7 Tips for Cutting the Toy Clutter

Written by Mandy on March 19th, 2013

Cleaning and Organizing, Practical Home Help
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Welcome to the March edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival – Clearing the Clutter cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month our participants wrote about de-cluttering and cleaning up. Please check out the links to their thoughts at the end of this post.


toy stuffed animals lined up

Across industrialized countries, parents lament about their children’s toys. Stuffed animals seem to breed overnight, invading every inch of spare space in their homes. Piles of play food, puzzle pieces, and pretend dress-up clothes litter the floor, left by children rummaging through for some other item. It’s a complaint often heard in parenting circles: a complaint of privilege and one of our own making.

For the most part, children aren’t purchasing all of these toys. It’s the adults in their lives buying all of this stuff in amounts too great for children to take care of or truly enjoy. This is a problem that is easy to take care of, though, and at Natural Parents Network, we have some easy tips to help curb some of that toy clutter.

  • 1. Designate a space for toys.

    Any decluttering diva or organizational guru will tell you that if you want to keep things picked up in your home, everything needs to have its own designated space. If it doesn’t, it will never make it there. This includes toys. When that space is full, you have three options: Don’t bring in any more toys, get rid of some toys, or rotate toys (keeping in mind how much space you have to store toys not in current rotation).

  • 2. Take into account the abilities of those picking up the toys.

    Expecting a small child to have a complicated routine to get the toys picked up will frustrate everyone involved. Make it simple. Baskets or clear plastic tubs make putting toys away a quick and painless job. If you like to keep toys organized by type, such as all of the blocks together, consider putting a label, picture or otherwise, on the bin.

  • 3. There is a saying in real estate, “Location, location, location!”

    While dedicated play rooms or toy rooms may work for some families, many find the opposite to be true. Children like to be near us and will drag toys out in order to stay close. Toys are less likely to be put away if their dedicated space is across the house. Think about where your children play with various toys, and consider integrating their storage spaces near those locations. The toys will see more play and you will be tripping over them much less often.

  • 4. Open-ended toys not only lead to more creative play, but their multifaceted uses mean less items taking up space in your house.

    Consider going with toys that can be used in many ways, such as playsilks, blocks, a simple doll, basic dress-up clothes, or LEGOs, for example. If you have more than one type of toy in the same category, say two or more different types of building toys, consider rotating them so that they aren’t out at the same time.

  • 5. Rotate toys.

    When toys come out after being put away for a while, they garner new interest. Watch how your children play with items and take stock in what their current interests are. While some items, such as a favorite doll, may stay out all of the time, you may notice that when your children are in a playfood stage, they aren’t playing with dollhouse items. In that case, there is no reason to have both items out. Keep the toys that aren’t being played with packed up to rotate later.

  • 6. Involve your children in the process.

    We periodically rotate toys. I have my children bring all of the toys that have migrated about to one location. We then go through them, and my children decide whether items will stay out or be packed away or if we should get rid of them.

  • 7. Some of the best toys aren’t toys.

    Cardboard boxes have a rich life at our house, being used in various ways, and when they are beat up from extensive play, they find their way to the recycling bin. Sticks are well sought after here, and the extensive stick collection, which stays in the backyard, is testament to that. Art supplies, in high demand for creative endeavors, are a great consumable gift from relatives.

The bottom line is that what children really want is us. Spend time with your children. Enjoy them. The greatest gift you can give them is the gift of your presence. When looking for something to give them, keep that in mind. Don’t be a slave to stuff, and don’t make your child one, either.

Photo Credit: Nana B Agyei on Flickr


Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating simple living into their lives by clearing out the clutter. We hope you will join us next month, as the Simply Living Blog Carnival focuses on Going Green!

About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

3 Responses to 7 Tips for Cutting the Toy Clutter

  1. Mercedes  

    What a great list! As an adult I am only just now coming to grips with most of these tips for myself, like designated spaces and location. I love the suggestion of rotating toys and having open-ended, multipurpose toys!

  2. Amy  

    Thanks for these tips, Mandy! For us, limiting the number of toys and making sure many of them are open-ended (blocks, musical instruments, art supplies, etc.) really cuts down on the clutter.

    I totally agree with you about the designated play space, too—we’ve found that having small areas of toys in several central locations in the house helps them to stay more organized.

  3. Krysta

    Very helpful! Thank you!

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