Playrooms!  Eek!  Just saying the word can cause stress levels to rise for clients (and me)!  I imagine many of you are in the same boat. Not only do you have too many toys, but also the toys are everywhere. All the time. You put them away and, within an hour, they are all out (again!). You assume your children are conspiring against you; they couldn’t possibly be this messy unintentionally, right?

You think to yourself, “Do I have the time or energy to clean all this up yet again?”  No – you do not. There are many, many other things you need and want to do. So, you ignore them.  All day, and the next day, and soon, every floor in your house is covered in Legos, dolls, puzzles, crayons, and robots.  You thought surely as the kids got older this toy burden would lessen. Yet, somehow, it hasn’t.

With the holidays right around the corner, this toy situation could potentially get so much worse. Something’s gotta give so you don’t go insane.  You have to get rid of some of these toys.  There’s a cute children’s book about this called Too Many Toys.  In the end, the main character donates a box full of toys. While that’s a great start, one box of donated toys is not going to solve this mess. You have to be ruthless about purging. So, how do you choose what should stay and what should go?

To start, donate all the toys that your kids have outgrown, along with the toys they never play with for more than 20 seconds.  But that still leaves . . . a lot. One of my friends came up with the brilliant idea of giving her kids’ toys expiration dates.  This doesn’t mean writing an actual expiration date on each toy. But, it does mean rotating out toys once they’ve been in circulation for a while.  So, before each major toy-expectant holiday, like the big ones coming up, donate all the toys that have been there for, say, over a year. Of course, there will be exceptions to this.  There are a handful of special toys that remain a constant throughout the years, and those should certainly stay.   But the rest should move on, even if they are in perfect working condition. The reality is that kids appreciate new toys more (and actually play with them) when they have fewer choices.

I can already anticipate your push back: But my child still plays with it?  That might be true. But if your house is overrun by toys, whether or not your child would play with it is not a helpful metric.  Look at how many toys can fit in your home, and that’s the MAXIMUM amount you should keep.  And what about those sentimental toys?  I tell clients to get one large plastic bin that you fill with your child’s baby keepsakes, including a few special toys. The rest should be donated.

For the toys that are remaining, here are my super simple toy organizing tips:

  • Group like items together.

  • Use bins and label them.  This not only promotes literacy, but gives kids the opportunity to practice being responsible by putting things back in the right spot.

  • Think about how your kids use the toys.  If they tend to play with several at once (small cars, for example) keep them in a bucket where they are all easily accessible.

  • Keep stuffed animals in a large basket for easy access, and easy stuffing.

  • Ikea and The Container Store sell great storage solutions for Legos. Legos seem to be the bane of many moms’ existences.  Think about how your kids play with them, either free-building or in sets, and organize accordingly.

  • Larger items that are played with one at a time can be left out on display.

  • Always keep books near toys to send the message that reading is a fun playtime activity, too.

Should you involve your kids in the purging process? I think you should, but it’s ultimately up to you.  My kids know that this is the natural rhythm of toys in our house, so I do usually seek their input (thereby avoiding some future meltdowns).  There might be tears, but remind them that all these toys are going to live in a new home to make other children happy.  That usually sweetens it for them.

But if you learned nothing else from reading this, please know this:  it is not your job to clean up the toys.  It is your child’s.  Yes, they might need help and guidance.  Yes, they might need constant reminders.  But part of being an adult is cleaning up after ourselves, and we learn that as children.  And it is infinitely easier for children to clean up when they know exactly where something should go.  That’s why setting up a toy system is so important!

I’m curious, what’s harder for you – the purging or the organizing of toys.  Let me know in the comments below!