Edited: November 2022. Original post published under previous blog title of Knot to Nest.
Are you struggling to find a way to organize all the toys in your house?
Do you find yourself still recovering from all the goodies your little ones received this holiday season?
Legos piled at your feet? Play food scattered about with no chef in sight?
If you said yes to any of the above, then welcome friend! You are in
Today I am going to walk you through a step-by-step process for getting toy clutter under control!
I will help you to finally organize the toys!
We are going to tackle finding new places in your home for all those fun new toys while also purging the collection of broken, outgrown, or just plain “where-did-this-come-from” toys.
The Prep Work and Supplies
This process isn’t only about purging and organizing toys, it is also inventorying (in a way) and finding a place in your home for all of your child’s toys.
To begin, I recommend you gather trash bags, a large empty box, and gallon zipper bags to have on hand.
- Use your trash bags for all the broken bit and trash you find along the way.
- A large box will be used for any working, in-good-shape, toys that your children no longer love or have outgrown. These toys can be sold or donated when the process is finished
- Gallon zipper bags will be used to store small pieces of a set together.
- Don’t yet buy any new storage containers as you might not need them. I would recommend keeping any empty containers you have on hand as they might be repurposed for storage in this project.
The Goal of Organizing Toys
Now that you have your supplies, it is time to get to work.
Make sure you have given yourself time to do this uninterrupted as it may get worse before it gets better.
Since our goal here is to MINIMIZE stress, I don’t want you to get partially finished and have to stop, so really dig in here and make this a priority.
Letting Go is Part of Organizing Toys
Sometimes it can feel difficult to part with any of your children’s toys as they are such an integral part of childhood.
I encourage you (and your children) to consider only keeping toys that are truly loved.
Over the years I have found that my children play better and longer with fewer toys than when all their toys are scattered about.
Depending on the age of your children, consider having them involved.
If your children are babies or very young, I would advise doing this without them present. Perhaps they can spend the day with daddy or grandma.
Having little ones around means your progress will likely be halted with further messes and dumped out boxes.
If your children are older, and remember what toys they have, it is a good idea to have them present and involved in the process of minimizing and organizing toys.
This allows them to see the value of caring for your toys and it also lets them share what toys are meaningful to them.
Steps to Purging and Organizing Toys
1. Gather All Toys Into One Space.
It won’t be pretty but get all the toys in one space. Having all the toys in one place gives you a true sense of what your children have.
If your children have separate rooms and/or separate toys I would advise sorting through each child’s toys in their respective play spaces.
This will ensure each child’s toys stay in their own space.
2. Sort Through the Pile & Arrange Similar Toys together
This is the part where it gets messy before it gets better.
Don’t worry at this point about having a home for each thing, this is just about getting like items together. If your children are helping get them involved in this step.
This is not the step to start making decisions on what toys to keep or donate. We are simply getting similar toys together. You (and your children) will evaluate each group of toys in upcoming steps.
I used all the empty toy bins for this step. They provided a great temporary place to store each category of toys while I worked through each pile.
I recommend just digging right in and putting toys in piles that represent certain categories.
Here were the categories of toys for our house:
- Hot wheel cars and other small vehicles
- Larger vehicles
- Dress up
- Dolls and accessories
- Dollhouse and accessories
- Building blocks including wooden blocks, Legos, and magnetic tiles.
- Character toys
- Animal figures
In the picture below you can see what I had at the end of this step. I have a bin of dress up, play kitchen, big vehicles, little
In this step, as you come across trash and broken bits put them into your trash bag.
3. Package Smaller Sets Together to Organize Toys
Now that you have the trash gone and the toys separated into categories, it is time to use your zipper bags to start organizing the toys.
In this step, you will be putting small pieces together using the zipper bags.
You can also use even smaller zipper bags to keep game pieces together inside the game box.
I used the bags to keep small puzzle pieces together, stacker sets together, and small play sets together. You can see below some of the toys I used bags with.
If you find toys with missing pieces at the end of this step, you might consider putting in the “To-Go” pile.
4. Organizing Toys: Sort Through Each Category of Toys and Ruthlessly Decide What To Keep
Now it is time to consider what toys you want to keep.
Really use this time to consider the toys your child(ren) play with and part with the toys that they have outgrown or are not loving anymore.
Only keep the toys that work, that your children love, and that serve your children!
If your child is old enough to be involved, ask them which toys they love.
Engage them in a discussion as to why.
Some toys will an easy “YES” or “NO”, but they may need you to help them work through the process for the more difficult ones.
Take some time to learn what toys make your children truly happy.
You may explain that toys they no longer want will be donated or sold to other children who will find them fun.
Knowing other children can love their toys may help them part with toys they don’t truly love.
If your child(ren) is too little to be engaged in this process, you are the decision maker. If your child doesn’t play with the toy AND it works, put it in the donate/sell pile.
5. Getting Rid of Toys
Another point to consider, if you have decided to change your approach to your children’s toys get rid of those that no longer fit your plans. For instance, if you are looking to keep more open-ended toys, it is time to get rid of toys that do the work for the child.
Once all the blocks from above were packaged together, I realized we had two sets of alphabet blocks and so one set went to the donate pile. When you come across toys you (or your children) decide not to keep, place them into your donate/sell box.
6. Consider Toy Rotation for Permanent Storage
Related: The Magic of Toy Rotation
Congrats! You’ve now sorted through the mounds of toys, thrown out the broken bits and trash, decided which toys would be staying and which would be leaving, and even organized a bit by putting like pieces together.
Now it is time to start putting all the remaining toys back into some sort of order.
If you find yourself still drowning in toys, you might consider implementing toy rotation at this point.
We use a system of rotating toys, where at least half of our children’s toys are kept organized in a closet, stored away at any given time.
The other toys are left out to be played with in the playroom downstairs.
In this step, I recommend organizing toys and storing away any toys that are not currently out for playing with.
Each type of toy should go into a separate bin or tote based on its type.
Currently, I have only a small few of each type of toy in the playroom and the extras are stored for later rotation.
In our home, only one set of building blocks went back into the playroom and the remaining sets were put into storage for later use.
We have a huge collection of animal figures, so rather than using zipper bags, I opted to organize these toys in medium size totes. One for dinosaurs, one for farm animals, and one for the rest.
7. Return the Organized Toys to Your Children’s Rooms or P
Phew, we are in the home stretch!
It is now time to return the toys you want to keep to their homes.
If you are considering toy rotation, only move out into the play area the toys you want out, the rest will be stored for later use.
I have used these pullout drawer systems to affordably store and organize toys that are not currently out for play.
You can see that I have kept infant toys for now because we aren’t certain our clan is done growing. If I knew we were I would have donated these toys.
Every week or so, I take time to rotate some of the toys. This helps to keep kids interested and engaged. You can read more about toy rotation here.
Decide if You Want to Donate or Sell
After you have completed sorting and organizing toys, you need to seal the fate of the toys you want to go.
If you have time you can try selling them in a yard sale, consignment sale or on Facebook marketplace.
If you are not interested in selling them, consider donating to a local shelter or organization that uses gently used toys to give to children who are less fortunate.
Once you’ve completed share below your before and after photos! I would love to share the inspiration!
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