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May 31, 2013

Keeping Toys Organized & Rotated

If you have children at home, you know that toys can quickly take over your entire house, and your home can begin to look like a day-care facility. To avoid this, I have tried to strategically think through the organization of our toys, books, puzzles, games, etc. I have worked to come up with systems that fit our lifestyle, and as our little ones grow older and we add to our family, I will no doubt need to make adjustments.
Keeping Toys Organized & Rotated

First of all, if you have (a) broken toys, (b) items your child does not play with anymore, or (c) fun goodies your children have outgrown, get rid of them! Sell them - Donate them - Pass them on and clear out space in your home. (Just to clarify: I'm encouraging you to rid out the stuff - not the children!) =)

Next, come up with a working plan that fits your family/your home layout/etc.

Baskets have been my best friend~ They have helped me be able to simply sort toys in to categories and strategically place them throughout the house. Here are a few quick snapshots I took to show you how I've used them for toy organization.
These baskets (and a few others like it) are housed in our playroom. They hold small items (blocks, balls, Weebles, cars, etc.), and they typically stay in that room. 
From time-to-time, they need cleaned out/resorted, but they've worked great.
 My oldest knows what goes where - So when it's clean-up time, the vehicles go back in their basket, the letter blocks go back in their basket, etc. 
This approach definitely takes some training - but time invested in training them in a system pays off down the road time and time again!

I am crazy over these large tote baskets I recently spotted at Home Goods! 
They go perfectly with our playroom theme, and they are a great size for keeping large stuffed animals/toys organized.

This basket is kept in our kitchen. Every few weeks, I rotate a variety of toys and books in and out of the basket. The goal is for my kiddos to have things to keep them occupied while I am preparing snacks/meals. Sometimes this works and other times, my children are screaming and clinging to my legs while I stir the spaghetti sauce; but hey, this basket of goodies is there if they so choose to enjoy it.

Here are a couple of small stacks of books (under our coffee table). Instead of having access to ALL of their books at one time, I rotate different reads into the family room. This helps my little ones to focus on these few titles - whether they be from the local library or their personal collection - rather than be overwhelmed by stacks and stacks of books.

I use the same approach with puzzles. Our stack of wooden puzzles sits up on a shelf in the playroom closet. I rotate them in and out a few at a time. Rotating books, games, puzzles, etc. seems to help with focus, and it keeps the mess manageable.

In our main living area, there is a large basket for these building blocks...
 ...because we have tons and tons of these blocks....

....and there is also an animal basket...
...because we love animals!

As you can see, baskets make our world go round - large baskets are my favorite! 
They look great all while hiding toys.

Each of the boys have a basket of books in their bedroom. These are used for bedtime or first thing in the morning. They also each have a basket of [just a few] toys in their bedroom. These are usually played with before bath time or first thing in the morning. Bedrooms are off-limits throughout the day. This means a lot less straightening in those areas, which makes life way easier for mama.

For holiday items (books, puzzles, crafts, activities, etc.), I have seasonal bins that I use for organization/storage. This is a snapshot of my Christmas book bin. For example, these books are not brought out until after Thanksgiving, and put away immediately following the holiday~
  I have similar bins for fall, spring, and summer.

For me, the key is not just keeping toys clean and organized, but rotating them. Books, puzzles, toys, games, art supplies - not all of them are accessible at one time. In fact, the majority of these items are organized in closets and rotated in and out periodically. While this may sound time consuming, it really isn't - I promise! It works great for us, and the pay-off (less mess and a house that looks like a home rather than a pre-school) is completely worth it. I typically find myself "rotating" every few weeks. I love the variety this provides - especially since we spend a lot of time at home. You may choose to rotate weekly or monthly - There are no rules! Whatever works for you~  
When I rotate items, I use that as a chance to change batteries in/disinfect/etc. those particular items before putting them away for next time.

In case you are wondering where the kitchen set, plastic slide, train table, and playhouse are, here is where I admit to you that I have a phobia of large toys. I love when Caleb gets to play with them at church or at friends' houses. He loves them, but I panic when I consider dealing with them in my own space. Thank you for sharing with my deprived children, and if you feel the need to label me with "issues" - I will completely understand.

**While typing this post, I spotted a dumped pile of crayons in my kitchen, a heap of Mega Blocks on my guest bathroom floor, and drips of milk all over the breakfast area. It is important to note that no matter how much cleaning, organizing, sorting, etc. you do, kids are messy and clean-up will always be a part of life. These are just a few tips I thought I would pass along in case they might benefit someone else~ Feel free to share any ideas you might have! I'm always looking for big and small ways to try to bring order to this happy chaos!**

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy A Peek Into Our Playroom


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