Inside: Do you have toys pouring out of every surface? With a little bit of time, patience and chocolate, you can organize toys even when you’re stressed out.

A little girl with blonde hair, stacking wooden blocks.

There are toys in the playroom. 😐 Toys on the sofa. 🙁 Toys in the bathroom. ☹️ Toys under your pillow! 😭

You feel like if you step on one more Polly Pocket or LEGO, you just might scream. I hear ya.

I understand what it’s like to live with toys scattered all over the house. I understand the struggle of cleaning up after a long day only to find toys dumped out of a bin and covering the floor only a few minutes later…with no child to be seen.

With yard sales, thrift shops and cheap toys sold at Walmart and on Amazon, we are blessed to give our kids so many exciting things to play with.

But with that blessing comes the burden. With the burden of cleaning up thousands of little pieces, it’s difficult or impossible to teach kids how to organize toys. Sorting and putting away is so complicated, you hear a cascade of “This is sooo boring!” when you ask your kids to pick up the toys.

Let’s fix that. Let’s take the mess you see right now and turn it into a space that’s a breeze to pick up. And if it’s a breeze to pick up, it’s simple enough for young children to pick up independently with minimal help.

In other words:

Easy to clean = kids do the work = mom is much happier! 😁

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#1: Determine your desired result

I love this quote from Zig Ziglar: “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” If you have no idea what you hope to gain from organizing toys, you’ll never know when you’ve accomplished it.

So sit down and daydream for a bit. Put away your cell phone, put on a show for your kids or lock yourself in the bathroom. Do whatever you need to do to have a few moments to dream.

What would you do with an organized playroom?

Do you hope your kids play together more? Would you love to teach your toddler numbers or colors? Or maybe you just want to avoid the plague of “I’m boooored!”

Once you come up with a vision for what you would do with an easy-to-organize playroom, write it down.

As you go through this process, keep your dream in mind. It will help you be a little bit more ruthless because you’re choosing the life you want over the stuff you have. (Which is awesome!)

#2: Purge toys

You know what happens if you try to organize toys without first getting rid of some? You spend what feels like years buying the perfect bins and sorting thousands of tiny pieces. 

Then in the time you switch a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, your kids pull out the bins and dump them all over the floor.

If you’re interested in all the reasons why you should purge toys, you’ll want to go read this post. In a nutshell: it’s impossible to organize a boatload of toys.

So, the first thing to do to organize toys is to go through all of your toys and get rid of the ones that do not add value to you or your family.

#3: Determine how many toys your kids need

We all have that one friend who has so many toys, it looks like a toy store was airdropped on their living room floor. You may have another friend who takes the minimalist approach: five carefully selected toys that fit neatly into a cabinet when not in use.

Both friends are happy with their approach, so how do you determine how many toys your kids need? 

  1. Go through your stash and throw out any broken toys. I know it may hurt your heart to add to the landfill, but broken toys can be dangerous for your kids or for other kids.
  2. Throw out toys that are missing so many pieces, you can’t play with them.
  3. Donate toys that don’t see much playtime.
  4. Donate toys that are duplicates of favorites. (In my house, that means that just because my son plays with one truck, doesn’t mean he’ll play with 100 trucks.)
  5. Pare down toys until it’s a manageable amount your kids can help clean up (within reason).

#4: Categorize what’s left

Survey the toys and sort them by type. Put all the vehicles in one pile, all the Magformers in another pile, and so on and so forth. This step may take you five minutes to finish or five hours, depending on how mixed up the toys are when you begin.

Categorizing toys allows you to better see what you have, compare like toys with like toys, and find the lost pieces to Candyland.

#5: Purge toys again

“But we already decluttered toys! You want me to get rid of more??!”

Yes. Yes. 👏 I. 👏 Do. 👏

Here’s why: Once we’ve done one round of decluttering toys, we come back and realize there is so much more we can get rid of.

Remember, choose the life you want over the stuff you have!

Do a quick glance over the toys, now organized into different categories.

Are there any toys you now realize are missing pieces? Are there any broken toys?

Maybe once you group all the trucks together, you realize keeping 534 trucks is a little excessive. Get rid of a couple. Or a couple hundred. 😜

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#6: Pick out a toy organization system

You might’ve come to this post only looking for what bins to buy to organize toys. This is an exciting part of the process because it’s pretty and colorful.

BUT! Do not skip the first five steps. It is crucial you pare down toys before buying a toy organizer.

Remember the desired result we decided on in step 1? Remind yourself getting rid of excess toys is absolutely necessary to creating an easy-to-organize play area.

If you have the patience to spend an hour every day picking up and sorting thousands of pieces, then by all means, start first with buying organizers to hold everything.

But if you’re after an easy-to-clean playroom that fosters independence in your children and is quick and easy to clean up before dinner, then make sure you’ve done the first 5 steps before coming to this one.

Toy organization - 2 sets of 9 cube cubbies, filled with teal cloth bins.

Here are the organizer and the bins we use in our playroom. We’re very happy with them. We also have two bookshelves we’ve repurposed for toy organization. We line up bigger toys against the wall.

Toy organization - book shelf with pirate ship, baby toys, and a whole toy of kids' craft supplies.

Don’t mind the dumpster fire that are the kids’ craft supplies on the top shelves. 😉 Oh goodness, that’ll be a decluttering project for a rainy day!

Big toy box or individual bins?

I have a friend who uses one large cloth basket. That’s her entire toy organization system. When it’s time for clean up, all the toys go back into the same basket, which quietly slides out of sight to its home behind the recliner.

Here are the pros and cons of each system:

One large toy box/basket for all toys:

  • Pros: 
    • Easy to clean up.
    • Easy to teach young children how to organize toys.
    • Good option for toys that are self-containing (dump truck, dolls, etc.)
  • Cons:
    • Can get disorganized with more than a few toys.
    • Not a good option for toys that have additional pieces (blocks, dolls with additional accessories, etc.)
  • Best for:
    • Families with young children.
    • Areas with a small number of toys.
    • Small areas.

Bin organization system for categorizing and sorting toys:

  • Pros:
    • Keeps all pieces together.
    • Easy to clean up if you only pull out one bin at a time.
  • Cons:
    • Can encourage you to keep too many toys.
    • Difficult to teach young children how to organize toys if more than one bin is pulled out.
    • Difficult for guests to help clean up.
  • Best for:
    • Families that have both boys and girls or multiple ages.
    • Toys that have several pieces.

For us, the answer was obvious. Between the DUPLOs, building sets and vehicles, we needed a system that would allow us to categorize toys.

For my one-year-old, we’ll pull out one bin at a time for him to play with. My four-year-old will pull out a few bins at a time, but usually no more than 3. This makes it manageable.

Last night, my husband was getting dinner ready and I corralled my four-year-old to go clean up toys. After enduring a few protests, we blasted a cleaning song (his choice was a metal cover of a Mariah Carey song…oh, boys…🤦).

In less than 5 minutes, we had cleaned up the playroom together. He focused on picking up the DUPLOs (putting his current creation to the side so he could work on it later). I focused on picking up wooden blocks.

After that, we worked together to pick up the random cars, dump trucks, and chattering teeth laying on the floor.

And like that, we were done!

It’s so much fun to have an organized playroom!

Somedays, we’re off to something fun or I’m so exhausted, I shut the door and allow the toys to spend the night camping out on the floor. And that’s okay.

Because when I do want to organize our toys, it takes us less than 10 minutes to put everything back in its place.

My four-year-old is more than capable of independently cleaning up. (But convincing him he doesn’t fall off the face of the Earth if he’s in a different room from the rest of the family is a different story. 😂)

Having an easy-to-organize toy storage system is totally doable. Follow the six steps I laid out for you and focus on progress, not perfection.

With 15 minutes of work every day, you’ll have a completely different playroom (and home) on your hands.

You might even find a little bit of quiet when your kids are so busy playing! (Okay, that might be asking too much!)

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