Thanks to Marie Kondo, you’ve probably spent your winter de-cluttering closets and tossing an embarrassing amount of shoes from the early 2000s. But have you managed to tackle the scariest area of your house by far? Ah, the dreaded playroom (or kid’s room or basement—wherever the toys live). Organizing toys may seem intimidating, but these tips will help you get a grip on the clutter and avoid meltdowns from your kids.
Ditch the junk first.
If you know you want to cut down on clutter but you’re not sure where to start, it helps to break toys down by type (books, puzzles, dolls) and tackle them one by one. Items that are unusable are the easiest to get rid of. Broken toys or game pieces are a good first step since kids aren’t likely to notice they’re gone. Books with ripped or missing pages are also easy to eliminate. And while you’re at it, you might as well tackle the craft bins, where broken crayons, old coloring books and dried up markers tend to hang out. Once the true junk is done, you can figure out what to donate.
Don’t overthink it.
As attached as kids tend to get to objects, parents may be even worse; likely because we’re just so hesitant to see our babies grow up. But when you’re trying to majorly declutter, there’s no room for sentimentality. No, you don’t need to unload priceless family heirlooms, but there’s no harm in donating a ball from three years ago that hasn’t been touched in months. If you know your kids genuinely don’t care about a toy anymore or they’ve outgrown it, give the item the heave-ho. Goodwill will be waiting with welcome arms, trust me.
Let’s be real: kids have majorly short attention spans. It’s truly remarkable how quickly a child can fall back in love with an old toy as soon as you’re about to toss it. Take that idea and run with it by seasonally rotating toys. Gradually collect items your kid hasn’t played with in a while and store in plastic bins away from sight, then add them back to the collection a few months later. Continue the process so you only have a limited amount of toys out at one time. That doctor’s kit will suddenly become as exciting as it was the day you bought it when it’s brought out from hibernation.
Label, label, label.
Once you’ve narrowed down what to keep and what to toss, it’s time to organize. I’ve found my tolerance for toys has increased significantly by storing them in cute baskets (it’s just science). For smaller items that are easier to lose like legos, train pieces and cars, plastic bins seem to work the best. And if you don’t already own a label maker, it’s time. You can also use labels that have a picture of the toy on them so pre-readers can help clean up.
Create toy rules.
Keep your space clutter-free, it can help to put guidelines in place. For instance, start with “a one toy in, one toy out” rule, especially following birthdays and Christmas when your home has been flooded with gifts. Picking a set number of items to have at any one time also prevents junk from piling up (for example, 5 puzzles or 6 dress-up costumes max). Speaking of birthdays, it’s not a bad idea to encourage family and friends to purchase non-toys gifts for your kids to help keep the clutter at bay. A museum membership may not be as exciting as a new Hatchimal, but the memories will last a lot longer than their love for a piece of plastic.
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