Toy clutter treatment

I’ve been to homes where children’s toys are literally everywhere. Toys on the floor in the foyer, kitchen, den, playroom, bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Parents are conditioning their children to become little clutter monsters.

My wife and I have already started to teach our child to put her toys away in certain designated places. She is not quite twelve months old, but she understands where her toys go when she is finished playing with them. If one always cleans up after a child, the cycle will never end, and one will continually be dealing with a toy tornado. On the other hand, if you don’t ever clean up after a child, then the child will begin to think that the toys are supposed to be all over the floor all of the time. The key is teaching the kid to fish, as it were.

We’re not quite at the point where we have purchased storage bins for our child’s toys, but we have considered this storage bin shelf system. It makes the toys easily accessible and makes clean up easy for a toddler. Also, the natural finish is versatile so it can be painted or stained to match the decor of any room.

How do you help your children to keep clutter under control in your home?

16 Comments for “Toy clutter treatment”

  1. posted by jessica on

    I love that toddlers think putting toys away is part of the game!
    All of my children’s toys have a home in their rooms. When they want to get some toys to take to another part of the house they each have a laundry sized basket to lug the toys elsewhere. If they want to get other toys out they have to return the ones that are already out. So, in theory only one baskets worth of toys are ever out.

  2. posted by Edie on

    The trouble with toys is that many of them are gifts so it’s harder to throw them away. It took me until this year, the year my kids turned six and nine, to get rid of the enormous collection of teddybears and various cute fluffy stuffed animals that lovely aunts and doting grandparents sent in those first couple of years. But eventually I realised that the toys were literally just gathering dust. I’d moved them from a big open toybox, then onto a high bookshelf, then into underbed tubs, just because I couldn’t bear to throw them out. Then one day I had just HAD IT with the mess in my daughter’s room so I reduced the three underbed tubs to less than one tub. I kept a few special young child toys for when the cousins come to visit, but otherwise I pretty much gave everything else to a charity or the rubbish bin. The kids haven’t missed any of them, because they’ve moved on from stuffed animals to Monopoly etc. So my advice, regardless of what storage system you are using, is to treat toys the way you treat clothes you haven’t worn in two seasons. Get rid of them.

    My six year old now has a box of Kapla (building blocks), a large doll’s house (which is as beautiful to look at as it is fun to play with) and a table with paper and crayons etc. And NO mess!

  3. posted by Courtney on

    The key– a place for everything– otherwise cleaning up isn’t really even possible, although since your child isn’t quite a year old yet, I would imagine you will learn quite a lot about toy storage, lol. And the other poster is so right– it’s the gifts that are the problem.

  4. posted by stacy on

    give it up… what you think will be a year from now rarely happens when it comes to kids. My kids loved picking up and putting toys away as toddlers, I thought we had it made! Nah. just doesn’t work that way. Shelves with bins without lids is the best solution, but that one you linked is nowhere near large enough. That one might hold all of my oldest child’s My Little Pony collection, maybe…

    We make a deal – twice a year I put boxes and boxes of toys in storage in the basement. If the kids miss anything and ask for it specifically, they can have it back. Otherwise, everything goes to the thrift store after four to six months and I do it again.

  5. posted by Tina on

    I agree with Stacy. That bin would not be big enough to hold most of the toys my kids have. It may work now but as the child gets older, their toys seem to get bigger. What you have to do is make sure that everything has a home-“A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”. That is what I am always telling my kids. What I do is I have small bins under their bed for their small toys. It pulls out like a drawer and the drawer comes all they way out. I have crates in their closets that hold similar items so they can pull out those individually when they want to play with certain toys. Then, I have a small toy box with a book shelf to hold their books and bigger toys.
    I also go through their toys 2 times a year and if they haven’t played with it in the past 6 months, we donate it or have a big garage sale where they can keep the money from the toys they sell. This is good incentive for them to let go of some of their things. I wish you luck but there always seems to be something to pick up!

  6. posted by Another Matt on

    Great ideas, but very hard to keep the system working, especially without complete buy-in and discipline from both parents. This is a constant struggle in our house, because it’s not as important to my wife as it is to me. I end up having to let go a little to avoid getting frustrated all the time. It’s also obvious that the original poster is a new parent—no battle scars yet.

  7. posted by Bill on

    I agree Matt. I come home and find lego in every room of the main floor. I clean it up only to find it there the next day. The bins only work for the toys that fit in them. A 30″ long dino doesn’t have an easy home. My wife wants to setup a toy room and ignore the mess. For me this is no answer.

  8. posted by Mr. Shiney on

    Despite our efforts to control clutter, my son’s toy collection is ever overflowing. It is very difficult to tell his grandparents to give bonds instead of a toy or book. About once a year so far we’ve packed up (or donated) toys that he doesn’t play with. We’ve also found that a smaller group of toys goes farther if you “rotate” through them periodically — toys that haven’t been played with for a while can be “new” again.

  9. posted by Bryan on

    Four our two kids (4 and 1), we chose clear bins about 12x12x18″ on a small bookshelf, and made up picture labels for the fronts from the boxes they came in or from the internet.They can’t read yet, but they know where the toys go. Cleaning still takes a LOT of encouragement, but they are able to manage with minor direction once they start. Also, the bins are small enough for them to carry to another room. “Problem” Toys that create a big mess if dumped (games,puzzles,legos,crayons) are placed on a high shelf and are available on request if their other toys are picked up. They have to pick up all toys nightly, and anything they miss (or refuse) to clean up goes on the high shelf. We went through a major purge, and found that limiting the number of toys made it less stressful for everyone, and is helping the kids to appreciate and take better care of what they have.

  10. posted by Matt on

    Bryan, those are great suggestions. Thanks for sharing. It is a constant struggle with the little ones.

  11. posted by Anonymous on

    I have the same bin set at my home – and it is a pretty good solution. It takes very little time to clean everything up – I can put all of the bins n the floor and sort as I go. My 2yo has no problem with it. The onlydownfall is that if you have a “dumper” everything in all the bins will end up on the floor – usually within minutes of company arriving……

  12. posted by OE on

    My son and I make ‘deals’: he only gets his bedtime books if he tidies up. If he is tired or reluctant, we do it together and make a game of it. And, yes, you do need to let go… Before kid number 2 was born, we went through his toys together, decided which ones were for ‘baby’ and which ones could just go. He loved that ‘his baby’ was getting toys that he was way too grown up for! Also, teach your kids about helping other kids – take the toys to a charity, with your kid’s consent of course – and talk to them about how other kids will be really grateful. The key is cooperation not coercion!

  13. posted by Jean on

    We have been doing a similar system to Bryan– 1. clean up every night, have been doing this since our son was old enough to pick up the toys and drop them in a box. Since he’s only 3 now, we are very specific in telling him what to clean up (pick up that block and put it away, put all the lincoln logs away in the can, etc.) and we also help… in fact we all do a little of our own pickup at the same time and it does wonders.
    2.If toys are mistreated or fought over, or messes not cleaned up, the toys go away on a high shelf for a time.
    3. I cycle the toys– have currently 3 30 gallon tubs besides the ones in rotation. The toys are a lot more fun after being rested for 2-3 months.
    4. Whenever we have new toys (gifts or otherwise) he has to choose 3 old toys or an equal volume of old toys to get rid of, in order to be allowed to open the new toy. He’s always eager to take this bargain!
    5. We try to teach appreciation of a clean surface. When the carpet is cleared at the end of day, we use the surface to do rough and tumble, or dancing. After we organize something we step back and invite our son to admire it.

    This system works on the whole very satisfactorily. My main problem is that we received as gifts a number of really good quality baby/toddler toys that we’d like to save because we’re hoping for another child. But we don’t have much storage space… Good luck everyone!

  14. posted by Jean on

    P.S. With the rotation system, we’re able to make the toys our son receives for Christmas and birthday last all year, and seldom buy new toys ourselves (though often get hand-me-downs.)
    P.P.S. Another tip– my son and I go to Goodwill together, and he looks forward to it because though we’re getting rid of some of his toys, I’ll let him pick out a “new” one. The point is to keep trying to give away at least as fast as you accumulate.

  15. posted by Hanmee on

    Great tips!

    We have a terrible time with toy organization. I had the idea as well to get appropriate bins and put picture labels on them so my son would become accustomed to putting them away in the right place, but we’re also reorganizing in several parts of the house so we’re still figuring out what toys go where.

    I agree about the gifts. Hubby just put a bunch of toys in a box to freecycle.

    The problem we have is that my mom’s house (she watches them during the day) just has HUGE toys or two large red bin of hand-me-down toys and she doesn’t throw any of it away. When I suggested that she do so she suggested that the problem was that b/c of the bin they couldn’t see all the toys to pick from. I think they just need to be tossed. They’re obviously not missing them. Especially since my son packs his favorite items into his tiny back pack to take with him.

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