Dear Alpha Mom,

I am raising four kids, from 6 months to 4 years, boys and girls. Despite the age and gender differences, they pretty much play with the same toys. When I was working full-time, I didn’t have too many issues organizing toys, because the kids were either at school or daycare most of the time. Now that I’m staying at home, so are the kids. I didn’t realize how crazy toys would drive me until today! I had toy organizers with bins, but I found it to take up too much space. Plus, the bins didn’t hold as many toys as I would like. I decided to donate it and got a cube style shelf as a replacement. It holds a lot more toys, but I still have two large containers over flowing onto the floor! I’ve thrown away the toys that are broken; my son has given some away; I’ve put some away, but there are tons of toys remaining. We have a two bedroom apartment with very, very little storage space. My living room and kids’ room looks and feels messy. It stresses me out, especially because I have to see it everyday and stumble over it every night. I stopped buying stuff, but my oldest’s birthday is around the corner, and I know presents will soon add to the clutter. What do you recommend?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Marcelle, Los Angeles, California

Thanks for your question Marcelle. How to store toys is a challenge moms face all across the globe. If you were to peer into the windows of households with small children from sea to sea, I’m sure you would find many moms drowning in toys. With limited storage space, you are on the right track by limiting the purchase of toys. Here are a few suggestions on how to organize toys and reclaim your house.

1. Get an Organizer That Fits Your Needs

Some organizers can be very limiting. Find storage that allows you flexibility in the amount and size of toys it holds. An old fashioned toy chest is always a great choice. It can hold large or small toys and doubles up as a seat for small bottoms. You can also place shoebox sized containers in the toy chest to hold smaller items, such as puzzle pieces or action figures. If seeing the clutter is driving you crazy, a storage bin with a top may be in order. Be sure to check storage bins with tops for safety.

2. Establish Cleanup Routines

It’s not too early to begin a cleanup routine. For example, before lunch all toys must be put away and stored in the proper place. Before bedtime, go through this same routine. Try things like playing the cleanup music and finishing the job before the song ends. Setting a kitchen timer is also a fun way to keep the cleanup activity time bound. Have the kids attempt to beat the buzzer and finish putting their toys away before it goes off. A good rule of thumb is to allow the kids to take out only what they can clean up in 5-7 minutes. After a while, you will have a good gauge on just how many toys can be cleaned up in this time frame. Also, you can teach the little ones to put away one toy before taking out another.

3. Make Gift Suggestions

When friends and family buy gifts, they often think the biggest and loudest toy is the best toy. It is up to you to educate them on your needs. It is fine to ask grandma to contribute to your child’s college fund in lieu of lots new toys. Think about it–if you begin this process now by the time your little ones are teenagers they will have a hefty college fund in the making. There are many gift ideas other than large toys. For instance, family member can purchase passes to children’s museums, zoos or amusement parks.

4. Purge & Purge Again

Add purging to your calendar once a quarter. More often if needed. Don’t wait until frustration sets in, purge on a schedule. Broken toys, toys that are no longer being played with, toys that are too oversized for your space, toys that are simple in over abundance–get rid of them. Allow those toys to find a new home, whether it’s a donation facility or a dumpster. When the children are old enough, let them have a say in picking a charity they can give their toys to and allow them to experience the joy of helping others. If you have more toys than space, there are too many toys. Purge!

I hope this helps. Children should be allowed to play with toys and have loads of fun but mommy should also be allowed to have some resemblance of order and peace. I like to call it organized chaos. Let me know how the toy storage war works out for you! You can win it by following a few simple tips.

xoxo Alpha Mom

Hey DFTM Fam–How do you keep your toy room organized?

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

One Response

  1. MJ

    I love this post. My daughters inherited toy chests from my nieces. We still need more storage options. A tall bookshelf is on our list. The gift suggestion is so on point. I definitely believe in letting family/friends no what your needs are.


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