Home Organization: The Clutter-free Play Zone
Do you know a family who doesn’t struggle with toy clutter? Me, neither. This is especially true for those who live in a city where physical space is limited. Even if you do not have a separate room that you can designate “the playroom,” you can still design a beautiful, functional, and organized space for your children to play. Here are some of my favorite ideas for managing toy clutter without a playroom:
Choose a Space
You don’t need walls to create a play zone. Determine where you want your children to play and then section off this space with a large area rug and/or furniture.
Purge the Clutter
Before you begin to organize the space, you should:
1. Throw away broken toys, and games and puzzles with missing pieces
2. Donate outgrown toys
3. Create a toy rotation for excess. Put 15-20 toys in a large, lidded bin. Put a future date on the box. If your children don’t ask for a toy in the bin by this date, it’s safe to donate them.
Only keep toys in the main play zone that your children play with on a daily or weekly basis.
Generally, keep like with like (e.g., blocks, cars, dolls, etc.), and collections and sets together. You can also sort based on your child’s play habits. If you notice that your child plays with cars and planes at the same time, for example, then feel free to store those types of toys together.
This is the fun part! Choose bins and baskets that match your décor for a seamless look. Open bins or baskets with handles make it easy for children of all ages to grab and put back. An 8 or 12-cube organizer is great way to organize bins or baskets of collections. A low bookcase is an optimal way to store large, stand-alone toys (and get them off the floor!)
For items like play kitchens, get smaller bins or baskets that fit inside the refrigerator or stove to separate and organize play food, utensils, etc.
Only use large toy boxes for a few large toys. Otherwise, your children have to tip the box over to find the small toys they’re looking for and the toys on the bottom won’t ever be played with.
Label, Label, Label
If it can be labeled, label it! For pre-readers, use picture labels. Labels will be THE difference between an orderly play space and a cluttered, disorganized one. Have your children help you makes the labels or purchase some printable ones on Etsy for a few dollars.
Corral the Books
Whether you organize them on a small bookcase, caddy or in a crate, books also need a designated space. Do you have a large collection? Keep 15-20 books out and place the others in the children’s room(s) or in a storage bin and rotate the collection. Add a little chair or over sized pillow to create a reading nook.
Give a tour of the space to your children and any other adults who will be playing in the space and picking up with your children so you can explain your system.
Get your children in the habit of putting a toy back in it’s designated spot when s/he is done playing with it. Explain that putting their current toy(s) away will give them more space to play with their next toy. Children, like adults, become overwhelmed by clutter. They also get upset when they can’t find their favorite toy. This habit will help to cut down on frustration AND dramatically decrease the amount of time you spend cleaning up at night.
Purge on a more regular basis. When the bin of cars is full, for example, let that be your cue that it’s time to purge. Do not buy another bin for the cars! A good purge before your child’s birthday or gift giving holidays is a great habit to put into practice.