By Shannon Burghart

I have always considered myself an unorganized person and those who knew me in college would definitely tell you that neatness was not my strength. However, on a recent visit to my house, my mom commented on how organized I was and I realized that as I’ve gotten more responsibilities in life, I have picked up some pretty helpful organization tips—not out of any sort of brilliance, just necessity. If I was going to keep my sanity, my life could not be a pile of toys, clothes and paper. So, if you feel like you’re drowning in stuff, maybe this series of blogs about organization can help. Today we’ll talk about toys and next month we’ll figure out how to keep kids’ clothes organized.

Toys, toys and more toys …

I hate toy bins. There I’ve said it. Toys bins are giant pits where everything gets thrown and nobody knows where anything is. It’s the early childhood teacher in me—I want my kids to be able to play effectively with all of their toys and hopefully become organized neat people earlier in life than I did.

My solution instead if that I have buckets, bins, and baskets of all sizes in every room where there are toys. And, to ensure that my kids can be responsible for putting things away themselves, I print off pictures of the items that belong in the bins and tape them on everything. Everyone knows where everything goes and anyone, including my husband, my three year old, friends who come over to play, babysitters, etc can put things away properly. Also, just as an aside, I rarely have lids on any of these things because taking the lid off is one extra step to getting them put away. I’m the queen of throwing things from across the room into the proper container.

I go through all of these toys at least twice a year (typically before Christmas and then again sometime in the summer). As I’m going through them, I purge (nothing makes me feel more organized then to purge). Purging is easiest if you can do it when kids are not around, but if you want to be mom of the year and help your kids develop good organization skills, ask them to help. I usually preface this with… we need to make room for Christmas toys, birthday toys, or whatever is coming up that may inspire them to help.

When I purge I go through one bin at a time. If I try to dump them all out or even more than one at a time, I find I make a bigger mess. I never have time to do it all at once, so it all ends up scattered rather than cleaned up. While purging, I have three other boxes or bags with me. The things that are where they belong and that we want to keep, go right back in the bin where they belong. Then everything else goes into one of three boxes:

The first extra box is a get rid of box—anything that my kids have outgrown or no longer want to use, but is still in good order, goes in this box. I love to consign, so this box ultimately becomes a box of toys that I tag for a consignment sale. However, it also works easily if you want to donate them or hand them down to younger friends. The key is that you get rid of them!

The second box is for all the things that aren’t where they belong. Yep, no matter how easy it is to put them where they belong, after six months some things are in the wrong places. So as I move from bin to bin, I put things in this if they’re in the wrong place and return them to the proper bin when I get to it.

The last box is trash. If it’s not in good shape, is missing pieces, or is just too annoying for anyone to have to deal with, it goes in the trash—this bin fills quickly with kids’ meal toys. I am very generous to the trash box! It just feels so good to clear out and restore order!

Finally, to ensure that it’s easy to maintain toy order, I always have bins of all sizes ready to go when new toys come into the house. They don’t find a home until they’re in a container with a label. I stock up on containers when they’re on sale. Stayed tuned for ideas on how to keep your kids’ clothes organized, but first please share your own ideas about how to keep kids toys under control by commenting below.