Tame Those Toys!
Tackle Toy Storage
Invest in double-duty furniture. Whenever possible, buy pieces with built-in storage, such as ottomans, stools, and even beds.
Opt for adult-size storage furniture. Skip the tiny kid shelves; full-size models use more vertical space and your kids can grow into them.
Buy adjustable shelving. The kind that you choose should be able to conform and adapt to all of your stuff, not the other way around.
Place frequently used toys on low shelves. Take a cue from preschool teachers and put often-used playthings, such as blocks and dolls, on shelves your child can reach.
Choose matching storage containers. This helps eliminate the visual noise in the room, which will instantly make it look more organized.
Make use of the wall space. Hang shelves and hooks so vertical space can work for you.
5 Ways to Manage Mess
1. Make a 24-hour rule. Toss junk from fast-food restaurants or party goody bags after a day (or two). After that set time, be firm that those toys are headed to the recycling bin.
2. Create a toy library. Turn a closet or cabinet into a "library" from which a certain number can be "checked out" at a time. When your child wants to switch playthings, she must bring one of her "checked out" toys back first.
3. Remember: Your home is not a nursery school. Accept that you can't have a toy for every activity. If your child gets to paint a lot at preschool, you don't need to keep painting supplies in the house.
4. Use Santa as leverage. The weeks leading up to gift-giving holidays are an ideal time to review what toys your kids play with frequently and decide which ones to donate. Children know new toys are coming their way, so they may be more open to parting with things.
5. Don't keep it for grandma's sake. Retire any playthings your child isn't actively engaged with (no matter who gave them to her).
5 Things You're (Probably) Doing Wrong
1. Choosing chalkboard labelsSure they're trendy, but the chalk always ends up getting erased. Use typed or handwritten labels instead.
2. Having a toy boxThey encourage messiness -- it all gets thrown inside, then the lid is closed. Toys don't get organized -- or even played with.
3. Using containers kids can't openLidded boxes are often challenging for younger children to open. Bins are a smarter choice if you want to encourage them to put things away.
4. Storing toys on the floorUnless it's a large toy, like a play kitchen, every plaything should have a designated home on a self or in a cabinet.
5. Buying your child toys you likeIf your child doesn't play with something you thought was great, get rid of it no matter how pretty, or pricey, it was.
Corral the Stuffed-Animal Zoo!
1. Purge Put all your child's creatures to bed with her; if there are any on the floor in the A.M., that's your sign to pare down to the number that can remain on the bed the whole night.
2. Pause Stick stuffed animals you're considering tossing in out-of-sight storage. If your child asks for one of them, you can pull it out. If the toys aren't missed after a month, buh-bye!
3. Contain Make a cage! Drill evenly spaced holes into the sides of wooden crates and hook on mini bungee cords to keep the animals inside.
Everything in your child's space should have a place! This video will show you best way to keep toys organized throughout the house, while making sure they are still easily accessible.
Be Barbie's Personal Organizer
- Store dolls in an over-the-door shoe organizer with the most popular ones at your child's eye level.
- An older child can store doll clothing flat in individual zip-top bags and "file" them in an expandable folder.
- Stash Barbie's tiny accessories in a divided storage container, such as an egg carton.
Master Lego Storage
- Get rid of the wrapping. Toy packaging can be 30 to 40 percent larger than the toy itself.
- Most kids rarely remake a project. Unless your child is a rebuilder, let the pieces become a part of the main Lego collection and toss the manuals once a project has been made (and documented).
- Divide under-the-bed storage drawers to create compartments that allow for unfussy storage and provide a place to put in-process projects. We cut balsa-wood strips from a craft store to make drawer dividers (pictured).
- Use rolling tax-file bins for containment. Kids can move them where they need them. When it's time to clean up, roll a bin up to the table and push all those Legos inside!
- After displaying your kid's finished creation, take a photo of it and store the snap in a digital gallery or print it out and put it in an album.
Better Board-Game Storage
- Use heavy-duty clear packing tape to cover the corners of new games' boxes -- on the inside and outside -- to reinforce them so they don't rip open down the road.
- Use a clear two-compartment lunch container to hold and protect card games such as Apples to Apples and Uno.
- If board-game boxes are beyond help, Game Savers are a smart, sturdy alternative. The plastic boxes are designed with compartments to corral dice, game pieces, cards, spinners, and boards.
Any organizing expert will tell you that labels are the secret to staying sorted. To let pre-readers know where their playthings belong, use photos instead of written labels.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Embrace the storage boxes that are designed for toy cars, like the Hot Wheels 48 Car Carry Case.
Pack 'n Race
For on-the-go storage, try the Neat Oh! ZipBin backpack. It folds out to a play racetrack.
Wrangle Little Toys
A favorite of organizing experts, clear shoe drawers are perfectly sized for small playthings.
Meet Our ExpertsBarbara Reich: A professional organizer, she is the author of Secrets of an Organized Mom.
Tracy Hoth and Chelle Holland: Hosts of the Clutter Interrupted Radio Show podcast.
Rachel Jonat: Known as "The Minimalist Mom" and author of Do Less: A Minimalist Guide to a Simplified, Organized, and Happy Life.
Stephen Saint-Onge: A designer and author of No Place Like Home: Tips & Techniques for Real Family-Friendly Home Design.
Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Parents magazine.