It’s not awesome when the clutter in your child’s room or playroom becomes a major source of stress. A few months ago, I was feeling overwhelmed by Legos, doll clothes, play food and stuffed animals that seemed to be everywhere. As I navigated small heaps of toys in my daughter’s bedroom, I knew that I needed to find an organization solution quickly before Christmas presents started rolling in.
Truthfully, having company over was becoming a touchy subject because it took so much work to make rooms presentable. Like many moms, I was unrealistic and found myself trying to cook for guests, hide toys and clean the rest of the house in a short period of time. And most of the time, this wasn’t working out.
In order to find creative (and fashionable) toy storage tips, I turned to the experts. Here are the top seven tips that have helped improve toy storage in my home and my quality of life:
Assess The Problem
The first thing I did was take inventory of the number and types of toys I had to organize. I chose to do this first because I noticed that some of my daughter’s toys were no longer age-appropriate. This included teething and plush toys, as well as educational items that were no longer used. I bagged a decent amount of items that I could give away to families with younger kids. I also donated some items to charity because I would rather find good homes for some toys that my daughter wasn’t playing with anymore.
I also took a good look at my budget and the amount of space that I was working with on both levels of my home. I decided to repurpose some cabinet space for more room for the toy department.
Find an Appropriate System
If you’re like me and serious about getting organized, you have to be prepared to invest in an efficient storage system. Better organization will save you time, help you maintain a cleaner home and also cut down on the number of misplaced toys in your household. Toy boxes, trunks, baskets, shoe organizers, storage benches and ottomans are just a few cost-effective storage options you can use.
Storage can depend on the amount of toys, the child’s age and the size of the room. In general, it’s important to keep toys stored in categories that match the way your kids play.
Amy Trager has been a certified professional organizer since 2007, and believes that finding the right storage system can greatly reduce stress on parents.
“Sometimes, I’ve encountered systems for toy storage that are far too detailed for children to make sense of,” Trager said. “For example, storing Legos in containers by color or shape is great for a master builder, but not for a 5 year old. One big bucket will work for that age.”
Trager also suggests making sure your toy storage unit’s height is appropriate for your child’s age. If there are toys that require adult supervision, store them up high.
“Keep enough items out and available for your child to play with so they are engaged with their toys, yet not overwhelmed by the amount,” she said. “Switch out toys biannually or seasonally. It can make old toys seem new again!”
Keep an Open Mind
Reagan Toal, of Federal Brace, a North Carolina-based manufacturer of brackets, said open shelving and storage ideas are the best for general organization. Not only do open storage solutions encourage your family to keep things tidy, but they also allow them to see, with a glance, what they need to grab.
“Consider hanging your child’s multitude of stuffed animals in cute and colorful nets,” Toal suggested. “Not only does it add some design interest to a room, it also keeps things sequestered away.”
These open organization ideas have worked well in my home. My daughter has a small bedroom so using the hanging nets has done wonders since I don’t have a ton of floor space. When grandparents insist to buy more stuffed animals, I quickly find hanging space for them.
Buy Child-Friendly Storage
The secret to toy storage success is choosing solutions that make it easy for children to clean up, said Karen Gray-Plaisted, of Design Solutions KGP, a New York-based staging and redesign firm.
“Bins easily identified for ‘like’ things are essential and you can label them with words or pictures to help with organization,” said Gray-Plaisted. “A big chest or easily closable container that kids can put all their dolls, trucks, and durable toys in is great, too.”
She believes some adults forget to keep it simple and complicate things in the spirit of achieving a neat house.
“Toy clutter can be overwhelming, but having a simple system in place for cleanup is what usually helps most,” she said.
Create a Play Zone
Ask yourself if you have created ample space in your home for your kids to play and hang out. If not, it may be helpful to create a dedicated space or storage area only for children. If you’re looking to create a play zone, consider patterning it after a kindergarten classroom said Lisa Gessert, owner of OrganiZing.buzz, based in Staten Island, N.Y.
“Think of activity areas, an area for reading, painting, etc.,” she said. “Teachers can get 32 kids to clean up in minutes because their area is clearly organized for a child with designated areas.”
Perhaps you have space in your basement, a loft or an area in your living room that could be used to better organize board games, books or activity supplies for your kids. Transforming a space doesn’t have to be an expensive task but it does take a little creativity and a sharp eye.
“I ask parents to get down on their knees when they are planning a child’s room and see it from their level, their reach and eye view,” said Gessert, about gaining a child’s perspective.
Control Toy Volume
It’s important to monitor the number of toys that flow into your home for birthdays and holidays. Some homes become cluttered due to the sheer volume of toys you and others are buying for your kids.
“Studies show that the typical child only plays with 5% of their toys daily,” said Paula Ripple, owner of Organizewell. “An overwhelming number of toys is just that – overwhelming!”
Ripple, who has run her professional organizing service for six years, said to keep size in mind when buying toy sets and new items.
“For instance, 30 crayons are just as effective as the 100 pack and a lot easier to put away,” she said.
Encourage Kid Participation
Even with all of these amazing organizing tips, your toy storage solutions may not improve until you routinely involve your children in clean-up time. Try to include them when cleaning up and showing them that everything has a proper place. When your kids abandon their toys for other items, encourage them to tidy up as they go along before pulling out new things.
In my house, singing the “Clean Up” song or counting each item picked up has been very effective. By the time I count into the twenties, my daughter is beaming about her clean-up efforts. More importantly, she’s engaged in cleaning. Tricks like these also add an entertainment element to an otherwise tedious task and saves me time in the long run.
If you have other bright ideas to help parents like me organize the countless toys at home, please leave your ideas below.
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