Is your house drowning in too many toys? Before you twist an ankle on Lego on the floor or give away all your kids’ toys, read this for ideas on how you can downsize and organize all those toys.
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I generally love our frugal little house. We live in a cute brick bungalow with hardwood floors and a brick fireplace with set-in bookshelves on either side. Our home is cozy and warm and charming. It’s also 850 square feet.
Which means toys can get out of control pretty fast.
If I lived by myself, I would have a much sparser house. I like empty space, and just less stuff overall. But I have a husband and a preschooler and is simplicity harder when you have a family? I think so. Living with other people means figuring out what works overall for everyone.
I have a few systems in place that work well to prevent the buildup of too many toys, while still having a warm, playful, real-life home.
(If you want to skip ahead, this is my absolute favorite way to store toys)
How many toys does the average child have?
I can answer that one: in North America, probably more than they need. Kids make toys out of anything. I am a huge supporter of the idea that it is okay for kids to feel bored some of the time. I think the fact that we don’t always rush to cure our daughter’s boredom makes it a tiny bit easier on us when we go on long family road trips.
It’s not bad for them or detrimental to their well-being – in fact it’s the opposite. Unstructured play fosters their creativity and imagination and helps build resilience.
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Is toy minimalism even possible?
I know for us, I aspire to have less clutter and less toy clutter than we currently have. But we are not aiming for toy minimalism. If I was single without a partner or a child, I would absolutely want less things around me. I like a minimalist look with empty space. That makes me happy.
But I live in a house with two other people and one of them happens to be a preschooler. I want to live in a house that’s full of experiences and play for her. Kids learn through play so yes I want toys around, even if sometimes to me it feels like clutter.
How many is too many toys?
This is very individual and only you can answer this. If it feels like you’re suffocating in toys, it’s too many toys. If you constantly trip over toys it’s possible you could use better toy organizing but it’s also possible there are just too many toys.
People with smaller houses (like us!) just won’t be able to comfortably fit as many toys as a house three times our size. After a celebration that involves getting gifts (birthdays, Christmas) it can feel cluttered if we don’t do something about it.
If you have more areas than just toys you need to organize, this post on how to organize your life is SO helpful!
What toys to keep
Here are some things we’re trying, to prevent too many toys from overtaking our house:
One in/one out policy
This is a little rule I have liked to live by for many years. Clutter can stress me out and this policy helps so much. Whenever I buy something that is not food, I get rid of something of my own that is already in the house. If I get a new purse, I donate an old purse. Same goes with books or clothing. I’m pretty reliable with this because I get pleasure from not living with (too much) clutter, and again, we live in an 850 square foot house.
My hope is that this is something my daughter will see me doing and will want to do herself when she gets a bit older. I have no idea if this will work, but all I can do is set the example, and try to encourage her. Last December was the first time I started really telling her about this one in/one out game (because a game sounds much more fun than a policy!) I told her she would be getting new toys for Christmas and was there one toy she could pass along (to her little cousin). She thought about it, looked through her toys, couldn’t find anything.
I didn’t want to push her so I just waited to see what she would do. She picked out a large orange plastic arrow that was barely a toy, handed it to me and said “this.” I wanted to support her because even though to me this looked like not very much of a toy sacrifice, to her this was probably a big deal. It was the first thing she ever volunteered to get rid of, to let go. I thanked her and we tucked it away to give to her cousin.
Tell people no gifts
I have mixed feelings about this one even though we do it. For her 3rd birthday party this year we have invited people and told them no gifts. That way we still celebrate her, she gets to party with her little friends, but we don’t have as much excess afterwards. We will still get her gifts and immediate family will too. There is no way my parents would ever not get their granddaughter a gift on her birthday – the thought would upset my very festive mother so much!
I’ll be honest, part of me likes the idea of her getting gifts from her birthday party. It’s never obligated of course but opening gifts can be a fun part of parties. If our house was a bit bigger I might feel differently about this point. We also might change this when she’s in school but for now this works well for us.
Having a toy rotation system can really help with the visual clutter of too many toys.
This is something we do that I love. I bought some big plastic bins and filled them up with toys, books, and games that were lying around. Then I stored them away. I was not super intentional about what toys were put into the bins. At first I was going to curate the bins based on how old they were or how much she currently plays with them. While all that is great, I just didn’t have time for it and I knew that would delay me starting a toy rotation system. So I just took an area of a room, and put those toys away. If she missed certain ones, I took those ones out and replaced them with something else.
Rotating toys is not 100% foolproof for us because now that our daughter has gotten older she knows where all the other toy bins are. And can help herself to the ones at her level. But whatever, the idea isn’t to deprive her of her toys, but to cycle through them so they are not all out at once. If there is something she wants and asks for, I will get it down for her.
How to declutter toys with smart storage hacks
This stuffed animal storage beanbag chair is my favorite toy organizing hack! I absolutely love this stuffed animal storage idea and looking at the over 1,300 5-star reviews on Amazon, I am not alone. It is amazing for hiding stuffed animals, keeps them clean and out of the way, AND it becomes a comfy chair for your child to lounge on. I can’t say enough good things about this storage chair – I love it!! The fabric is strong, the zipper is strong too, and it’s held up well with our very enthusiastic (subtext: not always gentle) preschooler.
This stuffed animal storage bean bag chair seriously holds a crazy amount of stuffed animals. It’s also a great place to store extra quilts and blankets and even extra pillows.
I bought the extra-large beanbag chair and doing it over again I probably would have been fine with the large. Our house is small, our rooms are small and the large would have been big enough for us. But I’m sure she has more stuffed animals in her future and this chair will accommodate that! If you have more space, the XL would probably be great for you.
I love the grey and white pattern of the one we bought and there are lots of other great colors too.
We are super into puzzles over here with our preschooler. Our daughter adores puzzles and gets new puzzles for birthdays and Christmas. If you have a lot of puzzles, a puzzle storage rack is super helpful to keep puzzles organized. This metal wire puzzle storage rack holds up to 12 puzzles.
This storage hammock for stuffed animals is a genius idea for keeping fuzzy friends off the floor and out of the way. The stuffed animals stay cleaner and your child has more floor space. This is a great toy storage idea for small rooms.
Though I might aspire to have a minimalist kid’s room for our daughter, it’s probably not going to happen in our household. So I try to be mindful of the toys that come into our house, and have smart toy storage solutions to prevent our house from being overrun by too many toys.
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