A while back I told you to’ask me anything‘, and you did.
Jo asked me;
“How do you manage clutter? With a craft obsessed 4 year old, a two year old destructive force and a newborn all crammed into a 2 bedroom house I find I spend a huge amount of time picking things up off the floor or tripping over them. I know we have too many toys but how do we decide what stays and what goes?”
I really struggle with getting rid of stuff and have done for a long time, but I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks over the years, so, to answer Jo’s question, I’m sharing how we conquer the toy clutter.
When you have young kids it can be easy to find yourself knee deep in toys and not have any idea how you got there!
That was me a few years back. Keeping the house tidy felt like an impossible task, packing up had become a constant battle with my kids, and despite having loads of toys my kids never seemed to play with anything for long.
All the toy clutter, and the arguments, and the never ending picking up, was driving me bonkers and even though I struggle with letting things go, I knew I had to do something.
After a massive clean up and throw out here’s how I keep on top of the toy clutter these days..
Reduce the number of toys we have
I periodically go through our toys and get rid of anything that is broken and unfixable or unusable due to missing pieces – we throw these away or recycle them.
I also look for any toys that my kids have grown out of – these either get given to friends and family (ask first!) or to charity.
I also look for things that my kids never play with, or toys that cause arguments, or things that make a huge mess that no one ever wants to pack up – these either get given the flick or if I think they might be used at some point and we have the space, I store them away, but mostly I try to just let them go!
We don’t have a dedicated play room, and we don’t have a lot of space to store toys for every day use, so we rotate our toys.
There is a small selection of toys that are accessible to the kids in the family room, a small selection of ‘this is my favourite special thing’ type toys that they keep on a shelf in their bedrooms, and the rest is packed in boxes and stored away.
The toys that are out are stored in tubs and baskets on shelves, so they are easy for the kids to get out, and easy to pack up and put pack on the shelf. There is only a small amount out at any one time – usually a construction set, something for imaginative play, some games and puzzles, and some fine motor/fiddle toys. That’s it.
There are books and basic drawing supplies available all the time, and the kids can get other things out of the art cupboard but they need to ask first.
We usually swap the toys around every couple of months (we did it more often when they were younger and home all the time). As they’ve gotten older the kids have been in charge of swapping their own toys over. If they come and say ‘Can I have the trains out’ the answer is ‘yes, what will you put away so you can get out the trains?’
We store the toys that are not in use wherever we have space! We don’t have a lot of storage space so there are tubs of toys stacked on top of wardrobes, and under beds, and in the shed.
Getting smart with how you store things helps a lot.
Large zip lock bags are great for puzzles and other flat items, and cloth bags with a draw string (easy to sew your own) are great for storing all kinds of things. The bags fit easily inside big tubs so you can store a lot and still keep it sorted.
We use large plastic tubs with lids so we can stack them and plastic under-bed storage tubs. Labeling the tubs with general categories – puzzles, games, figurines, construction etc. will help you find things and help the kids pack things away when they are older.
Reduce the amount of toys coming in.
I am not good at decluttering and letting things go. I always want to keep things ‘just in case’ even when I know that is ridiculous! For me, it is much easier to reduce the amount of things that come into our house in the first place, than to get rid of things later.
With that in mind we try to make sure that all toys that enter our house are going to get lots of use. We look for toys that are ‘open-ended’ and can be used in a variety of ways by a variety of age groups (that’s really important for us as we 6 years between our oldest and youngest kids and all our kids share play spaces).
Now that our kids are older we try to give ‘experiences’, rather than toys, as gifts, and encourage family to do the same.
We also put a limit on the amount of something we can have. A couple of years ago it was Monster High Dolls – my girls could only spend their pocket money on one if they could fit another one in the box on their shelf. When the shelves in their bedroom are full, they knew the have to get rid of something before they can add anything else. This inbuilt limit makes it easier for kids to manage the amount of toys they have on their own.
How do you conquer the toy clutter at your house?
I still struggle to let things go, especially toys my kids have loved but since grown out of. How do you decide what to get rid of and what to keep?
I’d love to hear how you manage the clutter at your house. Leave a comment below and share any tips or ideas that work for you.
And thanks to Jo for asking this question. If you’ve got a question send me an email, or pop over and leave a comment on this blog post and I’ll do my very best to answer it.
For more tips on how to organise kids and all their stuff check out my Simple Series post on organising kids and the free printable bag tag reminders here.