Back in 2008, I was a busy homeschool mom with 13 children; all still living at home. Keeping our home and space uncluttered and useable was an absolute necessity. But then again, having quality, educational toys was also a necessity. At that time, I had many blog readers wanting to know how we controlled toy clutter in our house. I spent a few days going around our house and photographing every single toy we owned, so I could not just tell, but also show what my methods were. The photos in this post were all taken in 2008 and represent exactly what the toy situation was with thirteen children.
5 Tips to Declutter Toys
1. Choose toys carefully.
Our home was not (and is not) filled with just any toys. We focus on open-ended toys that require imagination. We don’t buy cheap dollar store toys or gaudy, plastic movie-based toys. The toys we invest in have purpose and help the child grow in some way. I wholeheartedly agree with this article on Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids.
Toys we chose to invest in:
Schleich plastic animals were prized possessions for years. You could be guaranteed to see them at every birthday, in every Christmas stocking, and sometimes, just because. The run anywhere from $3-$10 but are the most detailed, accurate ones we’ve found. Most of the ones we invested in over 10 years ago are still in our home.
Playmobil was another toy we chose to invest in. Playmobil was (and still is) kept in plastic bins w/ lids in our furnace room. Playmobil spends a lot of time being “packed away” because my children are not so fond of cleaning it up, but are quite fond of fighting over it.
Quality unit blocks. We’ve had this set for over 15 years!
We have also purchased enough LEGO over the years to start our own LEGO consignment store!
A wooden kitchen. I believe we paid somewhere around $169 for it. We bought it for Adalia’s 5th birthday. She is now nineteen and it is in excellent shape!
2. Everything must be contained.
I learned early on from my firstborn (who would have been labeled “hyperactive” had she ever attended school) that she couldn’t play if she was overwhelmed by too much stuff. The key was to have everything organized and not too many choices.
The centerpiece to our living room in 2008 was this shelf, handmade by Chuck. It was ideal for storing and organizing toys. Those blue and green baskets we bought from Pottery Barn when we moved into the house. They were not cheap, but have lasted eleven years now. And what is in those lovely blue and green baskets you ask?
The top one contained large floor puzzles.
Hint: puzzle boxes always break, right? Cut out the front picture and place the puzzle and cut out picture in a large Ziplock bag. This will save you both stress and storage space.
The next two baskets contain…socks! Yes, socks in my living room. It was so much more simple to fold and place in a central location, than to run them to different rooms all over the house. Plus, it also allowed the children to find socks when a baby or toddler was napping in their room.
The two dishpans contained Wedgits…still a favorite toy today in 2015! Also in our living room (not pictured) was a huge set of Dulpo LEGO.
The baskets on our shelves contained our toy food. My favorite brand of wooden food is, hands down, HABA. They are the highest quality and most realistic looking.
3. Leave as much open space as you can.
We very purposely kept our playroom floor open so there was plenty of space to spread out and PLAY. See the lovely ladder for climbing the walls? That came from Ikea. The overflowing blue bin contained our dress up clothes. We could have had ten times the amount of toys we owned in 2008 (and many of my friends did) but I am a firm believer that less is best when it comes to play time.
And here are the toys that were contained in those Ikea storage shelves:
Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouse people.
The top right photo shows the entire contents of the bin labeled “vehicles”. Despite the male chromosomes, none of my boys have been particularly interested in playing with cars. While they love to push around dump trucks outside and vehicles will offer a few minutes diversion, they are certainly not a top pick.
4. Rotate out your toys!
Not only does this keep your space clutter free and leave less to clean up, but it also means you have a constant supply of fresh, new toys. How often did/do we rotate toys? They usually get rotated when either: I get sick of stepping on them, the kids are fighting over them, or they are not willing to clean them up. Each one of those is a sign that a rotation is overdue.
The four big boys had LEGO in their room. We also had a wooden train set that that was part of our toy rotation. And the girls each have a few dolls and stuffed animals.
5. What about relatives who like to give gifts?
Having a few types of open-ended toys actually makes gift giving easier. Family members always knew they could add to the Schliech animal collection, Playmobil, LEGO or wooden food. Even when duplicate sets were given, the creativity of these toys means a second toy llama or Playmobil family was always a welcome addition!
How do you manage toys at your house?