One of my tricks for keeping the toys under control….

Put up your hand if it drives you crazy when toys are all mixed up and scattered all over the house?

Me, me, me!!

Seriously I go a little cuckoo if I find toy sets (like Little People, or Pirates or Pollys or Lego) separated and taking up residence in different rooms of the house or even worse on different floors of the house. Talk about chaos!

So we have a house rule. Toy sets stay together in their specific rooms. They do not move from room to room or floor to floor. We have downstairs toys, we have living room toys, we have bedroom toys and they stay there. Such a small thing but you would not believe how much easier it makes life. After much training even my two year old has it figured out. For instance, his little tool bench and tools are kept upstairs in his bedroom and whenever he’d come downstairs with one of his tools in his chubby little hand I’d send him right back upstairs to put it back. It works! He actually caught on pretty quick. Another example would be the dress up clothes which are kept downstairs, they don’t get dragged all over the house and abandoned wherever. So while everything isn’t always put away exactly, toy sets are at least all together in the same room which is nice when you want to sit down to play something and you don’t have to go looking all over the house for the pieces.

I only keep the amount of toys in each room that fit the space without being overpowering or hard to control. Everything not only has a home in a specific room but also a designated space within that room. It certainly makes clean up a breeze which allows me the ability to give the kids a little slack about the toy mess. I don’t want my kids to have to live with completely tidy rooms 100% of the time, that is just unreasonable. So this is our compromise and so far it is working. Do things still go astray every once and awhile? Of course but that is what a walk-about is for 🙂

Toy storage in my living room:

Do you have a favorite toy organizing tip? Please share it with us!

Filed under: Clutter Control, Kid Stuff, Organizing


48 Responses to One of my tricks for keeping the toys under control….

  1. 1
    Aimee says

    I use bins, baskets, and boxes for toys. Each one is designated for a group of toys, i.e. Little People, Matchbox cars, Transformers, etc. The kids know to put toys in the correct bins. I try to have them play with one bin at a time so that they remember to put things away.

    For the most part this works out well but right now our toys are out of control-I am hoping for rain this weekend so I can make some headway and purge! I put things in the basement and cycle them out so that things don’t get too boring too.

    I love your baskets!

  2. 2
    Katrine says

    You know all those toys that have little parts that need to be put together, like Lego’s? But it’s too difficult for your little one to put together, so you will spend hours figuring how all the pieces go? And then when the children decide to play with it again, it has fallen apart so you have to spend another hour fixing it? Well, super glue is your friend! We super glue the playsets together the first time we put it together. No lost pieces, and it’s always intact when they get the urge to play!

  3. 3
    Steph says

    I like the foot stool with storage in it. Where is that from?

  4. 4
    Jamie says

    Oh I am so glad I’m not the only one who has toys for specific places in the house! We too have upstairs toys, main floor (living room) toys and basement (playroom) toys. And I thought I was being anal – yay for finding out I am not alone!!!

  5. 5
    Annie says

    I so want to be you when I grow up!! Oh yeah and my pantry is in need of some Laura love too!! See you in a couple of hours my friend!!

  6. 6
    Vera says

    I am only an organizing junkie in fits and spurts… but I had a fit and a spurt the other day and did two toy-organizing things I’m kinda proud of: I tackled the giant toybox that had all kinds of random toys in it that no one could ever get to. I got some Container Store clear plastic shoe boxes and dedicated each box to a category of toys. Because my kids can’t read yet, I drew pictures with Sharpie markers on them of what goes inside (trains, cars, balls, jewelry, etc.) I then put the plastic boxes inside the toy box – now I can have the beautiful toybox that my in-laws made for my daugther AND a functional toy-storage solution. The other thing I did was finally figure out a solution of the BILLIONS of stuffed animals that were taking up precious bookshelf real estate – I hung a canvas shoe organizer on the OUTSIDE of the girls’ closet door and stuffed the stuffed animals in it. It worked! And it lookes kinda cute too!

  7. 7
    April says

    I have six bins and the toys are divided into them. One bin comes out each day. Thomas trains in one, Little People sets in two, actually, pretend food in another, farm animals in yet another, cars and such in the last. The best part is that it is SO easy to pick up!
    The kids each get to keep their particular favorites in their own rooms, so we always have plenty of toys to play with!

  8. 8
    The Lazy Organizer says

    I love the storage ottoman! I’ve always wanted one of those.

    Our house is one level so it makes it easier to put things away. We have a play room that everything goes back to. Having the kids clean up their own toys is a life saver. I’m noticing fewer and fewer toys laying around the house as my three year old gets older.

  9. 9
    Heather Beckley says

    We do the same thing. ie: living room toys, bedroom toys, kitchen toys. Is the living room the toys are stored in a buffet and a bench. I like them to be out of sight. In the kitchen we keep our playdough and paints in a pull out shelf that I think may be for spices. In their bedrooms we have 2 under bed rolling storage bins that fit perfectly under a twin mattress. They slide them out to play with the toys and them slide them under to clean up. It couldn’t be any easier than that!

  10. 10
    Heavenly Homemaker says

    Sounds like you have a great system!! I prefer to have NO toys in the living room…and MOST of the time the kids do okay with that. What I want to know is…how do lego people end up on my kitchen counters sometimes?

  11. 11
    [email protected] with 3 says

    I use big plastic bins with covers for toys and all the accompanying pieces. I also always keep the zippered plastic bags that things like bedding and sheets come in. They are super for also storing games or toys with little pieces (like Polly Pockets).

  12. 12
    Laura says

    Great tips you guys!!

    I purchased my storage ottoman from a wholesale club here in Canada called Canadian Superstore for $60.00. I love that it stores toys and is extra seating!!!

  13. 13
    Laura V. says

    I love your storage. We do something similar… We have an unused formal dining room in our house that we actually deemed as the kids’ playroom. It has gates on the opening to the kitchen and the opening to the living room (for those times when I need the almost-2-year-old contained!!!).

    I recently bought 2 sets of Rubbermaid type shelves that have 2 pullout bins each. The 4 bins are designated for certain types of smaller toys #1) Balls, #2) Cars or anything with wheels, #3) Mr. Potato head stuff and a few other items, #4) Little People and accessories as well as all farm animals.

    We also have a big bucket that holds all of the large toys. A few select books get brought down a few times a week and they are stored on top of the new pullout shelves.

    My boys share a room and they have a bookshelf where the books are kept neatly, if they want to read them, they come downstairs (so there’s no destruction from the little one!) and one basket of toys in their closet. This is for when they wake up in the morning and I’m either in the shower or still sleeping!!! Those toys are not allowed downstairs. All of the puzzles are kept in the bedroom on a shelf and they have to ask to play with them (because one day my 4 year old took all 15 of them apart in the middle of the floor…….)

  14. 14
    Kristen says

    Ha! What a timely post! I have been tackling this the past few days and some of my friends have too.

    What’s your solution for stuffed animals??

  15. 15
    Jodi says

    Well, this isn’t really a tip as much as a revelation, but I realized not long ago that when my kids’ toys are unorganized THEY DON’T PLAY WITH THEM. If play sets are scattered about the house, my kids don’t play with their toys at all. When everything’s in its place, they’ll literally play in their room for hours. I wish I had realized this sooner!!!

  16. 16
    amy says

    i do go for random stuffing of toys in baskets in each room. I tried the specific toys in each room but when ds actually wanted to play with them (he was dx w/ autism) i didn’t have the heart to put rules on them…and it made him be too static as well. he has ‘collections’ of random objects that are near and dear to him but make no logical sense so I have him put them in zip top bags and then they all go in a basket. I will say that our story telling is quite fun when we are playing w/ little people and cars all at the same time. but i DO want to get rid of stuff just to pear down on things.

    for books- i do have shelves for NF and fiction as well as ‘classics’ and ‘series’ curious george etc.. that works out really well for us.

  17. 18
    Sandra says

    I do the same, they have a toy basket in the living room and they are not allowed to bring the toys from their rooms out or vice versa.

    When we lived in Idaho and had stairs, I would give them a basket every morning and they were allowed to pick out 10 toys to take downstairs to play with…at the end of the day they went back in the basket and upstairs to their rooms. If at any time they wanted something different, they had to take one back and exchange it.

    It worked out PERFECT and they kept things neat.

  18. 19
    Heather says

    I regularly trash broken toys.

    If the toys will no longer fit into the toy box, I donate some.

  19. 20
    The Roost says

    I don’t have children at home any longer but your ideas are great and I will pass them on to my daughter who just had a baby.

  20. 21
    Omaha Mama says

    I like to keep the toys in specific groups too. Each group has a home, but we let the kids play with them wherever they choose. Mostly because they want to be wherever I am! The great part about having them categorized and have their own container is that it’s not hard to clean up.

    My one rule? When the kids get a new toy, something gets donated. I also purge before Christmas and b-days. Sometimes without their knowledge. If it’s something they haven’t touched in a month and they have no sentimental tie to it, I toss it without their knowledge. Lately, I let my B pick what she wants to donate when she gets a new toy. It also helps when she wants something new at the store. She’s usually not willing to part with any old stuff.

    Keeping old stuff purged has helped with toy clutter the most!

  21. 22
    Sue says

    Okay, this inspired me to at least look at the toy situation. Thanks!

  22. 23
    Christine says

    Great tips from everyone!

    We simply have bins of like toys and they are clearly labeled and put away with the labels facing out. Only the big things are not in bins and we often purge things that have no place.

    My biggest pet peeve is toys in the kitchen!!! Aaaarrgghhhh!

  23. 24
    violingirl says

    I bought soft-sided storage bins- my older son has navy blue and red bins, and my younger son’s bins are lime green. The bins are stored in their rooms in a great unit with 9 cubby holes that I got at Target. They are each allowed to have 1 bin out in the living room. If they want something different, then have to pack up the bin they’re playing with and trade it for another. The youngest is 10 months, so we still have some bigger baby things in our living room- I couldn’t stand to have tons of toys out too. We also can’t play up in the bedrooms in the mornings because my husband works overnights and is sleeping until 1 or 2 p.m.

    The 1 bin in the living room thing is working for us!

  24. 25
    Mrs. Wilson says

    Looks great!!!

    I love the ottoman (sp?) in the last picture!

  25. 26
    Alyssa says

    ohhh what a great use for baskets, must go out in search of more. I love those things.

  26. 27
    Laura says

    Well at this very present time my kids are punished. They wouldn’t pick up their toys for 3 days straight so now my living room is free of toys. How? My husband took everything away from them and locked it in their play room. So no toys and no TV. It’s been 2 days now. Yesterday we went to my grandmother’s house so it wasn’t that bad and today they school in the morning. The afternoon was a bit chaotic but we played outside as it was in the 80’s. But at least my livingroom now looks like I have no kids. The toys are gone. They have to earn their toys back by behaving.

  27. 28
    Michelle says

    these are great Laura..i love the living room baskets..oh we do the take away toys too..

  28. 29
    jessica says

    In my living room I’ve used a pine shoe rack as shelving and have placed baskets on it filled with books, musical instruments, blocks, Thomas the Train set, etc. I also have a larger wicker basket for some bigger toys. That is all the toys that exist in the living room – the rest belong in the playroom. 🙂 I do rotate the living room toys every couple of months or so. It works.

  29. 30
    melissa says

    Enjoyed reading your organizing tips! I have a 19 month old(my only child right now) & his toys have been driving me crazy lately. I was actually wandering if you had any tips on how to get that age to help you pick up? Any will be appreciated. = ) Thanks!

  30. 31
    Myndie says

    I don’t have any kiddos yet, but when I was a nanny back in Texas, I would rotate the kids toys every few weeks. There would be a large basket of toys that I would switch out with another large basket of toys. It was like Christmas to them. Pretty awesome to see their faces too.

  31. 32
    Meg W. says

    Instead of buying those expensive wooden, painted bins with chalkboard sides, I bought the collapsible fabric-covered bins at Target and then some pieces of craft wood (rectangles about 4″x6″). I painted the wood with chalkboard paint, then glued them onto the front of the bins. Ta-da! I can label the kids’ toys by type, and for a fraction of the cost.

  32. 33
    MANDY says

    We also have a place / room for every toy. We use clear bags (zippys AND the recycled clear bags like another poster mentioned) and hard transparent containers. And before another thing is brought out something needs to be put away. The one thing I LOVE is we have a closet in our family room that is dedicated for toys for the little girls and family games.
    I work from home and need to have my 2 younger children right by me at my desk while I’m working. So this works.

    I do need ideas on how to keep THIS closte organized because it seems like it is ALWAYS cluttered and out of control. EVEN if we stick to the one thing out rule.

    My older two are required to keep their toys in their rooms. If they want to play with something upstairs they are welcome to bring it up but as soon as they are done the toy goes back down stairs. They are old enough to be able to do this. Eventually I would LOVE to NOT have toys in my family room. 😉

    As for Clean up with a 19 month old. We sing the barney song.. “Clean up, Clean up, Everybody Clean up” my kids learned at about that age as SOON as the song is started that we stop what we are doing and clean up the toys we are not playing with. They even start singing it after a few weeks lol. We were consistant, you could have your ‘own’ song dedicated to clean up. I think it works because it signals that it’s time for clean up when they can’t recognize it themselves.

    …about the ottomans. You can get them on Amazon for around $60 most of the time.

  33. 34
    debbie says

    My house looks like a toy store! Thanks so much for the great ideas.

  34. 35
    It Coulda Been Worse says

    I am so going to implement this policy. I am so sick of sitting on Polly Pockets.

  35. 36
    Veteran Military Wif says

    To control stuffed animals, get a net and put it up in the corner of a room. When my son was younger, it was up high, and we would regularly exchange animals in and out of the net. When he was older, I put it down low enough, where he could do it himself (safety first).

    Here’s an example of one (again, get more room by putting it in a corner)

  36. 37
    Lily says

    For sets of toys with little pieces, like Lego I kept them in a sheet, cut to size, in the toy bin or basket. The kids just lifted the sheet out with the pieces in it, spread it out, played on the sheet, and when the time came to put them away it was just a matter of gathering up the strays, pulling up the corners of the sheet, bundling it into the container, and yeeha, toys away. I use the same method when my grandaughters come to play. I have a collection of Barbie stuff,
    I also keep the tray part of a dustpan set in the container as a scoop for fiddly sets with lots of pieces. 5 sweeps around the floor, and all the little pieces are scooped up and in the container.

  37. 38
    PlanningQueen says

    I have a “spare parts” bag which hangs on the door of my oldest boy’s room. I am like you and must have all sets together however, innevitably I always find some stray pieces in my travels around the house. I simply put them in the spare parts bag and it is the children’s responsibility to empty this regularly and put everything back in its right place. (Sometimes I have to remind them to do this.)

    I find this helpful for when the children aren’t around and cannot put the toy away themselves.

    BTW – I have a free e-book to download on my my site that you might be interested in called Planning With Kids Top 100 Tips.

  38. 39
    HeatherJ says

    I buy those clear plastic boxes that are about 14″x12″x8″ with the attached lids (so they don’t go astray!!). Now, my kids know that they can have THAT amount of one kind of toy. Legos and Polly Pocket houses are the only exception to the rule~ but they only get the next size up box… with attached lids. I like clear boxes because you and the kids can easily see what is inside them, and I don’t have to write on the box (I change things up from time to time and they look messy all scratched out and rewritten).

    I like the uniformity of box sizes because they fit OCD-ishly together! LOL! Everything looks neater when the boxes are the same size and kind, not to mention they stack beautifully.

    Wait until they go on sale, and then buy a few. Wait again – buy again. I have found my sanity doing it this way! If the kids want to play with a certain toy in a certain part of the house, it’s okay, but they must clean it up when finished. I tried the toy container hidden in each room, but they loved to go from room to room dumping them out. grrrrr.

    Love your website!!!!

  39. 40
    HeatherJ says

    OH… and I forgot to tell you my other sanity saver. THE STAIR BASKET. I have a wicker square laundry basket with pretty liner that sits along the wall at the bottom of the stairs. If anything doesn’t belong downstairs, it goes in the basket. Every other day the kids take turns carrying the Stair Basket around and delivering the items into their respective rooms.

  40. 41
    Jasi says

    We have a split level and that’s amazing for keeping kids clutter under control. While toys might slip out of the upstairs playroom, it’s not likely to find it’s way into the kitchen or living area.

    We recently organized her playroom closet with white plastic Plano shelving from Target (under $20) and red/blue bins from Ikea ($1.50). Little people in one bin, wooden train tracks in another, balls, puzzles, etc.

  41. 42
    Col @ gigablonde :: says

    Now if we could train *me* to do this, we’d be all set! 😉 (I just realized as I read this that a big piece of my challenge is my own toys … jewelry-making supplies being brought up from downstairs or crafmaking materials being brought down from upstairs.

    Interesting … good to notice! Thank you!

  42. 43
    Kim says

    My best tip for stuffed animals is to keep the stuffed animals out of the house in the first place! If they bring one home, I let it stay for a day or two, then it “disappears” before any sentimental value is attached. My MIL gave me a great Idea to box some sentimental stuffed animals and put them in the garage, then my daughter can deal with them on her own later! But keeping them out in the first place has really helped!

  43. 44
    Ang says

    Wow! Even a year later this information and ideas have been a tremendous help for me today.

    My main trouble is toy room (would be a dining room) that is out of control. I’ll be starting with some purging and separate bins for the different categories of toys.

    Thanks so much!


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