If you've been following my Instagram account recently, you've noticed that I was/am working on a TOY PURGE aka TOY DETOX in our home. I'm a self proclaimed "organized type" and for sure a "wanna be minimalist", and one of the areas completely ruffling my feathers a bit more than I was comfortable with was the toy situation in our home.
Are you in this boat as well? Feeling like the toys are taking over your home and you need to get back the feeling that adults still live in your home? Are your kids playing with NOTHING when the have EVERYTHING to play with all around them? Let's fix this.
Geo-board design courtesy of my lovely 3 year old! Thank you discount bin at Target!
While I'm definitely not an organizing doctor, I can share with you what has currently worked in our home.
Here's my "quick notes" version of what we did recently that will hopefully help you on your journey to reclaiming your home as a balanced adult and kid friendly space!
1. MENTALLY PREPARE: THIS IS AN ONGOING PROCESS
Prepare your brain and heart for this. While you can make a BIG IMPACT right now, you will need to take care of this system you create for your toys just like you would tend to your plants. And for those of you not really into plants, let me paint a picture for you: hopefully the hard work you do now will make your maintenance of your toys feel more like caring for cute little succulents on your window sill, rather than a thirsty, high maintenance plant in the peak of a Texas summer. Are you with me? Good.
2. CARVE OUT SOME TIME: NOTE, WHILE YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT THERE TO JUDGE YOU
This will streamline the process and make it go faster. Grab some coffee, tea, water, whatever you need to get in the zone. When you are able to do this, here's what I suggest in your set up:
► Boxes for donations or give away and label them as needed
► Trash bag if something is truly beyond repair, unsafe, etc.
► Grab your laundry basket and use this to put items in it that should go back into other parts of the house, ie. hats, random balls that should go in the garage, etc. This is the "put back in its home pile".
3. GET STARTED: CREATE TOY CATEGORIES
A few guidelines on how we paired ours down/consider the following:
► DECIDE what is most important to you and your family (we really love toys that loosely foster Montessori style learning and play, with some exceptions of course!)
► OBSERVE your children with their toys. What are they always gravitating towards? What can they come up with TONS of different creative ideas with and seem to play endlessly with? Those are the best toys and they might not even be "toys" at all. For example, my older babe LOVES cards and coupons from mailers that are going to go in recycling. While this didn't end up being one of our categories, she does have a stack of them on her toddler desk and when there too many or she's done with them, I have her take them to our recycling bin.
► START with 5-6 categories (is my initial suggestion) and then a bonus category of things that get stored away and brought out every once in a while when it is asked for or we bring it out in a "toy rotation" so things feel fresh and interesting.
4. THE BIG TOY SORT: MAKE IT HAPPEN
Move through all the toys as best as you can QUICKLY and WITHOUT OVERTHINKING it. If you have not seen your child play with something in the last 3-6 months and you know its been around for them to play with, I'd say LET IT GO. Clean up and donate as much as you can and give these toys a new home. Remove these unused things in your home, pay it forward, and enjoy the extra space!
► Check for age appropriateness and safety (did they outgrow it, it is too small or a choking hazard for a younger sibling, or should it be kept and put away for a few years when the child is older possibly?).
► Make sure you are NOT KEEP DUPLICATES. Wowzers you guys, we had SO MANY DUPLICATES in our home. It really surprised me that I was so blind to this, but it does make sense when you think about it...when you have so many similar things, you stop noticing what you have.
And now that you've gone through all that hard work of removing, sorting and preparing your donation stash...
5. GIVE THE TOYS A NEW HOME IN SOMETHING FABULOUS: YOU'VE EARNED IT!
Oh yes...my favorite part! What to store all your purposeful, awesome toys in! Now I can't write a one size fits all response to this, but I'll tell you about what I did and share some ideas on what you can do with yours. Since every family's home will have different toy categories as a result of their TOY DETOX, your storage needs will need to accommodate what you are keeping in a realistic way.
Here's the categories we kept and how we are storing them:
We ended up with 6 categories and one bonus container that changes weekly/monthly depending on what the babes are into.
Our categories are the following in 6 soft baskets:
► wood toys, large lego blocks (2 baskets), wood connector toys, magnetic tiles, animals.
The larger basket on the bottom of our toy shelf currently has a wood tic tac toe board, a small puzzle and paper airplanes.
A few little notes on selecting your storage:
► Choose something that YOU LOVE and that is YOUR DESIGN STYLE. I would steer clear of really themey, trendy kid stuff. I would also consider selecting storage that could go into another room in your house someday if needed. Don't let it be a one trick pony. Make this storage work hard for you, now and in the future. It is your money!
► If your not sure what your design style preference is for your storage, consider the room it will go in and then take cues from some of your other favorite things in your home to steer you in the right direction. Our toy shelf is in the living room so the containers we chose are neutral and blend well with other items in our living room.
Our soft (and quiet...yay!!!) storage bins are from Target. We chose the larger of the sizes they had (8x10x10). This is size is still easy for my toddler to pick up and carry on her own for play and for clean up. I added numbers to start to show her how we were going to organize the toys and then I removed them after a few weeks once she got into the groove of how to use the new system.
► Consider if you want the storage to stand out or go away. Do you want to have it out and super visible or tucked away? You can store things away in a bench seat, an ottoman or keep them out and organized on the floor or on shelving. Also consider reusing containers you already have in your home, like a group of different baskets to create a collection or plastic shoes bins with lids that are no longer being used.
► Make it accessible to the users! Make sure the kids can get to their toys easily and take ownership over them. In our home, this almost always helps foster a stronger clean up effort from the kids. My oldest toddler can carry the storage bins around the house and easily clean up and take them back to the shelf when she done with them. Our baby can also crawl over and grab one without hurting herself, and the items in the baskets are also safe in size for her to play with is as well.
Storage wood bench/shelf is from IKEA and we had this in our entryway and various locations around our house before having babies. The white metal basket that fits underneath it on the floor is also from IKEA and they also go great under beds for additional, organized storage for shoes, clothes or stuffed animals. These baskets are part of a shelving system but can purchased separately.
FINAL MAMA NOTES:
► We selected a few extra toys to stay in a front closet for toy rotation. Feel free to do this at your own discretion.
► Our book storage is not including in the toy detox.
► Our craft/creative supplies are not included, but they did get a major overhaul and organization as a caveat to this effort. Maybe I'll get wild and share that in a future post if that's of interest to you...so make sure you comment and let me know!
► My girls are happier with less out. They play more creatively and clean up easier. When things have a home, they know what to expect and where things go.
► When you own less it is much faster to clean up!
► My mama anxiety is much, much lower knowing that clean up is so much quicker at any given moment.
► I like to keep a donate bag or box in our front closet or out in the garage for extra toys that come into the home and have had their time and are ready to move on.
► Note: This is for the bulk of our toys. It might not seem like a lot, but right now, this is the bulk of what we play with in our home. There are a few little side bins and drawers that house a few extra treasures, balls, etc. but those areas are few and we try to not let them get too full and are looked weekly.
►The most powerful learning toy you can give your child is SPACE. Space to play, create, think, move, rinse and repeat.
Choose less with more value. Enjoy your hard work, less stress and a clearer mind for all the good stuff right in front of you!
Keep us posted on how you're doing with your toy detox! What has gone smoothly? What has been your biggest roadblock? Let us know and please ask questions so we can help each other regain our sanity!
On to the next project...