Children’s playrooms can take up endless hours of time to get in order. Many parents get to the point that they don’t even try any more because they feel like it is an endless battle. While it may seem like there is no winning in the playroom, I do have some tips to give you hope.
The most important thing you can do to make the play area simple to maintain is by decreasing the amount of toys that need to be picked up everyday. Evaluate what toys are actually being played with. An overabundance of toys can actually make toys less appealing and less valued by your child as well as cause an overwhelming mess. If your kids only play with a quarter of the toys you own, it is likely you can pare down the toys without too many being missed. It is important to involve your children as much in the process as you can so they feel like they have a say in what stays. Making it into a game can also be an effective tactic in picking the most important. Your observations are also essential in knowing what to purge. By watching what your children play with frequently, you should have a general idea about what toys are important to your children.
Throughout this process it is important to remind your kids that they are giving these toys to other kids who may not have toys of their own. Just like with many adults, your children will feel better knowing they are sharing items with others in need, and may be able to more easily rationalize donating the items. There are many local charities that gladly take toys. You can drop off gently used toys to my store The Organized Lifestyle store at 1010 Village Walk in Guilford for the Healing Hearts Adoption Agency. The toys are given to foster children both here and abroad.
The next step in taming the toys is creating a streamlined storage process. The easier it is for you and your children to put away the toys the less difficult it is going to be to maintain the playroom.
Whenever possible, maximize your vertical storage space by using shelving. Some of my favorite shelving for toys can be found at Ikea. The Expedit and Gorm products are great for toy storage and fairly easy for anyone to assemble. They also fit containers and large trucks and toys easily for storage.
It is important to use bins that are simple to access when putting away items. Always use square or rectangular containers whether they are baskets or clear plastic. I also discourage items with lids for everyday storage because it is much easier to put something quickly in an open container rather than a lidded one.
It is important to label the bins so everyone knows where the toys belong. Be creative with your labeling. Take digital pictures of the toys and incorporate them in your labeling so your child can match proper bin with the toy. You can also use mini-chalkboards or Label-It Now labels if you like to have reusable tags. Once there is a designated spot for each toy, it is much easier to mindlessly put everything away each day.
The last important step in keeping a toy room organized is discouraging the build up of toys once you have finally organized the space. Discourage relatives and friends from giving toys as gifts if you are finding them too generous. Also, create a habit of asking your kids to choose one toy to donate for every toy that is brought in. Not only will you be teaching them to value the toys that they love, but they will also be gaining great organization skills for the future!
Kristin Mastromarino is a professional organizer at Livable Solutions, LLC (www.livablesolutions.com), owner of The Organized Lifestyle retail store (www.theorganizedlifestylestore.com) and is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). You can email her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org