Real mom confession: clutter gives me anxiety, but so does spending hours organizing toddler toys. It’s a priority thing. You work full time. You do all the mom things. And then you want to actually spend time with your kids. How do you organize a playroom without giving up all your free time?
Looking for organizational strategies is a struggle. Everything is next level. The labeling, the DIY, the bin you need for every object in your life. I cannot ensure only Legos make it to the Lego bin. I’m not a crafty person. I don’t want to glue paper flowers to a mason jar.
I want the low hanging fruit. Passable if someone were to stop by unannounced. And if my playroom isn’t Instagram ready, so be it.
We try to keep the house tidy – just without all the projects and rules. The minimum effort required so we can spend more time playing with the kids. And if you want an organized play area without all the bells and whistles, this is some of the best advice we’ve ever implemented.
Don’t give your kids access to every toy they own
You put the toys away. Five minutes later the mini tornados undo all your hard work. Does that sound at all familiar? You may not be able to prevent it from happening, but you can lessen the blow. The more toys your kids can access, the more toys available to be scattered throughout the house.
What we do in our house is leave some toys out for open play and store the others. If a specific toy is requested and it’s not out, we get it, and stow it away afterward. The idea here is that when the pool of toys is smaller, the potential mess also becomes smaller. Some people rotate the toys they leave out. Plus, toys keep their “oh, shiny new object” luster a bit longer. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
But the benefits don’t stop there. This is an actual toy we own:
Notice all the teeny tiny pieces. There’s A LOT of them. We keep this one out of reach and get it out when the kids ask for it. The result: no more landmines. No more yelling profanities (which, side note, it’s totally incredible our kids haven’t learned to say “oh shit” yet). No more questioning why you became a parent. Seriously. I did IVF shots and it was less painful. These little suckers (toys, not kids) stay together as a complete set. Out of sight and out of mind.
Limit clean ups with family clean up time
Our kids are a bit young for official chores, but clean up is the exception. Not only does it provide a sense of responsibility, but it also helps keep the house tidy. Our level of tidy, not Marie Kondo. We do one big family clean up each night after dinner. Some experts recommend creating a song or making up a game if your little ones need some extra motivation to clean. We just say they don’t get snack until the house is picked up.
If you haven’t tried an Alexa device, these things work SO well. Our 4-year-old loves to set the timer and use it as motivation to “beat the clock”. You could also use your phone or some other timer. Other timers haven’t worked quite as well for us. We got one of the Kids Edition Echo Dots and our 4-year-old enjoys clean up time because she gets to set the timer herself. Bonus: they also work well at meal times.
It can be super tempting to pick up multiple times throughout the day, but I encourage you to try just once or twice a day. Anything more and you will drive yourself crazy. It’s an impossible feat because new toys will always pop up right after you finish cleaning. I know, it’s hard. But you can do it. Don’t torture yourself trying to keep the house spotless at all hours of the day.
Free for all toy boxes
Unless you really want to create extra stress for yourself, don’t worry about the labeling and having a special bin for each type of toy. If you’re a naturally organized person, sure. But if you don’t want to spend hours each day organizing the playroom, get a large toy box that can hold whatever you want to throw in there. These plastic storage tubs can hold a lot of toys and are easy to move around. Or go with something multi-use like this toy box that doubles as a bench. And of course, the popular 3 Sprout toy chests.
Whatever you use, make sure it’s easy to toss toys in. Some people like toy organizers with lots of storage bins. If that’s how you stay organized, it may be a great option for you. I find it time consuming sorting everything into individual bins – and the kids end up throwing toys into the “wrong” bins anyway.
Create a play area for your kids (separate from their room)
Whether this is a playroom. Or a section of your living room. Create an area of your house where you keep the toys. I say separate from kids’ bedrooms because they may feel alone in there and not want to play if mom or dad isn’t around. Having a play space in the living room can make sure everyone is included in playtime.
If you have one dedicated play area in the house, it will help to contain toys. Your kids will quickly see that the toys belong in the play area. They may still make their way to other rooms, but at least the odds are reduced.
We realized a formal living room was a waste of space for us, so we transformed it into a playroom. Now that room gets way more use.
Have a toy bin in each room
Having toy storage in each room of the house will make your life easier. That’s why we like toy boxes that are easy to move around. Even if you have a designated play area, toys will inevitably make their way to other rooms. We like to have toy storage in every room so when we find a straggler, we can toss it in the nearest toy bin. It cuts down on clean up time in a big way.
Bathroom storage sometimes gets overlooked, but it’s one of the biggest offenders for toy explosion. I’m a big fan of the Munchkin mesh storage because toys dry quicker in it. And for excess toys, we have a giant plastic tub in the bathroom closet. Unlike the mesh storage, the tub doesn’t have drainage. So you just have to dry off the toys before storing to reduce the likelihood of mold growing.
Use your walls to minimize floor clutter
One of the first things to tackle when you’re looking at how to organize your playroom: toys taking over your floors. Makes sense because you’re dealing with tiny people. By using wall space as storage, you can eliminate some of that floor clutter (and step on fewer toys in the process).
We use these affordable hanging toy storage baskets. But really anything you can hang will do the trick. It’s a great way to organize a playroom or kids’ bedrooms.
Find storage solutions that blend in with your decor
Playrooms sometimes get the reputation of being an eyesore. Luckily, there are storage options to fit every kind of decor. We wanted something modern and white to fit in with the rest of our decor. We also needed something that fit under a window. A quick Amazon search later and we found these stackable double storage bins (also I love KidKraft). Poke around Amazon and see what you can find that can blend in with your decor.
Don’t feel that you have to hide toys. But blending toy storage into your style will go a long way in creating a clean look. It’ll still kinda be like a plastic factory exploded in your house, but whatever. You have kids. People know that when they come over, right?
The “take a toy with you when you leave a room” approach
This is one of the more common strategies to tidying up, and it works really well with toys. When you leave a room, take a toy with you and put it away. It’s not going to lead to dramatic results, but if you do this every time you switch rooms, it will relieve some of the future burden. A simple, yet effective task to incorporate in your routine. When looking at how to keep your playroom organized, this is a good place to start.
Do what works for you
Our playroom will never look like this:
Sometimes I’m envious. Sometimes I wonder if the kids that live here are ever allowed to play. But I go by the “you do you” principle. Some people are naturally talented at organization. I am not one of those people. My hope is that wherever you fall on the organization scale – “quick wins” or “intricate system”, you don’t give in to mom shaming. Or dad shaming. That’s never okay.
Instead of feeling guilty, try some of these quick strategies to rid yourself of clutter anxiety.