Traditionally, when children are involved with household chores the desired outcome is hard to reach. However, a playroom set up with easy systems can be kept reasonably organized or at the very least, cleaned in a hurry when guests visit.
One important thing to remember when it comes to toys is that toys are meant to be played with. Over the years I have had clients who only care about clear surfaces with everything out of sight. They have basement playrooms that look beautiful but always question why their kids “never go down there”. Yes, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to the playroom.
The Right Amount
One of the tricks to toy management is dealing with quantity. When we think back to all those birthday presents, holiday gifts and you-had-to-get-a-flu-shot bribery toys, the amount really adds up. All in all, toys are inexpensive and if you have a lot of relatives, that can amount to over thirty toys from a single birthday party.
You are the captain of the house and can control what comes in (I know — easier said than done). I know what you’re thinking, “this is hard because my kids love each and every toy.” However, if you observe how your child actually plays and exactly what toys they play with, decisions can be made. Do you have similar toys? Are some of the toys missing pieces or otherwise broken? How much time do they play? If they are in school with homework, dinner, and screens during the week, playtime is already very limited. The weekends bring soccer and karate plus carnivals and playgrounds.
The Torn Teddy
Collect all the toys your kids have outgrown and review them. Should some be saved for a future child? Ask yourself how expensive, clean or undamaged the toy is and then store more remotely. If the toy is sentimental then it is no longer a toy. It is a keepsake. Keepsake toys should live remotely in the attic or basement.
Taking toys out of rotation and putting them in the closet is a great way to make old toys seem new. Once a child sees a toy she hasn’t seen in six months, it will feel as if it just came from the store.
Another area that can be set up in the closet is a “gift to give” section. You can even remove recently received birthday presents and regift them (as long as you remember who gave them).
The Age of Experiences
Try to steer your kids away from a love of stuff, and toward memorable experiences. Instead of toys as gifts, ask for swimming lessons, giftcards for activities like bowling and mini-golf, online subscriptions like Learn With Homer, Reading Rainbow, or a laser tag outing. Tickets to see the Lion King are not cheap.
Grandparents and other relatives want to see the little ones tear open wrapping paper and can be resistant to not giving toys. Blame a third party: “The doctor thinks she may have allergies and stuffed animals collect dust” or “he has a lot of energy and the occupational therapist thinks he will benefit from joining a basketball league”.
Lastly, set up simple habits for your kids to follow, like toy bins that fit comfortably on easy-to-reach shelves. And when they forget to clean up, the task shouldn’t take you as long.
Originally from Portland, Maine, Ben Soreff has had a passion for organizing since childhood (he was the kid who never needed to be told to clean up his room). Over the last ten years of his organizing career, if you can name it, Ben has probably done it. His clients range from busy stay at home moms and dads to Level 5 hoarders from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds. He is a founding partner in House to Home Organizing and lives in Connecticut with his wife and two young boys, who he has taught not to leave out Legos so no one will step on them with bare feet.