Toy Management & Organization

Happy New Year! I hope your first week of 2019 has been going well so far. We ended 2018 touring around Victoria which is one of my favorite Canadian cities. So many beautiful landmarks to see!

The Victoria Harbor at nighttime is my favorite!

Some people, my husband included, went back to work this week, but our kids are still on Winter break. Since New Years Day, I have been busy trying to pack up our Christmas decor and plan a birthday party for my middle daughter who turns 11 today, Happy Birthday to my sweet Sadie!

For many people, January is a time to re-organize and re-fresh their homes. If you have kids, especially younger kids, you probably have some new toys in your home, thanks to that jolly old guy in red. For kids, new toys are exciting and fun, but for parents, new toys can mean more clutter and things to tidy up. I thought I would chat today about some of my strategies for managing and organizing toys in our home in case you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by kid stuff after the holidays.

Out with the old

This is probably stating the obvious, but when it comes to kids and toys, you have to purge stuff on a continual basis. It’s not a “one and done” kinda deal. Things are always coming into the house, so to manage the clutter, things always have to be on their way out! Purging is not something that always comes easily to me, but I have learned that if no one is playing with it, it has to go. There are two things that get in the way of my ability to purge – nostalgia and guilt. In the past I would hold on to the kids toys because they reminded me of a time when the kids were small or of some phase that we had moved past – just call me sentimental!

Photo by Kia Porter

Or I would feel guilty because either I had bought something and felt guilty about the money I spent, or someone had given a toy as a gift and I felt guilty getting rid of it. Knowing that these emotions can get in my way when it comes to purging has helped…just being aware of what I am feeling and then reminding myself of how much better I feel when the house is clean and de-cluttered is how I work through this roadblock. The more stuff you have, the more time and energy it takes to clean and organize your home, so that helps to keep me focused! I feel so much more calm, happy and relaxed when my home is tidy!

In a perfect world, I would love to apply the “1 thing in, 1 thing out” rule when it comes to well …everything…but especially toys. The ideal scenario for me would be to sell some of our unused items before Christmas to make room for the new things that will be making their way into our home. Despite my best efforts, I rarely make this happen. Purging toys takes time, and that is something we are short on around here, especially leading up to and during the holidays. Whether you are boxing things up and donating them to your local thrift sore (the fastest way to purge) or trying to sell some things on Craigslist or a Facebook group (much more time consuming) both of these things require time spent going through the process of deciding what to get rid of, and then making that happen.

Felicia Chang Photography

Another reason to try and purge before the holidays is timing. Because we did not get rid of all the items I had hoped we would before Christmas, that means we are trying to sell them at what I think, is the worst possible time. After Christmas, most families are in the same boat, they find themselves inundated with “stuff” and the last thing they need or want is our cute market and shopping cart or some of Stella’s unused playmobil. Sigh.

We should have attempted to sell this stuff before the holidays when people were looking to buy gifts for their kiddos. Timing! Unfortunately I can’t go back in time, but what I have done is written myself a reminder in my planner for the first Saturday in November 2019…maybe that will help us be proactive in tackling our clutter for next year!

A place for everything and everything in its place

It’s simple, but true and it’s the key to having an organized and tidy home, especially when it comes to kids stuff – toys, craft supplies, clothing gear and the list could go on! Having a designated place for everything is important and what’s even better is if that place is labeled so there is no mistake about what goes where.

Felicia Chang Photography

When I think about managing the toys that we have, it all comes down to how we store them and where. So first I will touch on how we store toys in our home. My kids are older and the toys we currently have are on the small side, mostly playmoil and lego. My preferred method of storing, well really anything, is clear plastic bins so that you can see what’s inside. Labeling is one thing, but to be able to see what’s inside a bin is the most helpful in my opinion. My new strategy when it comes to labeling plastic bins is to write on them with a paint pen. I really hate my own printing and much prefer some cute, typed out label, but this is the fastest way to go. Better done than perfect!

While I love clear plastic bins for their functionality, I don’t necessarily love them for their style. I usually store plastic bins behind cupboard doors. We have lots of nicer bins and baskets on display that we use to store things like over-sized toys, board games, puzzles and stuffed animals.

I incorporated these grey striped bins in my shelf decor on my bookcases in the family room.

The gray stripe blends in with my decor so they look pretty to my eyeballs, but then I can store toys and extra throw blankets in there so everything looks tidy.

My favorite places to source nice bins and baskets are Michael’s, Target and Homesense (Homegoods). A little organizing tip for you, before you head out shopping for new bins and baskets, take stock of what it is you are trying to store first of all, and know what size bin you need for that Paw Patrol Super set! Also measure the space that you want to put the bin or basket in so you will be sure that it fits. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt overwhelmed by toys and clutter in my house and I run off to Homesense and buy as many pretty baskets as my arms can carry, thinking that would be the solution.

Felicia Chang Photography

But really, what I was doing was making the problem worse, because half the time, the baskets were the wrong shape or size so instead I had just contributed more clutter! Shopping for pretty bins should be the last step, not the first. When you head off to the store, you should have a list of how many baskets/bins you need, and in what size.

Location Location Location

Just like in real estate, location of your kids toys is everything. Once you have everything corralled into bins, basket or what have you, then you have to find a home for them. Another tip that I have learned from being a parent and an art and play therapist, is to consider where your kids play with the toys you are trying to organize. I wrote a post last year about how I have stored all of Stella’s playmobil in our front living room, and how that space has become a playroom of sorts.

Felicia Chang Photography

You can read more details about that by clicking here. It’s a little unconventional, but it totally works for us. To make a long story short, I had tried storing our extensive playmobil collection in our basement and set aside a space for Stella there.

Felicia Chang Photography

She loves to set up little scenes and then have the people talk and act out stories. It is so adorable and I wish I could listen in more, but she is very private about it and prefers to do this solo. When I would send her downstairs to play, she didn’t want to go down there alone. This didn’t make sense to me, but no amount of convincing would work, and while the playmobil was downstairs, she wasn’t using it. So then I re-organized her room and hauled everything up there for her to play with. She felt the same about her bedroom as she did about the basement, not to mention her room is quite small. So here was what we learned…Stella wants to be on the same floor as us when she is playing, but she wants a degree of privacy. Once I decided to move everything to the living room, which is both the biggest and the most unused room in our house, Stella started using this space on a daily basis. It’s been almost a year now, and she plays with these toys pretty much every single day.

So once you have established in which room to keep the toys that your kids play with, and you have the appropriate bins and baskets if needed, where do you stash this stuff? Here are some of the places you will find our toys and craft supplies in our house:

In the cupboards above our family desk

On the bookcases in our family room

In baskets in our console tables

In our Living Room cabinets

In our basement

Felicia Chang Photography

Under the kids beds

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In the kids closets

Felicia Chang Photography

Keep the “pretty” toys on display

This one might sound weird and we are past this phase in our family, but when the kids were really little, I always felt better about looking at toys if they were stylish. I love the look of wooden and vintage toys and I used to have them out on display as part of my home decor. When the girls were little, they loved sitting at this little white table, which happened to be in line with my modern farmhouse style. I loved having it in my kitchen, and was kinda sad when they outgrew it and it was time to list it on Craigslist…remember above, the nostalgia thing?

Felicia Chang Photography

The same goes for these puzzles and games, I love the packaging and liked having them on display.

Felicia Chang Photography

So as weird as it sounds, having toys that I found stylish and pleasing to the eye and having them out on display was one of the ways that we managed toys back in the day.

Felicia Chang Photography

Toy Rotation

Toy Rotation

Again, we are past this phase but it’s worth mentioning for any of you readers with younger kids. I was really good at toy rotation when Kallum was younger. Mostly because we were shorter on space when he was a toddler so we didn’t have room to keep all his toys out. I was less good about this when the girls came along. I did always notice that when we put something away for awhile, and then reintroduced it, it was like a new toy all over again. Plus having less toys on hand means less to clean up.

Felicia Chang Photography

Well that about wraps up my thoughts on toy management and organization! I hope you found something of interest in this post. Do you struggle with toys in your home? If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks so much for reading!