Wednesday, October 9, 2013

10 Strategies for Conquering the Chaos of Toys

Do you feel overwhelmed with a plethora of kid's toys?

Too many toys to play with.
Too many toys to pick up.
Piles and piles of dumped out toys. That no one dumped out, and the same no one wants to pick up.
Toys that you spend half of your life picking up.
Toys purchased not by you, but by well meaning friends and relatives.

Chances are, if you are a parent, with a child on the premises, you have been been at the toy tipping point at one time or another. The point where you want to bag every.single.toy. into a black garbage bag (or 10) and throw them all away. Or is that only me?

I am a semi-minimalist. Which means that I haven't totally drunk the minimalist kool-aid, but I feel most peaceful when my habitat is neat, orderly and non cluttered.

I shared a week or two ago that I use the rule of 5 for keeping my kids' clothes under wraps. I use the rule of 2 for toys.

Yes, my kids have more than 2 toys. Though I wish it could be that simple.

By the rule of 2, I mean that my kids are only allowed to have 2 kinds of toys out at once. They must put away one kind before getting another out.

This has helped our mess tremendously. If the basement is chaotic, I know that all that has to happen is that the toys get sorted between two bins/totes. That is a reasonable and accomplishable task. Even for little kids.

Besides the rule of two, how do I keep the chaos of toys from overtaking and reigning in my home?

-Bins for everything-legos, mega blocks, little peoples, wooden blocks, trains, cars, lincoln logs, play mobiles, doll clothes, dress up clothes and random toys. Each type of toy has it's own tote and lid. (/bin-I will use these two words interchangeably in this post). I prefer Rubbermaid 20 gallon totes. I know that some people like clear totes. We have not had as good success with the clear. They have tended to crack and break more easily. The Rubbermaid totes have stood the litmus test of my boys.

I also got rid of our big toy box. Everything got tossed in there. It was the catch all for when I told the boys to pick up their room.

one of our many bins

-If it is broken-throw it away. This eliminates a whole lot of toys. Cars missing wheels. Play Mobile men without hair. Balls without bounce. "They gone." (did you get the DD reference?) Also, for this strategy and the next one, you have to let go of the guilt-of getting rid of something that someone gave you. Some things are meant to be kept forever and some things aren't. If we kept everything we received, we would all be candidates for The Hoarders. (what's with me and my television references today?)

-If it isn't being played with anymore, give it away. My boys used to be into Thomas the Tank Engine with all the accompanying trains and tracks. They haven't played with them for a year or two. Same with the wooden blocks. They have outgrown them. But, they are classic toys in good shape, so I don't want to just burn them. Instead, I am thinking of passing them on to my sister who has a 2 year old son, plus twins, who might really enjoy these. If she has room for them...(now you know, Bek, my nefarious plans...)

-Legos are the toy de jour in our house. And have been for several years. We have tons of legos. Tons of legos multiplies exponentially and covers the floors of the entire house. Which equates to  unsuspecting victims (aka parents) stepping on said legos in bare feet. Excruciating! And have you ever calculated the time it takes to pick up each individual owned lego block, one by one, at a rate of 1 per every 10 seconds. About the average life time, in case you were wondering.

Solution? Play with the legos on a bed sheet. (off the bed) Have a designated flat bed sheet to use only for legos. If they keep the legos on the sheet-which is the rule, then all you have to do is pick the sheet up by the corners and dump the legos in to their bin. This is a life saver, let me tell you!

These days our legos are in the boys' room. They have a lego table for building. If they expand off the table and out into their bedroom, they have to pick up all the loose legos. The models and buildings they are working on can stay assembled-on the table. The loose legos go back into the bin every night before bed time.

-Keep a bin for random toys. One for the girls and one for the boys. These hold all the toys that can't be categorized. But, it is a definable space. When toys start to not fit into the random bin, something has to go. That's the rule.

-Be in a constant state of flux. Toys in, toys out. Hold on to the classics, and what engages the imagination. Get rid of the toys that don't fit your personal criteria.

-Have a place for playing and being creative. This is going to vary from family to family, but I have no toys in my living room. The play areas in our house are the kids' bedrooms and the basement. These areas get a sweeping pick up each night before bed, but they get a good picking up and sorting once a week.

Well, it's that time of the week again...time to sort the toys.