21 Ways to Tame the Toys

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter
{ original image via Lee on Flickr }


Are tiny dinosaurs invading your living room? Have you turned down your bed linen to find a naked Barbie? Do you know first-hand the expletive-riddled pain of stepping on Lego in the middle of the night?

For the love of all things plastic, let’s tame the toys!

Every week I get dozens of emails from people who need help with decluttering. Sometimes it’s their wardrobes, sometimes their office. But the biggest issue many people ask for help with is toys. 

Our kids are only young – 2 and 4 – and while I have a pretty good handle on how to keep their toy chaos to a minimum, I know each age and stage has its challenges. Many of which we haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing yet.

So I have once again engaged the group wisdom of my readers (yes, you!) and turned to Facebook.  Last week I asked you for your best toy-taming tips and, as ever, you didn’t disappoint me with your answers.

Just a Note: Not all of these tips will apply to you – it depends on the ages of your kids, the amount of toys you already own and the number of new toys your kids receive each year. 

21 Ways to Tame the Toy Clutter

1. I could say pass them on to my sisters…BUT that would not be the right answer would it, Brooke? (Michelle M. is actually my sister. So, no, Mich. Definitely not.)

2. Keep it simple and in big chunks (no micro-organising).  Get them involved. You can read more about it in this blog post. (Cassie @ Working Order)

3. Keep fewer toys out for your children to play with. Too many just overwhelms them. Keep some stored away. Then every few weeks switch out the toys. Your children will have renewed interest in the toys that were stored away. You also won’t have countless toys cluttering your house. (AnnMarie GM)

4. We purge often and use bins. I do not organize the bins but just toss them in there. My kids don’t play in “sets” so to speak so it would just waste my time and frustrate me. (Karen WE)

5. Don’t buy so many! But it is hard when your kids are given so many lovely pressies all the time. (Kristin @ Mamacino)

6. Buy wood and metal toys only and request that to friends / family. They last longer, can be updated via paint and can be heirlooms. Also storage cubes with baskets are awesome! (Louisa Jane W)

7. Don’t let the grandparents take the kids shopping – that is where most of our toys come from! (Michelle Leanne B)

8. I recently did a huge cull and now only have a few toys in each of the kids’ rooms – it has made an amazing difference in the reduction of clutter, the kids don’t have a million things to choose from and they’re playing outside a lot more. (Deb @ Aspiring Mum)

9. My son is only 9mo old, but i have started to bag up and store toys he has grown out of and bored with (the good quality ones, I tossed a few silly ones that never were played with) until the next baby comes along. That way I’m not wasting those toys, but I’m not letting them clutter up our house. Also, for his first birthday, I am going to request that if people bring gifts, they should bring him a favorite book. (Emily FS)

10. I removed a shelf from the bottom of an old cupboard to convert it into a study/storage area for our 5 year old son. I painted the the bottom shelf in gloss to make it a wipeable desk and painted the inside. I used a combination of see-through tubs and baskets, and left the rest of the toys viewable so he can request the things he would like to play with. I keep certain things grouped too for easy selection. (Michelle LW)

11. Wait til your child is at school or away, then pull out things from the back of the cupboard that are no longer played with or have been grown out of. Pack them out of sight and rearrange those staying so a fresh look is noticed. Missing items not requested after 3 months progress to the loft or garage, en route to another home or toy recycle session. (Helen N)

12. Be SELECTIVE about what comes into your home. Involve kids when purging – we do this twice a year – once before their birthday, and the second time before Christmas.  I never sneak toys out when they aren’t around. I don’t think they learn how to part with things that way. (Amy BU)

13. A couple of years ago, we started to give our kids (now 8 & 10) experiences for special occasions vs. a ton of toys. Tickets to traveling Broadway shows, etc. They do get a couple of things to open, but it’s minimal. My daughter (8), really looks forward to what her next experience will be. We have a large book collection. I placed a basket under the shelves and when they are done with a book they place it in the basket to GO. (Amy BU)

14. Limit the amount of useless toy presents. I give out a wish-list for my son’s birthday and Christmas, with tips for what toys/books would be appropriate for his developmental stage and what clothes he needs for the next six months or so. I make it very clear to relatives that I prefer clothes or other useful presents. This is economically helpful for me, and my son loves clothes, so both are happy! (Ane FS)

15. My children are 6 and 10 and we have a rule, one new toy equals one pass on to younger friends/charity. (Jody M)

16. We have a rule that we only buy them stuff for Christmas and birthdays, and ask family to buy them experiences whenever they buy gifts. (Rebecca M @ Clear Space Organising)

17. What worked the best for us (after decluttering) was to always make toys easier to put away than they are to get out. Works for shoes too. (Ellane W)

18. Start with less, add less. Enjoy time with each other. Interaction is a fab way to learn and develop. Eat together, talk together, read together.  Teach your children by example – don’t have loads of stuff yourself and treasure what you have. If it’s not beautiful or useful, don’t bring it home (Alic B)

19. Add to savings account on birthdays or Christmas so kids can choose for themselves when older. My daughter is 14 and loves photography so she has just been able to afford her first great camera. I’m still the signatory on her account. (Alic B)

20. Let them play with potatoes, cups, stones and pegs. I know two beautiful boys who prefer stuffing the washing machine for their mum instead of red plastic cars – at the age of three and one. (Laura NA)

21. A tradition when my (now 25yrs old) son was little, we would sort through his toys a few months before Christmas and decide what he wanted to donate to kids who couldn’t afford toys. He enjoyed helping others and it also made room for new toys later from Santa. (Tammy F)

I was going to add a few of my own tips and suggestions, but considering the incredible group wisdom on offer here, I think I’ll make a Part Two to this series next week. I wouldn’t want to overload you with awesome.

In the meantime, do you have any favourite toy-taming clutter tips? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

4 Responses to 21 Ways to Tame the Toys

  1. Brooke, I think you will find that right now your children have more toys than they will as they get older. My boys liked things they could learn from. We had some science experiment kits and lots of books. Now I am a grandmother. What the grandchildren love the most when visiting are the things we can do together. I have art paper, save toilet paper rolls to craft with, we garden, and I rotate books I get from the library. We spend a lot of time outdoors and even cook together. For an upcoming birthday/Chrismtas present I am giving dance classes which are very affordable (1 hour weekly for $20 per month).

  2. What’s worked for us is to place a “please no presents” on birthday invites & request Grandparents give 1 present for holiday/birthday. Then we give away toys when he’s no longer playing with them.

  3. Join a Toy Library and borrow toys!
    I’m in Australia and there are numerous Toy Libraries around the country. For a small membership fee we borrow toys on a fortnightly basis – imagine being a child and being allowed to choose new toys every 2 weeks!

  4. Such a great list of ideas!
    I have a 4 and 5 year old — toys are an issue! Have to say most come from the grandparents… I would love experiences for presents instead of toys. I need to start suggesting that one!

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