Organize It! Organizing Room by Room – How to Tackle Toy Clutter and Teach Kids How to Organize


Finding it tough to get organized? Join us for a new Organize It! series on Organizing Room by Room. In this series, we ask the professionals to guide you through the process of decluttering and organizing your space room by room!

This week in Organize It! we tackle toy clutter in kid bedrooms and the playroom and teach kids how to organize!

Children should come with warning labels that read: “Caution: This tiny person may attract copious amounts of clutter!” Most soon-to-be parents are prepared for poopy diapers, sleepless nights and spit-up on every item of clothing, but what they don’t tell you in the baby books is the awful truth about toys!

The toys that arrive with visits from grandparents, the toys that serve as substitute bows on gifts, the toys tucked INSIDE other toys! Between holidays, birthdays and other miscellaneous special occasions, parents are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toys! An organizing challenge indeed!

Organizing Room by Room: Tips on Organizing the Playroom

When organizing your home, it’s best to take a room-by-room approach instead of trying to tackle the entire project at once. That way you will both see the benefits and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the daunting task of organizing a house from top to bottom.

Often where parents go wrong in tackling toy clutter and keeping toys organized is they neglect to sort and purge on an ongoing basis to control volume and they never take the time to set up systems that involve the kids. If you want your kids to help maintain the system, it’s best to involve them in the organizing process.

Organize It Step #1: Pick One Room and Schedule Ample Time

Start your organizing project in one specific area, like the playroom or kid bedrooms, and give yourself enough time to complete the entire room. Nothing is worse than getting to the halfway point where the mess is at a maximum and running out of time.

Resist the temptation to start your organizing project by shopping for containers BEFORE you sort and purge. The reason is you will likely overbuy based on the current volume, not on the end result, or you may just plain buy the wrong system!

Organize It Step #2: Sort into Categories

Sort toys into categories: current favorite, keepsake, give away (or store for future siblings) and broken toys. For example, the age-appropriate toys that are played with everyday count as current favorites; whereas, the toys they have outgrown, but are well-loved may be kept as keepsakes and displayed. The purpose of organizing isn’t to get rid of everything – just to make what you do have easier to access and the spaces more functional.

If your children are under the age of 3, sort without them and if over the age of 3, start the sorting process without them so you can remove broken toys beforehand. Do not pack toys for donation in transparent containers so as to avoid toys being remembered and rescued before they leave the house permanently.

Organize It Step #3: Source Containers and Storage Systems

Match a container system to your requirements. Clear bins make matching toys for clean up easier, especially for little ones who can’t yet read. Alternatively, if you don’t have clear bins, use pictures for kids who can’t read and chalkboard labels for those who can.

For toddlers too many toys, try storing and swapping half, bringing out the ‘new’ set when your child loses interest in the current ones. Not only does this make cleaning up easier, it saves you money by using the novelty of new things from the storage bin over new toy purchases.

Organize It Step #4: Daily Maintenance and Tidying

Establish a regular routine for sorting and putting away toys. Easy to remember times are right after playtime or before bedtime.

Even if your kids aren’t able to help out, model the behavior you want to teach them – little eyes and ears are a quick study when it comes to organizing. Teaching kids early how to manage clutter is a skill they will use for a lifetime!

Organize It Step #5: Schedule Regular ‘Sort and Purge’ Sessions

Schedule a monthly maintenance check-in to evaluate if your storage system is working as expected and adjust as required. Set up regular sort, purge and store days to stay on top of toy clutter.

For kids under the age of 2, every 3 to 6 months is best because they outgrow toys so quickly. For older kids, every 6 months as well as pre- or post-gifting seasons to make room for new toys.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to organize a space. The important thing is it has to work for you and your family. By involving them in the organizing process, you not only get their ‘buy in’, but you teach them how to maintain it (meaning less work for you in the long run)!

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About Author

Cindy Lund Chow, owner of P3vantage, helps small businesses maximize their human capital, designing and facilitating performance and training programs. Working within the organization, she helps companies with their sales performance, on-boarding, leadership, and teamwork. Building on her career in performance and learning, she works with management to integrate their strategic direction into a learning and performance program. A professional facilitator, and performance coach, she helps organizations translate their human capital investment into bottom line results. Got human capital questions? Find Cindy on twitter @cindylundchow!


  1. Happily, I’ve been doing a number of your tips already. I keep an eye on my son and when he stops playing with something I pull it and donate or store it. Every now and then he has surprised me and asked for something back–but not often. I think the age recommendation of 3 is a good one. My son is 4-1/2 and we’ve had discussions about how there are children who do not have as much as he does and how nice it is to share. I did this prior to his birthday and then at Christmas last year and he willingly participated. The only glitch there was that he wanted to see the children who would receive his toys. That part I could not figure out–so I need to work on it. If you have ideas, please share! Thanks.

  2. Hi Andrea,
    Great to hear that you have a system that is working so well for you!! That is the key to staying organized!! And so wonderful that you have done such a great job with getting your sons buy in to help others – it is learning that will serve him and the world as he grows up!! As for a suggestion on how to accomplish your son’s request. I have had clients who have taken their children down to a family shelter to see where their donations go. If you are doing this, I would call ahead first. If this is not up your alley, you could also go to a thrift store that takes donations and arrange for a staff member to talk about the families that use their services. We are a bit far from it time wise, but our family has started a tradition were we attend a toy drop off charity event at xmas so that our son can see others giving as well. If one of these suggestions doesn’t work, I would just keep talking about the good he is doing and how proud you are of him for making a difference in another child’s life. You are doing such a great job Andrea!! My best wishes to you and your family!

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