Living Zone Mission #3: Taken over by toys!

Filed under: Living Areas,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 10:24 pm on Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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If you have little ones in your home, then you know how quickly toys can take over the house. If your living room is a carpet of toys, this is the week you’ll be reintroducing yourself to your living room floor.

If you don’t have children’s toys, spend this week organizing your board games, getting rid of the dusty duds and putting all your fun games together. Or you spend this week finishing up a previous project, like putting the finishing touches on your media collection.

Before you get started, be sure to pick a good time. If you think your children will work against you, wait until your kids are in bed or napping. Or if your children are old enough, use this time to teach them a valuable lesson about charity. When I’m overwhelmed by the number of toys in my home, I sit down with my 4 year old and 6 year old and say “You have so many great toys. Did you know that some kids don’t have any toys? What toys should we give them?”. I’ve been surprised with how much they’ve been willing to part with. This will also help you learn just which toys are the “favorites” and which toys you’re holding on to because of sentimental value.

Step 1: Clear an area. In order to sort the toys, you much first create a sorting area. This could be a separate room, or you can collect the toys in boxes or laundry baskets until you have created enough room to sort.

Step 2: Do a quick purge. Set a buzzer for 5 minutes and see how many items you can identify to trash or donate. Do you really need to keep every Happy Meal toy? Do you have games that can no longer be used because of missing or broken pieces?

Step 3: Sort. Separate the toys into categories: playsets, dress ups, action figures, cars, baby toys, books, games, etc.

Step 4: Minimize. Reevaluate each toy. Keep the favorites. If your child has outgrown a toy but you want to keep it for your next child, pack up the toys and put them in long-term storage. Don’t keep too many, just the favorites. Your next child will likely have new toys each birthday and holiday. Also consider packing up some of the toys for a rainy day. Rotating toys can keep your children interested in them.

Step 5: Assess your toy storage. What are you currently using for toy storage? Toy boxes are not ideal because toys become buried and can’t be found. Consider bookshelves or cabinets–be sure to properly secure them to the wall first. Use decorative baskets or bins to house each category of toys and then label each (Label with pictures for smaller children). Keep toys that require supervision on higher shelves or an unaccessible area.
When it comes to storing toys, be creative!

  • The dollar store has dish pans which make great storage bins for shelves. You can also buy their small sewing containers to house game pieces to boardgames. Label each container and simply stack the game boards. You can use empty egg cartons or empty margarine tubs to store game pieces or get this blue game saver or orange game saver to house your games and abandon your broken boxes.
  • Ice cube trays make great organizers for small toys–like Barbie’s shoes or accessories.
  • Use an over-the-door clear shoe organizer to sort Barbie dolls.
  • Use clear shoe boxes to house legos, cars, or other collections.
  • I love organizing toys in shoe organizers.

My kids love to dress up. When the dress-ups were in a toy box, they would pull everything out just to get the one item they wanted. I solved this by creating a dressing room for them using 2 shoe organizers from Costco. When my kids play, this little “dressing room” becomes a home, fort, or cave. They love it, can find what they want to play with, and actually clean up! In the pictures below, you can see I used one cubby for dress-ups and one for toys. ( If you can’t get to Costco, consider this stackable shoe cubby)

toys-3.jpg toys-1.jpgtoys-2.jpg

Step 6: Maintain. Designate clean up times. Make it a routine and your children won’t be surprised by needing to straighten-up. Try cleaning up before each meal. Or make cleaning up more fun by setting a buzzer and play “Beat the Buzzer”, cleaning up before the buzzer goes off. Follow the 1 in 1 out rule: Whenever you child asks for a toy, be sure that they put a toy away first. TIP: When it comes to cleaning up, kids usually don’t know where to start. I keep a decorative laundry basket in my family room. I do a quick clean up and place their out-of-place toys in the basket. My five-year old is very successful when instructed to clean up everything in the basket. He calls it the “Basket game”. He doesn’t get overwhelmed because he can see his progress and knows when he’s done!

Click here to views some of my suggested organized products for kids.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help. Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!



Comment by Patricia

August 17, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

Great ideas as usual! I especially like the way you teach your child to donate to the needy. I wish I could be less sentimental about things when it comes to parting with them.I have only to see one piece of a Winnie the Pooh activity game and I remember a Christmas when that was the theme for my 3 year old’s gifts. How can I get rid of any such toy without losing that memory? Fortunately, I have grandchildren to justify my keeping these items. I’ll have to work harder to rid myself of other toys though.Thanks for all your ideas!


Comment by Teresa

August 23, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

I found a good use for those Happy Meal toys — my son’s first grade “prize basket.” His teacher appreciates the help keeping that basket of treats filled and the kids love picking the toys as prizes for good behavior. I noticed, though, that’s it’s best to drop off the bag of Happy Meal toys myself — if my son brings them in, he suddenly wants to keep them all. If I get rid of them when he’s not around, he doesn’t miss them. I have an “out box” in my garage just for these junky toys (and those that come in party bags). I’ll put them there a few days after the kids have gotten them – they’ve lost interest by then, and my house stays cleaner.


Comment by Sara

August 23, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

The office supply store sometimes has good containers to use for organizing toys and craft materials/drawing paper. They have stackable clear plastic containers in so many sizes, and I love to use the multi-drawer plastic cabinets for toy storage. I have one with 6 shallow pull-out drawers that I fill with Legos — the kids can pull out a drawer (or several), see all the Legos easily, and then just slide the drawers back when done. It minimizes dumped Legos! A cabinet with 3 deep drawers now holds paper (drawer one) and play dough toys (drawers 2+3) right next to my kitchen table, where the kids can access what they want and put it away easily.


Comment by Annie

August 23, 2006 @ 6:30 pm

Love the tips! Will use them next time before birthday parties – when all that stuff comes in!!!

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