I'm overrun by toys. My kids don't play with half of them, especially the stuffed animals. I have 4 garbage bags full of stuffed animals and literally hundreds of books. Then there's the wooden blocks, Lego's, ponies, dress up clothes, masks, hats, Bratz and Barbies, plastic animals, dinosaurs, play dishes and food, dolls with clothes and accessories, and various vehicles. There is educational toys, outside toys, puzzles, board games, and many baby toys.
I just want to give it all away, especially all those stuffed animals. How do I get it all organized? My house isn't very big, so there isn't a lot of extra storage space. I am also on a budget, so I don't want to spend a great deal of money just to organize toys. Please tell me how to get these toys under control.
Living in a toy box
Dear Toy Box,
The very first thing you need to do is sort through the toys. You can not get organized until you know exactly what you have. Start by creating FOUR piles for your project. You might consider doing this when none of your children are around to argue the value of a specific toy that you know they never play with. If they don't see you discard it, then they will probably never even miss it.
PILE #1 is for all the toys that are broken or missing pieces. Do not over think this. If it is broken, you toss it, regardless of the possibility that you may be able to fix it. It is best to set up a trash can in the spot for pile #1 so you can simply throw these objects directly into the trash.
PILE #2 is for all the toys that are outgrown or the kids just don't like them anymore. You have multiple options for this set of toys. You can sell them in a yard sale or consignment store if you are in a good location. However, I advise that you donate these items. You can use the donation as a tax break at the end of the year if you get a receipt and less fortunate children will receive some much needed toys. Your local Department of Family and Children Services is the best spot for donating outgrown toys and clothes because they have such a large volume of children that are removed from homes and never allowed to bring their own things with them. You can also donate to a local thrift store if you wish or if you have friends that are in need, then that is a viable option as well (though not tax deductible).
PILE #3 is for all the toys that you are unsure of. You don't know if you want to get rid of it or keep it. You just can't decide. You know if you ask your kids that they will demand to keep it all (even the broken and outgrown). After you finish sorting everything, you put all these toys in boxes and put them away for a couple of months. After some time has passed, you revisit the boxes to determine if anything still holds its appeal. Then you deal with these items accordingly.
PILE #4 is for all the toys that you are keeping. This pile can be broken into sub-categories: outgrown, but can't part with; still play with regularly; still play with occasionally.
After you have sorted all your toys, you need to decide how to organize the things you have chosen to keep. The best way to do this is to purchase clear containers with lids and then label those containers according to what goes inside. Most dollar stores sell plastic shoe boxes that just happen to be the perfect size for storing small toys. Larger boxes can be purchased at Wal-Mart.
(If you don't have a dollar store near you, see if a friend has one near them and would be willing to purchase and mail the boxes to you. If that fails, feel free to email me and I would be happy to arrange for the purchase and shipping of the boxes as I have several Dollar Trees near me.)
The outgrown toys that hold special value should be boxed up and stored. If storage space is a premium, you can put this box under the bed for safe-keeping.
After you have your boxes, begin sorting the toys into separate boxes based on what they are. All the ponies in one box and all the cars in another. The dinosaurs over here and the Lego's over there. You get the idea, right.
When everything is sorted, you explain to your children that it is their responsibility to put their toys away when they are finished with them. Here is where you have to be a bit harsh. Tell them ahead of time that any toys left out at the end of the day will be rounded up and donated to the local DFCS without regard to what the toy may be. Of course, the only way this will work is if you follow through. Trust me when I say that the very first time a treasured toy is donated because somebody failed to put it away will be the very last time anybody fails to put their things away. To be fair, you should remind your children for the first few weeks of your new rule before you take any action. After 6 to 8 weeks, though, they should have figured out what the new rule is and be able to comply.
Be prepared to spend two or more days on this project if your toys have completely overrun your house. The key to finishing the project is pacing yourself and playing some really good music while you work. A good bottle of wine may help, too. And don't forget the chocolate! Chocolate makes everything better. If you have a friend that is willing to help, company will make the job easier to complete.
For more great suggestions, visit Gohn Crazy. I came across her article while researching ways to organize toys.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008