Everyone who's house is over run with kid toys say "YEAHHH!!" (this only makes sense if you have seen the Leprechaun video)
Seriously though, I don't think I've ever met a mom who says "I love having my children's primary colored plastic items sprinkled all over every room in my home!" It's constant struggle for me to let-it-go and allow my kids to enjoy themselves while not having a nervous breakdown because I CANNOT HANDLE THE MESS ANY LONGER WE ARE GETTING RID OF EVERYTHING!
We live in a small home with only two bedrooms and 1 living space, so I do not have the pleasure of containing everything to a playroom and just shutting the door to conceal the mess. On top of that, my kids share a room so space is truly minimal. I have had to be creative over these past three years since having kids in not only how I organize and hide the toys, but also what I bring into our house in the first place. We just simply choose to say no to certain larger items because we know we just don't have the space to accommodate them.
I want to start off by talking about simplifying because I truly think you can't really tackle organizing the toys without first doing a good purge of the items. Most of the time when we feel like we can't keep things looking tidy its because we probably have too much stuff than we have places to put it.
Moving into our current home that was built in the 1930's with only two small closets, I realized right away that I had more belongings than I had places to put them...and this was before kids. I slowly began pairing down my wardrobe and other items to just the bare essentials. I got rid of anything that I didn't wear or use regularly and at this point in my current closest, I have about 15 tops and 4 pairs of pants. If I don't wear it in 6 months, I get rid of it. (We don't have seasons in South Florida so I know most people follow the 1 year rule since they may not wear winter clothing items for more than 6 months before needing them). I follow this same rule with my kids belongings. If they do not play with a certain toy or game within about 6 months, I decide its time to part ways with it. So that means twice a year, I sit down and filter through all their toys (and clothes) and separate the things that are not used to be donated and which well loved things to keep. I know as the kids get older this will become more difficult for them to do this as they suddenly become very attached to something the moment you put it in the giveaway bin...but most of the time I do this while Sutton isn't home or during naps/bedtime. If they haven't noticed it in the 6 months they haven't played with it...they will likely never notice its missing.
Another thing we do to keep the toys to a minimum is request no gifts at birthday parties and ask the grandparents to limit Christmas gifts to no more than three items per child. I know this probably sounds heartless but we can all agree that children in America have more than an abundance of belongings and often get many special gifts throughout the year so there is no need to continue to stock pile toys upon toys when we already have plenty. I love the idea of asking friends to bring birthday gifts on your child's behalf to be donated to a local ministry or non-profit. What a great way to teach these little ones at an early age what a privilege it is to bless others in need!
Ok, now down to the practical items I have found to be useful in keeping the toys you find worth holding on to, organized.
1. BASKETS...LOTS OF BASKETS! Honestly, this is my number 1 tip for organizing toys. Just buy a bunch of cute baskets! For larger items like stuffed animals, shape sorters, balls, dolls, trucks, etc., I have found purchasing wicker baskets from Home Goods to be the best, most decorative and affordable solution for these. We keep two of these in the kids rooms and once they start to overflow...I go through and pair down the items to decipher which items they are actually playing with. Like I already mentioned above...anything that doesn't get used....we say bye-bye.
2. BOOKSHELVES EXCLUSIVELY DESIGNATED FOR TOYS. You can find great options for cute bookshelves at an affordable price through Wayfair, Amazon or IKEA that come in a variety of different dimensions depending on the size of the room you are working with. I use this for larger, plastic toys that could also go inside the basket but are a little more "cute" to be visibly displayed. Of course this is a great spot to store your books as well and I have found that books can be such a fun design element if arranged strategically. I love the idea of color coding the books but also lining them up from shortest to tallest and mixing up how you are stacking them from horizontally across the shelf to vertically. Bookshelves are a great solution to add to a living room space to keep toys off the floor. We have some great built in shelves in our living room that are low to the ground which makes for great storage. I use wire baskets so the kids can see their toys but of course you could use something less transparent to hide them better. I just feel like they are more likely to play with something if they can see it.
3. SELECTING NEUTRAL LARGE BABY ITEMS LIKE BOUNCERS/PLAYPENS. Unfortunately these large items that are just downright eyesores serve a purpose and are typically used for a short time but there are a few alternatives that I have found to be a little more appealing to the eye and still as practical. The Baby Bjorn bouncer comes in an array of colors and can be used from newborn till about 18 months. We didn't have this with Sutton and it was hands down my most loved item with Quint. We have it in a neutral tan that can easily be thrown into the washing machine and it folds flat to be stored under a bed or behind a door. The playpen we used was the summer infant play yard in a neutral finish that easily collapses for storage under a bed or behind a couch. I'm sure most people have see the Little Nomad foam play mats that look like rugs but this is another great option for an aesthetically pleasing alternative to those brightly colored ABC mats that don't match anyones home decor.
4 PLAY KITCHENS AND PRETEND COOK WEAR STORED IN KITCHEN: We don't have the space for play kitchen in our home (this is one of those things that I just decided we wouldn't be able to have due to the size of our house) but I have a set of play pots and pans, dishes and flatware that I keep in the cabinet where I store my own cooking supplies. Typically they are only interested in playing with these when I'm in the kitchen myself so it works out nicely to keep those items tucked away in the kitchen.
5. HANGING DRESS UP CLOTHES IN THE CLOSET: I like to hang all of the nicer princess dresses in the closet and only bring down one at a time and keep the remaining smaller items like jewelry, hats, shoes, etc. in a large tote bag that I store in one of the two wicker baskets in their room. This is something that I find I go through regularly and purge as there really are only a handful of dress up items that Sutton uses. If she hasn't put it on in the last 6 months, we part ways. (side note: these cloth storage bins pictured below in my kids closet are wonderful options to add to a bookcase or closet. I got them from Home Depot and they are under $7.
6. MAGAZINE HOLDERS AND HOME OFFICE ORGANIZATION ITEMS FOR ART SUPPLIES/COLORING BOOKS/PAINTS: I love buying a cute magazine holder to store coloring books and spare paper for drawing and an at home mail organizer works great for smaller craft supplies like markers, scissors and crayons, I also keep a cute basket on my kitchen counter that is a "catch all" of crafts items or smaller toys they can play with at their play table like magna-tiles, play-dough, or stamps
7. ZIPLOCK BAGS FOR LEGOS/DOLL ACCESSORIES/CARS/OTHER SMALLER ITEMS; These are the hardest things to keep organized, right? Honestly, labeled ziplock bags have been my best option for containing smaller items. I also always hang onto any toys that come with great packaging like zippered pouches to use as storage but thats pretty infrequent you luck out and get something other than a paper/plastic combo box with a new toy. Once they are all picked up, i store them in a drawer out of reach so they have to ask me to play with these as to not be dealing with a little one dumping over a container of legos at their leisure 20 times a day :)
8. PUZZLES: I also like to organize these with jumbo sized ziplock bags and label the backs of the pieces with a number or colored marker for easy pick up. All puzzles bags are kept in a box that I keep in a drawer.
Alright mama! You can do this! Start by giving the toys a good purge and purchasing a few organizational storage pieces. Once you have done those two things, you are ready to get organizing. Tackle one category of toys at a time and you will be so proud of yourself with what you can accomplish!
I do want to mention that I pick up (and have the kids help) about 3-4 times a day. I know this isn't for everyone but I just prefer to have things neat and tidy...even if they will mess everything up again in 5 minutes. Our clean up times in our daily routine are: 1. Before Quint's morning nap 2.Before we leave the house for a morning outing 3. During nap time 4. Before bed.
I hope this is helpful and please feel free to reach out or comment with any questions you might have. I tried to link as many things as I could in this post but let me know if there is something specific that I missed. This is just my own personal opinions and experience and I am not an expert...but I'm honored you are reading along! :)