Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Great Toy Takeover!

Ok, ladies - I need your HELP! I am completely overwhelmed with toy storage in our home! I have been for quite a while and have tried different things, but I just keep floundering in this area. Are all those toys having little babies in there or what? They seem to be multiplying!!! When I clean these out and organize them, things look nice. Emily is very good at helping clean up, but to just dump things in produces the following results...

Here is how I currently have toys stored:

In the Living Room, behind the couch - I have a tray and basket here to collect small things.

This is the main toy area in the Living Room behind a chair.

This is the main toy area in the Family Room.

Ok, here are some things you need to know:

* I am not particularly interested in hearing we need a bigger space to store toys. That is the message everywhere - more, more, more! I want to know how to manage what we have.

* The Living Room toy box was cleaned out about a month ago. I removed half of all the toys in there and moved them to a closet to rotate. Now, it is overflowing again and the box of rotated toys is still OUT in the closet.

* Books are in a basket in the Living Room and on the shelves in the bedrooms.

* There are a couple of bins for toys in Emily's room and a play kitchen with all the food/dishes in the Laundry Room. Those two things are working fine.

Here is what I want to know:

* Am I unrealistic in wanting to store toys in these areas? In these containers?

* We really do not have any other spaces or larger spaces for storing toys. So, do I need to get rid of some or is there a better way of storing them?

* We have a birthday and Christmas coming up and I am already feeling maxed out - please help me with any storage ideas!!!!

Let me hear your feedback!


Paige said...

Okay, I'm a serious toy tosser so here's what I'd suggest for a new approach. Put it ALL up out of reach. Let Emily know she just has to ask for a certain toy by name or definition. Once a toy is down and played with it goes in the bins you've already got established. What's left at the end of the month goes bye bye. Donate it, sell it, toss it. That part is up to you but if she didn't think to ask for it, she doesn't really love it and won't miss it. I have bagged up LOADS of stuff, and they have NEVER asked for anything. We keep a bin by the front door where I throw things including toys away all the time and the kids just walk by and say "oh well, guess I didn't take care of it" and it's gone off to find a new home at the landfill. I don't have hang up's with how much something cost. Just because someone spent money on it does NOT give it value.
This year we are asking for a tetherball set and a basketball goal. OUTSIDE toys that the dogs can't chew.

Jammy said...

I am not a huge toy collector. The things I have done when we had lots of toys was put half of them away in a box in the cellar. Every so often, rotate them...take the "new" out and put the "old" away for awhile.

Personally, now that I have SIX kids, I do not keep a zillion toys. We give them away, and keep the favorites. There is nothing like dealing with too many unsightly toys, and how many can they or DO they actually play with anyhow? is a great place to get rid of things you no longer need/want without throwing them away or having to haul them somewhere. You could bless someone less fortunate who canot afford to buy their children many toys also at a goodwill or savers type store.

Sorry if this was not the solution you were looking for, but it is what works for us. ;-)

and CONGRATS again I can imagine your excitement!!!


MyHeartIsAlwaysHome said...

I feel like I could have written this post!

I am also starting to feel like toys have taken over my Living Room. I feel like I need to purge, but Megan plays with all of the toys.

Have you thought about using a larger storage system behind the couch. Maybe some paper or diaper boxes wrapped in brown paper and then you could label them with pictures and words. This might help Emily to keep like items together instead of doing the all in one dump!

I am very interested to hear the suggestions. Good luck!

Leanne said...

This was such a timely post... I actually put a way 3 LARGE boxes of toys in our closet because we are having "ungratefulness with whining/fighting" issues at home. Do you know, my children have not asked for them once! Very eye-opening. They do get to play with toys at other places. We are just trying to encourage them to share the few toys they have. Maybe this is a good time to help Emily simplify. Watch what she plays with most often and purge the rest. We have given toys to goodwill and church nurseries...We invested in this:
I love it. I eventually replaced the small boxes with larger boxes with lids. It makes it really easy for the boys to clean the toys up!
Good luck... I know this is big problem to tackle.

Sarah E. said...

It's hard for me to get rid of toys, especially the nice Fisher Price ones. So I have 3 groups of toys that I rotate in and out.

Also, if you have room, a friend of mine does this. She has a "toy store" organized in her basement. Her boys can go down there on Sunday and exchange toys from the previous week. But they can't go down there until the next Sunday. I love that idea, I wish I had the room.

Mary Ann said...

I suggest rotating the toys based on what the girls really like. Any "collections" of small items (small animals, little people, doll accessories, etc.)can be put in small bins with lids and then pulled out maybe one or two boxes at a time to minimize the overwhelming piles of little things all over. Pictures on bins or boxes will help Emily to sort accordingly. Perhaps a larger basket or box behind the couch would help as well.

Melissa said...

I would go through the toys again and choose the ones that they really play with and then put the others away. Then I would give each group of toys its own bin, blocks in one bin, books in one bin. Then I would try and get the kids into the habit of putting a toy away in the correct bin when they are done playing with it. You can put a picture of blocks, books, dolls etc. on each bin so they know where everything goes. If it all has a specific place it is so much easier for them(and you) to keep it clean and organized.

It's a Mom Thing said...

I'm with you, Monica. We get some toys as "hand me downs" and the others as gifts at birthday and Christas. With only one, I don't feel like our house is over-run with toys.

What about this. I love the idea of storing the toys behind your couch. Could you maybe get a larger piece of furniture for that space? Maybe a cube-type shelf that you can put toys in and those canvas bins(full of toys). It may give you more storage but using the same space. They sell them at Walmart, Target, BB&B, Lowes, etc.

T$ has a play kitchen that stays in our den. I use a plastic drawer tower(it has 3 drawers) to keep her kitchen food and toys.

Lastly, my m-i-l gave T$ a big canvas tote from Land's End. We use it to hold books but it could hold toys, too. It would make a great Chirstmas gift. (search Canvas Storage Tote on the website)

I know you will make it work. It just reminds me to keep limiting the toys that come into our house. Another idea...ask for books as gifts instead of toys. They don't take up as much room and are better anyways.

sherri said...

It looks like tossing is the winning comment on this post. I agree - it looks like a lot of toys. I have found my children (5 & 8) to be far more creative in their play when they are allowed unfetter access (no asking to retrieve toys) to a limited number of toys. I try to only purchase (or keep) toys that function on many levels (dress up, lego or building toys, etc.). It's much easier to let go of unitasker toys. I also comfort myself in knowing that I am not adding to potential landfill congestion by avoiding more plastic and giving away the toys (to church nursery, friends, charitable organizations) makes me feel better too. One tip I've read and am looking forward to implementing in my own home is to increase visual display of books. Research indicates that kids are more interested in reading if they can see a greater selection of books. To that end, I hope to install vinyl rain gutters as book shelves. See here:

Emma said...

You mentioned that you have a closet with some toys in it already. Are you able to take this closet over completely for toys?

We have a large closet downstairs that I have most of our 16 month old's toys in. I leave the door cracked so that she can get in by herself and so that things are more "out of sight" in our downstairs (we don't have any toys upstairs yet).

In addition, I also use baskets to store toys. Michael's had some really nice barrel-like ones that I store small baby toys and stuffed animal's in. the baskets blend nicely with our decor and are easy to get to.

You can see pictures of this at my blog in the archives (September 22, 2007).

I will be reading these other comments with interest as I am sure our toys will be multiplying as the months go by!

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

Tracy said...

Hi Monica! I'm with the majority- get rid of a bunch of stuff! I usually do a toy box clean out before birthdays and Christmas because I know there's new stuff coming. There are some toys I will never get rid of (the fisher price farm/people) but I find once I really start digging I find things I've never even seen the boys play with.

This article really inspired me:

Have a great day!

Katy said...

We have those same colored bins on the shelf...and we used to have the same issue. i found if i labeled each bin...then everything had a home. It makes clean up sooo much easier. Also i would just start donating a TON of toys. It's hard...but the kids don't miss it because they have so many other things and also..i am happy knowing another child will benefit from what we donate! I laughed about your comment about the toy babies..cuz i used to think the same is craziness! LOL

Good luck with figuring out a plan! oh...and another idea...instead of the toy thing you have, i think behind the couch...maybe buy a couple large bins..and that way they can be stacked and opened one at a time...?? i dunno! LOL good luck!

Avlor said...

My son's toys were overwhelming us too. He is six and big enough to pick what he wants to play with. We went through his toys (every single one) and I let him pick what he kept. I told him there were other kids that don't have many toys and we would donate them to a charity that would pass them along. (Our local YMCA Advancement took ours.) We halved his toys and he has the ones he plays with. It was hard for him to go through the toys. But with generous grandparents who give ALOT, we didn't have a choice. He has only missed one toy very much, but that gave us an excuse to visit a friend with the same toy.

(BTW, I am working on my parents to cut back on Christmas and B-day gifts. It really has gotten out of hand. I'd rather my parents spend more time with my kids. THAT is what they will remember.)

Another side note: we have the exact same colored bins. They work great for holding sorted Legos.

amy said...

Hey Monica, The toy "thing" will always be there, even after the children are gone, Then Lord willing, you will have grand children. Try to embrace it as much as possible, the alternative is sad and boring.
also, have you considered under bed storage? my girls have a plastic underbed bin on wheels that they have all the dress-up stuff in. They only think about it once in a while, so when they do, they have big time fun.
At our old house we used those over the door shoe holders for toys(now our closets are those slide into the wall kind) We use the baby cradle for dolls and stuffed animals, and the family games that we use often are under the couch.
The rotate thing, is a wonderful thing, but don't throw them out just because they don't mention them. They will remember when they grow, I promise, and you will have to fess up! LOL. Trust is a beautiful thing!
What one child doesn't respond to, the next will play with for hours. I personally don't like the play with one thing at a time rule, It is very nice for the parent, but kinda takes away the imagination part. That's just my opinion. Just last night I was listening to Liza interact with a russian Babushka, a tiny plastic polar bear and a part of a train car set. She was having a sweet time, and so was I.
Love to you, and remember, with a boy will come a whole new set of toys. What a blessing!!! amy asnip

Christy said...

We are getting our house ready to put on the market, so the house has to look immaculate. Hard with so many toys! I purged big time, giving some away and packing others. The kids have only asked for one particular movie I packed away. The rest of the toys haven't even been missed. And to tell the truth, I can't even remember what I've packed away, so they must not be that important! I also sorted through all the books and kept out only the books I felt were the best ones. We haven't missed any of the ones I packed away. And I second what others have said ... the kids are playing more creatively now with the toys that are out and are also playing creatively without toys at times. We have also invested in some cubes and cloth baskets for storage.

Fe said...

No solutions from me, but I just wanted to add that I'm following with interest.

We're about to have birthday number one for child number two, and I'm starting to feel a little anxious...!

We've done reasonably well at minimising toys, but I can see it beginning to falter now:-(

Hannah said...

We toy purge. Honestly, our four kids are entertained plenty with just a few nice things. Their blocks, baby dolls and cars satisfy. Its about time for another purge now as we've just had two birthdays and the Christmas season is around the corner. When the kids are napping or outside playing, I grab a box and start sorting. The ull box or boxes go to the Salvation Army. For me, garage saling the toys isn't an option, but that might work well for some families.

Darcy said...

Hi Monica,

I'm with the majority here about simplifying and getting rid of toys. I struggled with wanting to keep the toys and tried the rotating system for awhile but it just didn't work well for me. Mostly because of storage issues. Although I do think the toy store in the basement idea that someone shared is pretty neat! :)

My daughter, who is 6 years old, has a partiularly hard time keeping her room clean and has even cried at times when it's been time to clean up. I finally realized that she just had too much stuff and was overwhelmed by it so we did a major toy purge. We bought 2 bins on rollers - one for Barbies and one for American Girl Doll stuff. Each bin is labeled, making it easy to put back everything right where it belongs. We also have the toy storage system in her closet that you have with the multiple containers on shelves. She shares this storage system with her little sister and we only keep as many toys as will fit into it neatly and only the toys that they truly play with. The surprising thing to me is that there were no tears shed when we were getting rid of toys. We've had to go back a few times and get rid of more things because I agree that they do seem to multiply! :)

I am sentimental about certain toys that my kids have played and played with that they are too old for now so I've packed them in Rubbermaid containers and put them in storage and will pull them out someday when they are parents themselves.

This is getting long I know but one more thing I do is keep the toys confined to one area of the house. All of our bedrooms are upstairs along with a small play area that also doubles as our homeschool room so the rule is that the toys have to stay in their bedrooms or in the play area. This makes it so much easier to keep the main living area of the house picked up and we don't feel like the kids are taking over the entire house! :) You'll find that as your girls get older they will get things all set up 'just right' (isn't that a lot of the fun in playing?!) and won't want to take it down for awhile so it's nice to have an small area of the house where they have the freedom to do that.

You are getting a lot of suggestions so I hope you find something that will work for you!

carrie said...


You've gotten some great suggestions here. I'll be curious to hear what you decide.

Anonymous said...

First, I was going to say that rather than throwing a toy out or filling a landfill, please donate them! I'm not saying this directly to you, Monica, but rather in general to everyone on here. You can use to give toys away or swap them, you can also use or even try ebay to sell them. Lastly, they can be donated to the Goodwill. So to all of us - let's do everything we can to keep plastics and other things out of landfills.

Regarding toy storage, I have an armoire that is not the typical height (it's about 5 feet tall). Two drawers on the bottom hold books and other things like puzzles. My son loves that he can pull them out and sort thru them.

In the armoire are baskets and buckets with toys. On top is one additional bucket. This way when I want them out of sight I just shut the armoire up.

I know that in a lot of daycares they will cycle the toys - I started doing this and it is wonderful. Not only does it result in less toys out at a given time, the kids appreciate them more. About once a week I will switch out what is in my son's basket. He loves it and I like it too. He is overwhelmed when they are all out at once.

So maybe consider if you can get an armoire or dedicate a closet where they can be out of sight/ out of mind and then cycle the available toys.

Good luck!

Sarah said...

Since we live in a 1100 sq foot home with 6 people and a dog, storage has always been a problem for us. What we did was convert a hallway coat closet into a toy closet. My husband hung a rod in my laundry area for our coats and then hung shelves from ceiling to floor into the closet for toys. We were amazed on how much we could fit in there.

Also, bedrooms closets and under bed storage make a great place to put toys that aren't used very often.

We also bought a large patio storage bin for all of the outside toys. It has a cover so they stay dry.

Carmen said...

Here's my 2 cents...pitch a lot of stuff! Don't leave things out in bins that can be dumped. With our six this is what we do. We regularly go through and sort toys. We offer the kiddos 5 cents for each decent toy that they want to give to Goodwill. That way they are making some money and we are getting rid of stuff (I know it's bribery but, hey, it works!). I don't let my mom see any of this process because the pack-rat in her just can't believe we would get rid of x,y,z. Some of the toys we throw away behind their backs...we're so bad! We also have totes in the attic that have toys that we can't bear to part with but need out of the way for a while. Our loving family is up there since they didn't play with it. Now that our youngest girl is 3 we will get it back down for her when we move (hopefully soon). We try to have things in clear (smaller) totes that are labeled and up on shelves that way they know where things go and they are out of little hand's reach. Especially for as young as your gals are...less likely to get dumped and scattered. I would allow one little basket in the living room...ours has the same problem of multiplying so we have to sort through it once a week and send the extras back to their homes. It's so hard with such little ones. Your in the process of training to putting things back when they are finished, and not to you're pregnant! don't have the older help that some of us do so take it with stride. Also as far as Christmas goes...we really started taming down what we give. We give a "big" gift ($20), a book and a game. Between all the things they get from Grandparents and such it gets overwhelming!

Hope my mini-novel helped!


Carmen said...

I guess I should clarify that the loving family that is up in our attic is the Fisher Price "Loving Family" house and extras. Not that we're holding a loving family hostage in the attic...that sounded a little odd! Oops!

Nathan said...

Easy for me to get rid of toys b/c we have a small house and all the toy mess gets overwhelming.

At least with my kids I have found that they really do not play much with toys...thus they don't need a whole lot of toys.

Best to go with toys that have more than one thing they can do (ie Legos, Lincoln Logs, Playmobil)...of course this is for older kids and there are a trillion little pieces.

But for babies/toddlers - less is better. It felt so good when I could finally get rid of some things and also get the toys out of the living room! Again harder with real little kids (mine are now 5 & 8) - but if your kids are too little to clean up the mess yourself - better to have less.

Encourage relatives to give "invisible" gifts to the children ie. tickets to a children's museum, zoo tickets, gift certificates (not for toys but events).

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Paige,and we don't collect toy's either. Infact I have just gone through what my children have and have gotten rid of alot again. What I see is to many toy's out in your pictures. I would limit what is out. Put some up, trade them out evey now and then. Also with christmas, I will share what we are doing to help pervent an over load of extra new toy's taking over. I actually am going to do a post about it really soon. But I will share it now with you. I am going to the 1 thing my children Want, Need, Read, Wear. Then I have given a list of items for family to choose from. I will do a family game and most likely a family DVD ( a classic of some sort if I find one that is in good taste) I have already talked with my children about this. I beleive it is the family get togethers, and giving of time or service with our children that they will remember not what they got. As I reflect back to my favorite christmas's it was the ones spent doing fun things together as a family. I have trouble remembering the toy's or the amount of gifts I recieved. Your a great mother, I know that God is mindful of what you are in need of as far as taking care of your family. don't forget what works for others may not work for you. It does not hurt to at least try and limit the amount of toy's that are out. See if that helps your frustration. You seem to have all the right kinds of containers.

Blair Family. said...

These are great suggestions! I have one to add that I don't think was mentioned. My son is 2 and we are expecting another little one any day now (EDD 2 days ago!:)

Anyways, my son has a small basket of toys in his room, and books. We have a plastic bin of toys that he gets to play with during his alone time in the morning. He only plays with these toys during this time and when alone time is over we pick them up and put them back in the bin.

The thing I found that works best is I split a lot of his toys and some books up per day (M-F). We have a storage trunk in our living room, that doubles as a coffee table. I've put gift bags in there filled with toys and books. In the morning I get out the new days toys and at night put them away. He actually plays with these toys, rather than all of them sitting out and not getting played with and just cluttering the house.

Just a thought but it works great for us!

We also sort through toys every couple months, we get rid of a lot of the single task toys that he can't really be creative with and give them to a shelter for women and children. They are so grateful and it feels great knowing they'll be appreciated.

2boysmama said...

I haven't read through all the comments you've already recieved so I'm sorry if this is a repeat.

one thing I've done is goen through with a big garbage bag and put away half the toys. Things they don't play with much, or duplicate-idea toys (like if you have 2 shape sorters or 2 sets of blocks). My older child noticed for a while asking for this or that but I could put him off. Then few months later we re-discovered the bag in the garage and it was like Christmas. The old toys we like new again.
Then you could put away more toys when you get the old ones out.

We also got an organizer with cubes and each cube has its own colorful box you can pull in and out. I like it better because it hides things. You can pick the color of the bins. It's kind of like this:
But not that expensive! you can get a 3x3 or i have a 4x4. I got it at target. I think Kmart may carry the shelving line and locally (to us) Fred Meyer carries it. Wal mart might too!

Good luck! This is a constant struggle for us as well!!

The Mansell Crew: said...

I see you have had plenty of response to your post! I thought I would add that I have been slimming down our toys for a while now and have found that our kids do much better with less! They are more creative with their time and tend to engage each other more. As our family grows, less has become better. Now, I need help to organize clothes!

You can check out our site if you want:

Under the Mercy,