Alyson Schafer Advice: Best Tips For Organizing Your Kid's Growing Pile Of Toys

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MESSY KIDS TOYS
Little girl sitting on top of lots of toys | Camille Tokerud via Getty Images
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Ho! Ho! Holy crap! Did the kids ever get a lot of new toys over the holidays. Where are we going to put them all? What are we supposed to with the old one's that are still in good shape, but no one is playing with anymore?

January is THE month for getting organized and setting up systems to help us have a good year ahead. Why not take this time to do some home organization with the kids' toys, crafts, books, puzzles and more? Here's how:

Step 1: Thin The Volume

Most kids have too much "stuff" littering their playroom and bedroom. The goal is to aim for having only as much stuff out as your child can reasonably clean up by themselves in about five minutes. That’s probably about HALF of what most families have in their family rooms. Gulp!

Step 2: Sort Your Items

Don't throw out your kids' toys without consulting them. They will go ballistic. Instead, work as a team to make five piles:

  1. Toys they want readily accessible, so they can play with them this week
  2. Toys they want to keep, but are either bored of or could take a wee rest from
  3. Toys they have outgrown and could sell in a garage sale (Tip: If you allow the child to keep the proceeds of their toy sales, they are more keen to let their toys be sold)
  4. Toys they want to donate to a good cause, such as a homeless shelter or a Syrian refugee family (Tip: This is a great way to foster the character trait of altruism)
  5. Toys that they don't play with anymore, but are special memorabilia that they want to keep forever

Step 3: Everything Has A Place

Now find homes for the items in each of these piles. I suggest that you find a child-accessible home for the toys from the first pile. Do you have a bookshelf or basket that will be the place to put books at clean up time? Do you have Tupperware bins for arts and craft supplies that need to be kept together? One for independent crafting and another which requires adult supervision (glitter and paint, to name a few)? How about a big bin for balls or a chest for dress-up clothes?

Like a well-managed classroom, everything in your playroom needs a designated home and kids must learn that system, so they can clean up after themselves.

The items that you decide are going to be kept, but are not "in use" this week can be stored in a closet, the garage or basement. Think of this as establishing your own little toy lending library or toy store. It should be inviting, well organized and accessible.

When your child gets tired of the toys that are out in the playroom, he or she can swap and refresh with those in storage. I recommend doing this no more than once a week, otherwise it gets too chaotic. Kids will be excited to see their old books and toys again! You can also set a limit on the number of toy exchanges your child gets: "Pick five things you want to put into the toy library this week and you can pick five new items for this week!"

Step 4: Gracefully Letting Go

It can be hard for kids to let go of their "stuff." Kids may fare better if you introduce a transitional step. Allow your child to store the items they are considering getting rid of, but can't seem to part with. A few garbage bags of old toys and clothes in the garage won't take up that much space. Mark the date on the bag and in a year, review the contents with your child. Are they ready to say good-bye to these items now?

Step 5: Teach Independent Clean Up Time

The best part about having a playroom that is organized, kid accessible and has limited chosen toys is that it makes clean-up time easier. Once your child knows where everything goes, designate a regular "clean-up time" every day. Be consistent in enforcing that it is their job to clean up after they play. If you stick to the routine for a week or two, they will come to know it’s their responsibility and they’ll stop testing you.

Have a planned activity after clean-up time as well, such as reading a book together or having a small snack. Then you can say, "When your clean-up is done, then I know you’re ready for story time.?" If they dawdle or refuse, don't yell or nag. Just hold off on stories until they've done their job.

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