Today, I decided to work on toy mayhem. If you don’t have any children at home, good news: take this week off! Or, you can keep working on organizing your storage room!
So, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Please don’t go there!’. I hear you, I, too, cringe when it’s time to pick up and organize toys. For many, it is complicated to come up with a good toy organization plan. But I promise you, I will keep this week’s assignment short and sweet.
For this assignment -and for many to come- we are going to practice Peter Walsh’s four pillars of organization. These four pillars are going to help us keep focused and execute our toy organization assignment effectively. Let me show you how in 4 easy steps.
1. Vision: How Do You Want The Space To Look?
The first thing you need to do is picture your ideal play area. In other words, you need to have a vision. Decide how you want the space to look and take it from there. Each household is different. You probably have (or don’t) a designated playroom at your home. If you do, lucky you! I am sure you can do wonders with it. If you don’t, don’t fret there is always a solution.
At home, we have a den that could have been the perfect playroom for our boy, but we turned it into our home office/my studio. So, we had to play with the space we had left in the house. I had a clear vision of what I wanted for my son, and after a few trials and errors, we came up with a system that works for everyone.
Here are some useful tips:
- Think of your children’s needs and preferences in toys. Do they need a lot of floor space for building train tracks and structures? Do they need a table for arts and crafts? Do they need lots of storage to save craft supplies, little Lego® parts, or Barbie® doll accessories?
- Think of the area that works best for you and for your needs. Do you want your children to play in their rooms or do you want them to have a designated and common play area that is not their bedrooms?
- Think about play dates. When your children’s (and your) friends come over to play, do you have enough room to accommodate them? If you don’t, think about how to make playtime comfortable for adults and children alike.
2. Function: How Does The System Work for You?
The second thing you need to think of is function. Look at the area you currently use as a playroom and ask yourself a simple question: Is this functional? Don’t just pick a room or an empty area in your home and turn it into a playroom without analyzing all the pros and cons of having it set up there.
Here is what I am trying to say. When our son was a baby that had to be under constant supervision, I had three play areas set up at home. One downstairs (in a little corner that was a total disaster) and two upstairs: one in my office and one in his bedroom. Whenever I was working, he was with me in the office, where I had designated cubbies in my bookcase for his toys. Or we would play in his nursery.
Fast forward a few years, and many things changed. He got taller, and the small train table wasn’t a good fit for him anymore. He still loves his trains and creates his train tracks layouts, but he needed more room to expand, and we definitely needed more toy storage than before.
At the same time, we were remodeling our home office/studio, and we took away a lot of floor space for him. Since he is older now and he can play without constant supervision, I eliminated all the toys from my office and created a bigger play area downstairs in the family room.
By turning around our couch in the family room, we created and organized a much bigger playroom area. The couch acts as a room divider, so the play mat and toy catastrophe are not the first thing you see when you walk into the room.
So, while you declutter your children’s toy pile and think of a toy organization system, think about functionality. Here are some tips:
- Think of the number of play areas that you need. One area or room will be perfect for a one-level home. Otherwise, you will most likely need to have more than one play area for your children.
- Think of the ease of access. Is it easy to walk around the area? Do you need to walk past the play area to access another room (or anything) in the house? When designating a play area, think of corners or areas in your home where there is zero or minimal traffic.
- Think of safety. Can you easily supervise your children while they play? Can you perform other tasks (working on the computer or cooking dinner) while they play without having to sacrifice supervision?
3. Zones: Define Zones Within the Playroom
Now that you have set your vision and function and decided on an area where your children will play, you need to define zones. Now, you are going to call me anal, crazy, nuts, or think I am ‘out of my mind!’; but trust me on this one. Zones are the key to raising a tidy kid.
Zones are designated spaces for certain things and tasks. A toy storage unit can help you define zones and limits (more on limits later). When I purchased the Ikea Trofast system for my son’s bedroom, I never imagined how it would help me tremendously in defining zones and how it would instill a sense of tidiness in my son’s little mind.
In our playroom, we have a toy storage unit with 12 plastic bins. You can find a similar one here* (affiliate link). The bins help us define different zones for tracks, trains, cars, balls, building blocks, etc.
You may think that kids will not pay attention to the system and that they are not likely to put toys back (if they put them back at all) where they belong when they are done playing. You are right!. Most of the toys will end up mixed in all the bins. But, by defining said zones, every time you and your child clean up, you are raising awareness, and teaching your child that when we put things back where they belong, it is easier to find them at a later time.
They might not do it, nor pay attention to the zones system for quite some time, but you will see that later, their mind will try to go find that train inside the train bin, because they have a photographic memory – so to speak- of where things are supposed to be. And they will try to put those toys back in their designated zone, because they know for a fact that next time it will be easier to find them.
Here are some tips to help you define your zones.
- Think of the activities. If your children like arts and crafts, create a zone where you will set a table and chairs, and add a storage unit where you can define zones for: crayons and markers, paper, paint, scissors and glue, etc.
- Think of favoritism. If there is a toy (or a set) that your children like (and play) more than with anything else, make it all about that toy. Find a room or closet where you can put away other toys and rotate them every once in a while to keep them excited.
- Think of imaginative play. Use your zones wisely and dedicate space for toys that will promote imaginative and educational play. Our son loves building train tracks (imaginative play) and I defined zones for him to let that imagination fly. I keep mindless toys, such as push cars or action figures to the minimum.
4. Limits: When You Have Too Much
Last but not least, you need to set your limits. This is the last, but probably most important step of this toy organization assignment. Define your limits, and you will realize that you probably have too much. While I am a big fan of storage units – and especially hidden storage– there is a time when you have to say ‘no more.’
Our toys are limited to 3 areas in our home: the playroom, the garage and our son’s bedroom. And that is a lot! – If it doesn’t fit, it has to go!
If you are blessed with a big house, a big playroom, and big closets, I can totally understand that you don’t see the reason why you should be getting rid of some toys. However, setting limits is important to avoid having a cluttered playroom – and home! If you convince yourself (and your children) that there is no room to store this or that, you will learn how to compromise and keep what matters most. Here are some tips:
- Think future use. Ask yourself if you are keeping toys because of their sentimental value or maybe because a sibling ( or a niece, nephew, neighbor) could use later. If so, sort an decide what to keep and what to give. Keep only those toys that are played with frequently.
- Think about the less fortunate. Consider donating toys that are not longer being played with, or those toys that have several pieces, not even your kids want them anymore.
- Think irreparable. If its broken, it is missing pieces or simply does not function properly, toss it. A malfunctioning toy could be hazardous.
Now You Are Ready to Organize all the Toys!
Now you know: Vision, Function, Zones, and Limits are the four pillars – and steps- you should follow this week. It will make the toy organization process so much easier!
Here are some articles you might be interested in:
- The Secret to Home Organization Success
- Toy Organization with the Ikea Trofast
- How To Organize Your Home – Free Printable