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How to Organize a Playroom (And Defeat Toy Clutter)

Playrooms! Eek! Just saying the word can cause stress levels to rise for clients (and me, if I’m being totally honest). How do you organize a playroom?! Where on earth do you even start?!

Graphic with a photo of a bookcase and colorful books with the title, 'How to Organize a Playroom.

If you’re reading this blog post, I imagine you’re in the same boat. Your kids’ playroom is completely stressing you out, and it’s high time you do something about it. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. If you’re wondering how to organize a playroom, let me share some of my top tips with you.

Does this sound familiar?

Not only do your kids have too many toys, but those toys are everywhere. All the time. You put them away, but within an hour they’re all out (again!). You assume your children must be conspiring against you; they couldn’t possibly be this messy unintentionally, right?

Photo of an organized kids' playroom with a teepee.

You think to yourself, “Do I have the time or energy to clean all this up yet again?” The reality is, no – you don’t. There are many, many other things you need and want to do. So, you ignore the mess. 

All day, and then the next day, and before you know it every floor in your house is covered in Legos, dolls, puzzles, crayons, and robots. You thought surely as the kids got older this toy burden would lessen. Yet, somehow, it hasn’t.

Especially if your child has a birthday coming up (or worse, the holidays!), this toy situation could potentially get so much worse. Something’s gotta give so you don’t go insane. You have to get rid of some of these toys. 

Lessons from a Kids’ Storybook

I know what you’re thinking: “How many toys do kids really need?! Surely we can cut back somewhere.”  

Photo of white shelf with white bins and colorful children's books.

There’s a cute children’s book about this called Too Many Toys, by David Shannon. It’s a great book to read with your kids, especially if they’re younger (Preschool to Grade 2), before you start organizing the playroom. 

In the book, the main character, Spencer, has a toy collection that’s gone totally out of control and it’s causing a major headache for his parents. He knows it’s time to give some of the toys away, but he struggles to decide what should stay and what should go. In the end, he donates a box full of toys. 

While that’s a great start, one box of donated toys isn’t going to solve this mess. You have to be ruthless about purging. So, how do you choose what should stay and what should go?

Step 1 in How to Organize a Playroom: Choosing what to toss + keep

First of all, there are two no-brainer categories when it comes to toys that should be donated:

  1. All of the toys that your kids have outgrown
  2. All of the toys that your kids never play with for more than 20 seconds

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Okay, Corinne, that’s a great start. But that still leaves… a lot of toys.”

Photo of a toy corner in a kids room.

One of my friends came up with the brilliant idea of giving her kids’ toys an expiration date. This doesn’t mean writing an actual expiration date on each toy. But, it does mean rotating out toys once they’ve been in circulation for a while. Before each major toy-expectant holiday, you can donate all the toys that have been in your playroom for, say, over a year. 

The reality is that kids appreciate new toys more (and actually play with them) when they have fewer choices.

What if my child still plays with it?

I can already anticipate your push back: “But my child still plays with it, sometimes!” That might be true. But if your house is overrun by toys, whether or not your child plays with a toy isn’t a helpful metric for making decisions. 

Consider how many toys can reasonably fit in your home, and ensure that’s the MAXIMUM amount of toys you keep at any time. 

What about sentimental toys?

Of course, there will be exceptions to this. There are a handful of special toys that remain constant throughout the years, and those should certainly stay. But the rest should move on, even if they’re in perfect working condition. 

I tell clients to get one large plastic bin that you fill with your child’s baby keepsakes, including a few special toys. The rest should be donated.

Should I involve my kid in the purging process?

I think you should, but it’s ultimately up to you. My kids know this is the natural rhythm of toys in our house, so I usually seek their input (thereby avoiding some future meltdowns). 

Photo of a white shelf with bins of toys.

There might be tears, but remind them that all these toys are going to live in a new home to make other children happy. That usually sweetens it for them.

Step 2 in How to Organize a Playroom: Organizing what’s left

For the toys that are remaining, here are my super simple toy organizing tips:

  • Group like-items together.
  • Use bins and label them. This not only promotes literacy, but it also allows kids to practice responsibility by putting things back in the right spot.
  • Think about how your kids use the toys. If they tend to play with several at once (small cars, for example), keep them in a bucket where they’re all easily accessible.
  • Keep stuffed animals in a large basket for easy access, and easy stuffing.
  • Get creative about Legos. Legos seem to be the bane of many moms’ existences. Think about how your kids play with them, either free-building or in sets, and organize accordingly. IKEA and The Container Store sell great storage solutions for Legos. 
  • Keep some toys out. Larger items that are played with one at a time can be left out on display.
  • Don’t forget the books! Always keep books near toys to send the message that reading is a fun playtime activity, too.

Ready to get organized?

If you learned nothing else from reading this, please know this: it is not your job to clean up the toys. It is your child’s. 

Yes, they might need help and guidance. Yes, they might need constant reminders. But part of being an adult is cleaning up after ourselves, and we learn that as children. And it is infinitely easier for children to clean up when they know exactly where something should go. That’s why setting up a toy system in your playroom is so important!

You've got this, friend!

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