple of months.

Good luck. I feel ya.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I like the Ikea Trofast Toy storage system. It can be pricey, but they sell come combinations for under $100. You can also purchase lids for the boxes, which I really like as opposed to those open box organizers. If you do not have an Ikea I believe that they offer online sales for some of their items.

The first thing I would do is go through your daughter's toys and pull everything that she either doesn't play with anymore or that is no longer age appropriate. Do this when she is not around - most kids have a hard time giving up a toy, even if they haven't touched it in years. Decide if you want to toss/donate or keep the toys that your oldest doesn't play anymore for the younger one.

The toys that I keep go into big clear rubbermaid boxes into the basement for storage. You could even "rotate" toys in and out of upstairs.

I would REALLY make an effort that ALL of the toys you keep fit into whichever storage system you decide on. We have a three tier Trofast combination and honestly, that is more than enough space to store more than enough toys.

My daughter is six and while she makes a good effort, she also needs to be reminded to put away what she is done with before she gets the next thing. Having a box for each thing does make it a lot easier though. This is just one of those part of parenting that can drive you crazy, but if you do it consistently it will eventually become habit.

So to recap:
- get rid of "extra" toys, whittle them down to what you can keep upstairs.
- have a box for each set of toys
- keep reminding her to put away one set of toys before she gets the next

Our toys tend to sneak back upstairs (and then there is new ones she gets for holidays and birthdays), so every 6 months or so I take a day to organize DD's room, rotate some toys in or out and move all the extras back downstairs.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

We have a small living room dining room combo and we just got rid of our entertainment center. We now have the tv on ikea bookshelves. We have three of the ones that have 2 rows of squares (sorry I can't remember the name) we put 2 long ways and 1 tall to keep things that we don't want the kids to be able to reach. Then we have baskets for the kids toys or the toys are just arranged on the shelf. I have 3 kids (5, 4 and 2) and they can put their own toys away because they know where everything goes and they can reach. Our house still kind of looks like a day care but at least the toys are off the floor. 😄

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answers from Williamsport on

I would start looking around for inspiration. Google "cute storage options for extremely small spaces" or whatever. It is doable. People live in chic TINY apartments in Europe and Japan with very little square footage. They have way less toys and genius simple storage.

I have three kids. They have ONE small toy bucket (looks like a milk jug thingy from Target in the play room, and one in each of their rooms. They have some lego bins in one closet (with 2 kids' clothes) and a dress-up laundry basket in another (with oldest's very limited clothes) and a bin with Barbie stuff in Attic. And books on various bookshelves. Whenever their toy bins start overflowing, I empty them and purge at least half the stuff so it fits easily inside. I NEVER increase toy storage space. It only increases stuff. They can throw their toys in their own bins in 2 minutes flat if I say, "whatever is left out on the floor gets thrown away".

We used to have more stuff and I couldn't take it anymore. It's SO MUCH BETTER with less!!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I realized the same thing. I made the rule that toys that come out of the bedroom go into time out. They didn't mind and stay in the bedroom.

YOU have to decide what you want. I wanted a living room that anyone could walk in to and walk without tripping, could come in the front door and see a reasonably presentable living space. "I" decided I wanted no toys in the living areas of the house.

Your child is old enough to understand time out. When the toys go in time out for the rest of the day it sinks in better.

The toys had a line to cross, if they didn't come over that line they were okay. It was where the hallway carpet ended. Once past that point I simply went over and took the toy, put it on top of the piano, and it was off limits.

I only did this for a couple of weeks and they didn't come back.

YOU have to remember and make sure you don't let her get them out of time out. YOU have to remember to do it or it doesn't matter. You have to decide what you want and just do what it takes.

Her room is her room. She should keep her things in her own room. If she can't manage it then she has too many toys. Bins are fine but all it takes is one or two getting dumped and it's the same thing. It's chaos and kids don't like chaos. They want space to play. So they bring this toy or that toy out and play where it's clean.

Clean their room up and separate the toys into the bins where you can pick up everything in the room in moments. Then on Sunday take that bin away and put in the next one. Next Sunday switch out bins again. All toys get played with and only a few toys live in the room all the time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

It's a huge flaw in our society that dictates we should "expand" our homes to fit more "stuff". Even if you did move to a bigger house, that would not solve your issue.

There are two problems to tackle from what you've described. The first is organization. You need a system in place that your daughter can manage on her own. Yes a 5 year old is perfectly capable of that task. Secondly it sounds as if you may need to pare down on these toys.

My family lives in a small 2 bedroom house. My daughters are 2 and 3. They have always shared a room. Also, their toys have always been in the living room. And we never have issues like what you described. The reason is because they have very few toys and we keep them organized.

We have a shelf in the living room just for toys. Blocks are in baskets. And dolls sit on the shelf. There is also a shelf and drawers in my bedroom where we keep things like coloring books, crayons, and play doh. And every 3 months or so I do purging and donate or sell anything they've lost interest in. Other moms suggest a rotation system. If you have space to store the "off" toys then that would work too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

Diane B I love the quote lol

1.Pinterest has amazing ideas with pictures for storage. On top of that you can specifically look for cheaper storage
2.minimizing your items and hers so you don't even need a bunch of storage.
3.Dedicate one room (her room!) for toys and then you only need a couple of bins for the living room. Micheal's has good deals on those storage bins

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answers from Washington DC on

you poor exhausted girl!
simplify, simplify, simplify.
get ONE nice looking storage bin for your living room. let alyssa keep a set number (2? 5?) toys in it. she can have any or all of them out, but when she's done, back in the bin they go. period. be kind and inexorable about it.
and when she wants a different one, she picks one out of the bin to put downstairs while she brings another one up. she's 5. she has plenty of energy to do this. it's not too onerous for a 5 year old to go up and down the stairs, several times a day if she's busy and having a lot of adventures.
do NOT clean up after her all day. she is very small, but she is plenty old enough for the simple rules of 'after you're done playing, the toys go back in the bin' and 'no more than X amount of toys in the upstairs bin.' reinforce it firmly. any toys not put away, or over the limit, get taken away for a set amount of time, and if she doesn't cooperate after a while, get donated.
you are not doing her any favors by allowing this continue. everyone in the family contributes to keeping the family running smoothly and that very much includes not overwhelming mom.
hope you get some rest soon, hon.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It sounds like it's time to up size your living space - move to a bigger house.
It's either that or get rid of excess furniture and toys.
Your family has grown - you've got 4 people and 3 closets (and I don't know how many bedrooms/bathrooms).
You just need more space.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

It sounds like you do have some storage issues in your home, maybe consider installing some of the suggested storagage solutions in your basement? Under bed bins for blankets? Shelves in basement (put fabric softener sheets between linens for fresh smell)? Another (or a bigger) dresser for dd's clothes (rather than sharing your closet)?

Anyways, first of all, don't think about being "presentable" for the possibility of visitors! Your house has to be comfortable for you and your family! This is what I tell people if they ever comment on my house! Well, we DO live here.
Second, even in a small bedroom, your daughter's belongings should be located (stored) in HER room. By age 5, she should definitely be in charge of her belongings. I grew up with 3 siblings (that's 6 people in a 3-bedroom house) and we were expected to keep our things in our room. Of course, bringing a puzzle or a few toys to the living room to play with is fine, but most of the time, we were left to our own (creative) devices to play in our rooms. This is how it goes in my house now.

Generally, I don't even care what dd's (she's 5 1/2) room looks like! As long as there's a clear path from the door to bed (and no food), I can just close the door if I don't want to see the mess. Of course, we both do eventually get tired of the mess, so every month or two I'll help her really clean and organize her things. We are at a point now where we really need to go through and purge, though!

Also, I look at it like a safety thing, too. DD#2 will be born this summer and if I had to keep up with all the little toys that dd#1 plays with (can we say choking hazard!), I'd go nuts! Try that with your daughter: "We can't have these xyz toys all over because baby sister could lose/break/swallow them!"

Good luck mama!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

A., you don't need to spend a lot of money and keep buying expensive storage; the more storage, or tables to put your daughter stuff, the more mess will do. If you need to buy something, just get a couple of clear bins and put one in the living room and another one in your kid's room.
Do NOT clean up the toys for her, SHE is the one who needs to get the habit of it.
You need to sit down with her and tell her how things are going to be from now on (nice and firmly). Tell her that the first couple of days you will help her so she knows how to do it. You even can start this as a game: "Sara, you will pick up the dolls and I will pick up the stuffed animals....ready, set, go!!) do it by colors, shapes or kind of toys, whatever you like better.
You will let her know an hour or so before going to bed that she needs to put her toys away, some of them in the bin located in the living room and the rest in the bin located in his room; do the same if you are going out: before she leaves the house, all the toys should go into the bins, otherwise she is not going anywhere. She will get the hang of it, believe me. At the end of the week, she will earn a sticker or ice cream, but make it a surprise.
Set boundaries where she cannot leave toys (coffee tables, sofa, etc), and before you start this new routine, purge, donate, or throw away the toys she is not using any more; those she doesn't play with frequently leave them in a bin in the garage or basement and rotate them once in a while.
The main thing is that she needs to learn to clean up after she finishes playing, and you will not be doing it, just remind her, but never do it for her, that is why she is still waiting for you to do the job. Kids need to learn to take care of their stuff, and they are perfectly capable of doing it, it is just us,moms, who let them have their way. Patience, and repetition. That will do it.
Good luck!

A. :)

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answers from Portland on

If it were me, I'd capitalize on some small spaces.After removing any non-essential pieces of furniture, you might consider how the space is arranged. For example, you can make a "little kitchen" space behind a chair which is pulled forward from a wall. Sometimes, the furniture can be used to designate spaces.

The other thing I would suggest is to rotate out some toys. You might spend a couple days just watching what gets played with for a substantial amount of time and what just gets pulled out for a few moments. Kids don't need as many toys as we usually offer, so storing some in the attic in a box or bin shouldn't be a problem. Rotate things out from time to time. One family I used to nanny for had a lot of kitchen toys and plastic food. I pulled about half of those toys out and put them away for a while. The kids didn't really even notice and were happy to have the 'new again' toys a few months later.

I would use baskets for the items you really want to keep out. In a pinch, you can just throw all the toys in and even drape blankets/afgans over them. Instantly it looks less 'kid'. I have found loads of great baskets at the Goodwill for a lot less than brand new and still in great shape. Used these for storage for my preschool and even at the preschool I substitute at, there are a variety of baskets and the kids can tell you which one holds the stones, which one holds pinecones, etc etc.

You know, one other thing I have in our house which might help is a rectangular paper basket. This is where my son might sometimes put random papers (he has file folders in there to store different things, like drawings/artwork, images from old gallery mailers and museum newsletters and such, different kinds of paper like origami or mulberry, etc.... ) I help sort those things, but having a basket for paper is great. I can refer him to it for both getting paper for work or putting things away that he's not ready to recycle.

The other thing I would suggest is making her next desired thing contingent upon getting some part of the mess cleaned up. "Go put your cars away before lunch. You may leave out the puzzle to work on later." Being aware that our kids have an ebb and flow of play, you can notice what she's doing and have her clean up just the peripheral objects while respecting what they are doing presently. It is a lot of work to follow through, I know, and sometimes it makes things easier to be playful with our kids and work side by side. With reluctant little cleaners, I'd try to do cleanups playfully. "You be the bulldozer-- push all the blocks to me and I will be the crane and lift them onto the shelves." Don't even *mention* the word clean-up and you often get more cooperation. "We need to make this space beautiful again. Where does that bear go?" Kids like to show that they are capable and initiating clean-ups as an opportunity for them to impress us is another tactic kids respond well to.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Take the hamper out of the hall closet so you can put the vacuum in there
Or, store the vacuum in the garage if you have one?
When you buy bins (buy the cheapest ones), buy the clear ones so you
can see what's stored in there. Also, buy the little shoebox ones at the
Dollar Store for little toys (Barbie clothes, little blocks, parts to toys etc).
Go through your clothes/coats & donate what you don't need/wear.
You can get small shelving for the living room that looks pretty then get
wicker baskets so that when you put the toys away in there, it looks
Try to have her put a toy away when she is done playing with it. Having
said that, I don't hammer my kids (my mom never hammered us & we
are all neat). I'm tired, I can quickly do things. So with having the kids
put away their things, there's still stuff out but they do their best. They
just have a lot of toys.
Get a room divider (get one cheaper at a thrift store) to put in the liviing
room to hide anything you don't want to really be seen.
Someimes sleep needs to be chosen first so you can be healthy esp w/a
newborn in the house.
Store things deep in the basement that you don't really need (old toys that
your child isn't really done with but doesn't play with every day).
Padded trunks (the kind that look like seats) serve as storage for toys &
blankents AND seating when people come over.
Let go of the idea "your house has to be the same way it was before kids)
Having your sanity & rest, letting kids to be free to play w/o a yelling mom
is more important than a spic n' span house IMO.
Btw, I hate when ppl drop by w/o calling.
Go through toys often & donate what you know she won't play with or miss.
My house sounds exactly like yours so:
-go through things often
-find hidden storage space where you can (under stairs, entertainment ctr
-put things in shelf of coffee table if it has one
-let a bookshelf serve for books AND toys in wicker baskets
-in your linen closet go high putting things you don't need really far up
there. Get as much vertical space as possible
-put more rods in closets down low for hanging skirts, kid clothes etc
-look around your living room to see if you can replace an end table w/a
better one that serves as storage, too.
-use the vertical space above the shelves in your closets to go up higher
and store stuff

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I can hear your frustration! A toy storage solution that she can manage herself is probably your best bet, even if it doesn't look EXACTLY as tidy as you'd like it too.
I'd get a few laundry baskets in different colors to keep in the living room, one for each general type of toy she uses out there. You can put smaller containers into the bins if needed (like each puzzle needs its own bag or box, crayons probably need a ziplock bag to keep them from spilling out of the box etc) for the particular item, but big bins are much easier for little kids than neat shelves, drawers or cabinets. Create a cute picture label the side of the bin to remind her what goes where "books" "dolls" "building stuff" whatever.

If she's not good at cleaning up one thing before moving on to something else (what 5 year old is?) stop beating your head against that wall and change the criteria for clean up time. Get her a kitchen timer and have her stop and put EVERYTHING back in the bins every 30 minutes. Or maybe when the timer goes off she can choose ONE thing to leave out (I'm going to keep playing with this puzzle) and put everything else back in the bins. That way YOU don't have to keep telling her to do it... the timer will remind her.

Don't worry about storing the bins anywhere... just keep them against the wall. When company comes over, if you don't want the bins out, it takes two minutes to carry the bins to her room and close the door.

Fingers crossed.

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