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Conquering Kid Chaos

on June 29, 2013

Do you feel like toys are slowly taking over your home?  Do you wonder where in the world your floor went some days as you survey the amazing mass of stuff that your child or children have strewn about?  How do you contain all that toy clutter?  Do you wonder why your child has infinitely more toys at a young age than you ever did as a child?  How do you contain the kid created chaos?  (Be patient–there are pics at the bottom! Or just take a gander and scroll back up to read all about them).

I am going to qualify this post with one statement:  I still very regularly feel like toys have taken over my life home.  But, I have tried to instill some practices in my daughter and myself–some we do better with than others–to help contain the chaos.  I have three general strategies I try to abide by to keep our house from looking like a mini version of Toys R Us.

1)       Purge.  You may remember this from my 7 Organization strategies post.  As with any organization plan, I firmly believe the less you have the easier it is to be organized.  My daughter and I do this very frequently, and since she was about three she has been very involved in the process.  Before Christmas and her birthday we go through the toys in her room (and other areas of the house) and decide what she actually plays with and what can move on to another child that will get more fun from it than she does.  I try to guide her when I can and even give her a choice, like pick one of these to keep and one to give away.  Beginning this at a young age has helped greatly, because she is very used to the process, but you can probably start this at any age—just be sure to involve your kids.  Another reason why toy give aways have been successful for us is that we always have a pre-determined destination for the items.  Sometimes we pick out things to give to specific friends (we even went on a secret adventure one evening and left stuffed animals in several friends’ mailboxes).  Other times, we select items to donate to the local children’s hospital.  Most recently, a friend of ours had a family member experience a fire that destroyed their home, and they lost everything.  We discussed the issue with my daughter and asked her to pick out toys, books, and stuffed animals to give to the two little kids who had lost everything.  She easily agreed and donated an overflowing large milk crate of her belongings to these two little ones she has never met, and probably never will—and didn’t even bat an eye about it.  I am so proud of her for that and happy that our little system has helped her see the importance of giving to others.

To sum up:  Toys are toys.  Kids outgrow them, and you cannot keep them forever.  Keep the really, really precious ones and find a worthy cause or close family member or friend to pass the other well loved items on to so the fun can continue (Did you see Toy Story 3?).  P.S.  I also feel this way about clothes.  You can see how we saved our daughter’s baby clothes that didn’t include traditional storage.

2)       Contain.  Once you’ve purged down to a reasonable amount, find ways to contain the toy chaos in bins, under bed storage, closet systems, whatever works best for your home.  And then LABEL the areas so your child can learn to put the toys back all by themselves.  When they are younger it may be best to help a bit in this process as it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming (and probably a lot boring) for kids to do on their own—so they may just quit.   Plus, by leading by example, you show your kids exactly what a “clean” room should look like—that way, when they’re older, you can realistically expect them to create “clean” on their own.  I decided to use a combination of picture and word labels as my daughter is still learning to read—the pictures help her know what really goes there and the text helps her learn another sight word.  In my daughter’s room, we have a cube cubby system set up for her toys in the main part of her room, some under bed storage, and a set of bookshelves to hold books and Lego projects in her closet.  We won’t have a play room, so her toys are house in her room and in our living/family rooms.  In the main part of the house, we have more Legos organized by color in plastic pull out drawer compartments, puzzles and games contained in cubes and baskets, and art supplies in boxes in our pantry (this may seem odd but makes the most sense for us, because we do our art projects at our kitchen table).  Almost all of these are labeled clearly, so we know where everything belongs at the end of our play time.

3)      5 Minute Pick Up.  Purging and containing will help with overall organization, but daily maintenance is important too.  Part of my daughter’s daily routine is a 5 minute pick up.  We even added it to her chore chart to make sure we know to do it every day. Check our her chore chart here Quick pick ups help make sure anything left out in any room of the house is put where it belongs before lights out.  I do a longer 10 minute version of this before I go to bed for non kiddo items, but having her help with her own stuff drastically cuts my time down and helps her learn some responsibility.  I am going to confess that I drop the ball on this sometimes, because I am just too plain tired to deal with it, but we try to pick up where we left off the next night.  I am hoping to do much better with this before school starts.  They say a habit forms after 21 days.  Here is to day #1!  In addition to this, try and instill the “don’t get a new thing out until the old thing is put away” process which will in turn cut down on the amount of time needed for the end of night pick up routine.

4)       An additional step is possible.  If you find your kid or kids have way too much stuff—cut down on what is given to them for holidays or by you throughout the year.  See if people could purchase memberships to the Children’s Museum or Zoo as a gift for your family or take your children out on special outings instead of getting more stuff.  One thing I’ve seen out in blog land is to give one thing they want, one thing they need, and one thing to wear.  Again, do whatever works best for you and your family.  I know this is one area I am trying to do better with in our house.  One way I tried was to suggest to people to give items to my daughter that encouraged her to play with toys she already has—like Barbie clothes or furniture or Build A Bear accessories.  For the most part that was pretty successful.  Even though we added more stuff in the process, she now actually plays with both more than she did before which I think makes it worth it in the long run.

Does my daughter’s room look immaculate every day?  No.  Do I sometimes have random, very messing looking projects (all of my daughter’s stuffed animals and baby blankets) spread out on my living room floor for a day or two?  Yes.  Our house doesn’t look like a magazine cover shoot every single day—and I’m ok with that.  That’s impossible and blocks some great creative play.  I hope to strike a happy medium.  My daughter gets to have fun, use her imagination, and play…but everything has a home where it belongs and she learns lifelong skills to keep herself organized.

I am always on the look out for great tips for how to incorporate kids toys into a small bedroom—and a house without a playroom.  So, if you have any great suggestions or know of any great blogs to check out on the topic, let me know!

Here is our cube storage area.  This is an old wire system my husband had and ITSO boxes from target and other boxes from Ikea.  I like the two toned look.

Here is our cube storage area. This is an old wire system my husband had and ITSO boxes from target and other boxes from Ikea. I like the two toned look.  These labels are held on with removable Velcro dots.


Even the under bed storage gets fun labels! I’ve used the same pattern for all of her labels in the house–from her room, to the art supplies in the pantry, and even for her coat and backpack area in our hall closet. (The bed skirt is tucked up a bit to show off the storage–normally it covers the boxes.)

Our kids game basket.  It's located in our living room sort of tucked away but still easy to access.

Our kids game basket. It’s located in our living room sort of tucked away but still easy to access.


Small drawer system for Lego pieces and a large bin to hold all of the vehicles and creations.  One black bin holds Lego instruction books and the other holds puzzles.  These are in our living room and easy to access during play time.

Small drawer system for Lego pieces and a large bin to hold all of the vehicles and other creations. One black bin holds Lego instruction books and the other holds puzzles. These are in our living room for easy to access during play time.






2 responses to “Conquering Kid Chaos

  1. […] in a smaller home is storage for all of your kid stuff (and we only have one!).  I talked about controlling the kid clutter that seems to permeate every room of our house and also how I tackled some storage problems related […]

  2. […] wrote about this briefly in a post from way back called Conquering Kid Chaos–and it fell under the “purge” tip of my Top 7 Organizing Tips–in relation […]

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