toy cars

I love toys. If I need my hands free for five minutes, a rattle or stuffed animal can be just the ticket to entertain Some Boy for a bit. When he tires of that, a music box or mobile can give me a few more moments of distraction. Every parent relies on the occasional shiny thing to keep their kid occupied in those moments when we need to focus on making dinner or taking a quick shower. How to organize those toys, however, can be tricky. That same toy car that thrills your toddler can also be a magnet for causing twisted ankles. Here are my tip tips for how to organize toys and keep all that clutter at bay:

Toy bins. I love toy bins because even really young children can grasp the concept of sticking an object into a box. No specific sorting required, and all toys are wrangled into one location.

Under-the-bed box. When I was a kid, we had three long boxes under our bed for three main categories of toys: stuffed animals, crafts and everything else.

Limit the toys win an “in and out” rule. When a new toy comes in, an old toy gets donated.

Shelves. We have several shelves around Some Boy's nursery that keep special toys up high so he can only play with them when closely supervised. Lower shelves around the house are easily-accessible to him, so this is a better place to put stuffed animals or things that we don't mind him accessing on his own.

Dedicated toy closet. Similar to the “in and out” rule, this limits the space for toys to avoid the clutter issue altogether. The kids can only keep the toy if they can find space for it in there.

Table cloths. We have a couple free-standing tables in our house that are used for displaying decorative items or corralling mail. Throw a sturdy, washable table cloth over that table and suddenly you have room underneath for a storage bin that would otherwise be considered an eyesore. Now you see it, now you don't!

Corner the market. I lived in a house once where the only way the living room worked was if we had the couch at an angle against a corner. That corner space became the official home of all our large toys and mats that we liked to pull out while watching a movie, and with a tall couch no one could even see our clutter.

Loft it. I had a bunk bed as a kid without a bottom bunk. We actually removed the lower bunk and converted that area to a playspace with tons of storage. Nowadays they make lofted beds with space underneath for a desk. Primarily aimed at college students, this is the perfect solution for keep kids toys where they belong. If you don't feel comfortable with your child being on the top bunk, you can also eliminate the top mattress and stick shelving up there instead.

Use it as decoration. Get a cute wheelbarrow to pile all the toys in and leave it out on display. Organized clutter can actually be really cute.

Make peace with it. In one house we lived in during my childhood, we had a playroom that was ours to do whatever we wanted with. My mom made peace with the fact that that one room was often a complete disaster, but the rest of the house was kept clean. While this sounds like she was giving up, it was actually a good example of boundaries and not needing everything to be perfect all the time. Everything has an appropriate time and place.

Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.