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Toys! Toys! And more toys! Many of my clients, readers and friends frequently ask me about organizing toys. Don't worry it can be done. I've used my five-step STUFF System™ to break it down into doable steps.
Gather all the toys and start making piles by sorting like items together. This step may take awhile, especially if you have lots of smaller pieces. This is a great time to get the kids involved as sorting is the first basic skill you can teach your child about organizing.
Now it's time to make some decisions. What toys can go? Have a box or space for those toys which you can donate, sell or give away. Don't forget to have the garbage and recycling containers near by.
You may or may not want your children involved in this step. It is a perfect time to teach them that it is OK not to keep everything. On the other hand, it might be a battle of tears, pleading and stress for all. Use your judgment; you know the personalities, tendencies and age of your children the best.
Utilize the Space and Systems
Where will everything live? Consider the space from your child's point of view. Keep their favorite toys in easy-to-reach and convenient places. You'll thank yourself later, as this makes clean-up time less challenging.
Think about zones. Keep toys together that go together. For example, a building zone, a reading zone, an arts and crafts zone, etc. This is also the time to determine if shelves, hooks, or other space-utilizing hardware should be added. Perhaps there are such items elsewhere in your home that are not fully utilized.
At this point you have identified the keepers and have a good idea of how you want to use your space. You can now think about containers. Containers can be boxes, bins, bags, baskets, etc.
Not sure how many and what sizes you'll need? No problem! Just take a look at those piles from sorting and you'll get a good idea of what you'll need. Try to keep like items together and don't forget to take your space and any shelves into consideration. Take some measurements and make notes to aid you if need to make a trip to the store.
Open containers work really well for most children, however if you need to stack them to make the most of the space, go with the lid. Avoid big toy boxes that hold many different items because EVERYTHING tends to get pulled out during play.
Labels are essential! I like to use pictures and words for younger children. You could even label the spots on shelves. Labels make retrieving and returning items easier for children and adults.
Keeping those toys organized is almost always an on-going process for parents and kids. Try to maintain the space on a continuous basis with regular clean-up times and frequent purging (before birthdays and Christmas is a great time). Your family can start a new habit of sharing and trading toys with other families. Put the focus on making room for new toys rather than eliminating their stuff.
On a final note, children typically play with 20% of their toys 80% of the time. Too many toys can make play time difficult and clean-up time overwhelming. You may want to try rotating toys and books; store one-third to one-half of the toys and books and switch them about every three to four months. This helps to keep kids interested and your living space less congested. Remember, the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to take care of! Play time should be enjoyable not a stressful experience for child and parent.