One of my biggest struggles as a mom and a professional organizer is not freaking out every time I enter our playroom! As you can imagine, I thrive on order. Yet, kids are not orderly by nature and need to have the freedom for creative play. It has been a difficult adjustment for me to not pick up toys while the kids play with them! Our playroom gets completely trashed on a daily basis. But, we are still able to clean it up in under 20 minutes everyday. The secret, we have a place for everything and it is labeled so there is no question where it belongs. Let me share with you some of the best playroom organizing strategies for quick order.
1. GATHER EVERY TOY IN YOUR HOME
One of the first playroom organizing strategies is to assess what you have. How many toys do you actually have in your house? This may take some real detective work. Toys seem to spread EVERYWHERE when you have an active and busy home with kids.
Every few months, our family piles all of the stuffed animals in one spot to cull them down. It is shocking the mountain it creates each time! Stuffed animals are one example of the type of toy that ends up exponentially growing. Why? Because they are easy gifts or a constant collectible fad. It seems no matter how many we decide to donate, even more come in throughout the year.
Bringing all of the toys to one location is the first step to evaluate how bad the problem has grown. Toys spread to many locations in the house. We do not always have a true understanding of how much of we have. That is why it is a shocking sight when you really dig them out of every crevice they are hiding!
Are you storing play food in two locations? Are your board games spread throughout several closets? Have Legos taken over every room? Now that everything is in one place, start to look at the larger categories together. The goal in organizing toys is to group like toys together in the same area. If there is only one location to find board games, LEGO, Barbies etc. you can easily return toys to their storage place. Kids will always know where to find it when they want to play. But more so, they will also know where to place it to help clean up quickly.
As you sort items you will have a greater picture of how large each category of toys is. Grouping them allows easier choices for letting go. You will also easily decide on the right storage container for each group to effectively store it.
This is the hardest playroom organizing strategy on many levels. As suspected, most kids do not quickly choose to give away their toys. But surprisingly, I find the adults have an even harder time. For parents, when you let go of a child’s toy you also let go of the memory of your child playing with that toy. By having the toy, the parent still feels like they can hold on to that part of the memory.
Here is how I address both of these issues:
- Playroom Organizing Strategies for Kids to Let Go
With the kids, let them have as much control and say in the process. Give them incentive to let go of items. Such as, making a younger cousin happy by passing it on to the or donating to other children in need. Encourage them to make room for new toys that they will receive over the holidays or at an upcoming birthday. Sometimes that is enough to motivate them into letting go.
Observe what toys they play with regularly for a few weeks. I never like to sneak toys out the door. That can actually backfire in their emotional ability to let go of items. But I do like to get an opaque bin and make toys disappear for a little while to my basement. If they notice they are gone and are upset, you can pull it out for them quickly. When the kids do not miss the toys, I pass it on after a reasonable amount of time. If that does not sit well with your family, you can also do the same process to rotate toys. Every few months you can switch toys in and out of the bin into the playroom. This will keep the toys fresh and exciting with less to manage all at once.
- Playroom Organizing Strategies for Adults to Let Go
Let me start by say my five year old daughter plays with my 40 year old Cabbage Patch Dolls, Barbie’s and Strawberry Shortcakes. I had a strong attachment to my toys and took impeccable care of my favorites. It is fun to see my kids love them as much as I did. I relive my childhood through their play. When the kids decide they want to give one of my old toys away, I have trouble letting go of that memory. The same feelings emerge when I see my son have no interest in the trains he played with daily for three years. It is emotional seeing them grow and toys carry that symbolism for us as parents. Like most parents, I struggle just as much with the emotional ties to the object, even though my rational side says that our family does not need the physical objects any more.
Photographs and videos are one of the best ways to experience the feeling of those special toys without physically having them. I have photographs of me playing with all of my favorite childhood toys and that is enough to remember them. I try to take videos and photos of my kids playing with their favorites so we can all reminisce in the future.
If the toy is special and you feel you must keep for your child, pack it away carefully and label it well. But be careful not to keep everything. Leaving it in a box for another 30+ years in storage may not yield much joy if your kid did not find it as special as you did. Now they will have to deal with cleaning it out of your basement and making hard choices.
- Choose multi-purpose, good quality toys
Now that you have dealt with the emotional issues surrounding the toys, choose what you keep wisely. It is amazing how little kids really need to be creative and build on imaginative play. Stick with basics such as building blocks or Lego, dress-up clothes, puzzles, play food, dolls, arts and crafts and some classic games, to keep your kids entertained and creative. Most kids make fun out of a cardboard box and paint. Consider how many ways a child can play with the toy before you keep it. If it doesn’t encourage creative play or have several ways to use it, they will ignore it more.
- Make small cheap toys disappear
I also try to make small toys such as the random favors yielded from goodie bags or fast food kid’s meals disappear quickly. Those items always end up at the bottom of a bin, all over a bedroom or buried in a bag taking up space. These random plastic items yield very little creative play options. Usually they wear out the fascination for fun in less than a week. They are always the items that do not seem to fit a good category. However, they pile up to make cleaning up playrooms more difficult.
4. DESIGNATE SPECIFIC SPACES FOR TOYS
My colleagues and I here at Livable Solutions Professional Organizing are all big believers in keeping toys out of bedrooms unless you do not have space for them elsewhere. We encourage books and stuffed animals, but like to see the bedrooms a place of calm and rest for children. Save the toys for a playroom or toy area in your family room. When toys are taking over every room of your home, it is time to reevaluate the key areas for play. Designate toy stations in as few rooms as possible. You will have an easier time managing toys as a parent. Your house will not feel overrun by your children’s possessions. Most importantly, you are also teaching them to value their items and care for them in their own spaces.
5. INVEST IN GOOD SHELVING AND BINS
Storing toys in an easily retrievable and attractive way is possible is another one of the key playroom organizing strategies. Often we see toy rooms littered with baskets and containers in an attempt to contain the toys. But those containers only add to the chaos of the space.
Now that you know what toys you need to store it is time to pick smart storage options. Invest in storage units that maximize your vertical storage in the area you choose. However, you must provide easy access to items for your kids to maintain and reach. For inexpensive storage that is highly functional check out the Kallax Storage Unit and Trofast Storage from Ikea.
If you do not have an Ikea near you check out the 6 Cube Organizer Shelf or XL Toy Organizer with 20 Bins at Target. These units can be placed in a closet or low in a wall in your playroom or toy area. Drawers and cubes are create ways to sort toys into categories and baskets and bins off the floor.
Remember to leave flexibility for different kinds of toys as your kids grow. Your toy area will always be evolving as their interest’s change, as well as the age appropriateness of the toys. You want storage that stores small as well as large items.
6. LABEL TOYS CLEARLY
I have been tackling storage and organization in my own playroom for over eight years. We have had so many types of toys pass through our house with two children without many purchases of our own. The best thing that I did for my kids, our family members and our guests, is label my bins clearly so everyone knows where each toy lives. I believe this is another key component of good playroom organizing strategies. I created a printable toy labeling system: Life’s Lists Printable Playroom Labels, which covers almost every category the average parent would need to create order. This single step has helped my kids maintain order with independence on most days. We still have our tantrums from time to time because they just don’t feel like cleaning up!
7. WHEN TO SAY NO
Toys will keep coming into your house. It is hard to stop the holidays, birthdays, and the gifts from them coming in year round. But there are strategies you can employ as a parent to control what accumulates:
- Encourage relatives to give your kids “experience gifts”, such as a day out to get ice cream or a trip to a museum instead of objects.
- Sort through toys and encourage cleaning out before major gift holidays like Christmas, Channakuh or birthdays.
- Make small toy items from fast food restaurants, goody bags and freebie events disappear quickly. Those tiny items are the ones that creep everywhere in your home and serve no valuable purpose for play.
- Create focused gift giving lists for relatives ahead of the holidays. This will encourage gift items your kids really want or need rather than having relatives guess.
- Limit tiny toys as much as possible. (My five year old loves stuffing tiny objects into any container or bag she can get her hands on) I like to eliminate toys that will cause me to constantly sort tiny pieces to put them away. Lego are enough!
Hopefully, with all of these playroom organizing strategies you can evaluate what you have in your home, put boundaries on how many toys you own and how much space they can take in your home. I constantly remind myself the toys seem more fun to the kids when there are less choices. We are all happier when we are not putting them away ALL day when we are home. Let this be your motivation too. Simplify your space for you and them.
For our readers today I am offering a 20% off coupon for the Playroom Labeling System: Use coupon code 20OFFTOYS.
Kristin Vander Wiede is a Professional Organizer and owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing and Life’s Lists printable organizing labels, systems and activities.