Friday, February 24, 2012

Toy Organization (and more!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Before I became a mother, I had no idea children could accumulate so much stuff!  I still don't really know how it happens.  Our home had been taken over by toys, they were everywhere.  Our son was having a difficult time combing through bin upon bin looking for specific things and I was tired of the clean up.

While my son was a baby, toy bins worked for us.  When I say toy bins, I mean these:

Can you spot the cutest stuffy of them all?  :)

Maybe that's more of a tub than a bin.  Anyhow, we piled toys into these bins tubs and put them in Little Man's room, on the floor, and it worked.  As he got older, and his interests grew, so did his toy collection.  We added more bins, and when those filled up, we added more.  Eventually we had six or seven which felt like eleventy-million.  I would cringe when my son dumped them all out into the middle of the living room floor, just so he could look for one specific item.  Fragile toys often got broken from being at the bottom of a filled bin.

It was time for a change!

This is what prompted the creation of the Big Boy Room.

The first thing I did was purge.  One day, I took every single toy and put them all in one massive Mount Everest sized pile of plastic on the living room floor.  I broke them down into 4 piles:

  1. Keep
  2. Donate/Give Away
  3. Can't bear to part with it because OMG it belongs to my "baby" so I will put it in storage in the garage.
  4. Garbage.
Anything that was broken got tossed.  Anything we didn't use/need but I couldn't muster up the guts to give away was put neatly into bins, labeled and put into the garage.  Items that had no sentimental value that were no longer needed/played with went to Goodwill or friends' children.  

After all of that I was left with, well, still a whole lot of stinkin' toys. :)  But these are our keepers, so I was okay with that.

Next, I broke the keepers up into their own categories:

  • Play food items (including plastic Easter eggs)
  • Play kitchen items (dishes, silverware, cups, pots and pans)
  • Dress up clothes and accessories
  • Tools and toolbox
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Legos
  • Weapons (Pirate swords, Nerf guns, etc. He is all boy, where do they get this from?) 
  • Hot Wheels cars
  • Larger vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, helicopters, boats, etc.)
  • Action figures
  • Balls
  • Train sets
  • Electronics (play phones, lap tops, etc.)
  • Puzzles
  • Flashcards
  • Doctor tools
  • Stuffed animals
  • Plastic animals
  • Books
  • You get the point. :)

Each category of toys got their own home in our home.  :)

Kitchen items are stored in the play kitchen (that Santa brought the year before last):

Do your kids love those plastic Easter eggs too?

Simple and cheap bins house play food and plastic eggs.  I wanted to keep this very simple, so it is easy for my son to find items and, most importantly, put them away.  
Plastic eggs are kept only if they are a matching pair (top and bottom piece) and if they are not broken.  Otherwise, they're tossed.

Top shelf holds silverware, serving utensils, pot holders, spatulas, whisks, etc.  Bottom shelf holds plates, cups, small pots/pans.
It was important to me not to over-organize this space.  Simple bins to toss them in to. Cute colors to help distinguish that each type of item belongs in a certain color bin, also see-through to spot what we're looking for with ease.

Little man is obsessed with pots and pans.  He prefers "real" ones, and loves to hunt for them at Goodwill.  To me, this part doesn't have to be perfect.  Yes, there are prettier ways to store these but at the end of the day, I want him to be encouraged to put them away, and right now while he is still little, that means throwing them in here and closing the door.  I'll take it! :)

And here's a picture of the kitchen, taken when it was brand new:

Aw, Santa is so sweet.
I think he chose this one because it has lots of storage. ;)

All other toys are kept in his room:

The before picture is after I removed all the humungo toy bins...
they literally took up half of the floor space in the room.

You can see the built-ins my husband made.  Those house most of the toys.  We are going to put cabinet doors on the top and bottom shelves.

Tools (hammers, screws, drills, etc.) are kept in a clear plastic bin.  I chose this one because it fits nicely on the shelf, has an easy to use lid, can easily be carried to the play tool bench and all pieces are visible.

Handy-man, just like his Daddy :)

Toy balls and Cars/Trucks/Vehicles are stored in canvas bins:

Each bin is labeled for easy clean up:

I had my husband build a short shelf for puzzle boards.  The puzzle pieces are inside individual  zip-loc bags and stored in a Dollar Store bin.

Flash cards are all stored together in a clear bin.

Wooden blocks and plastic blocks are separated into their own clear storage bins, as are army men, small construction pieces (cones, road signs, etc.) and play doctor tools.

Large scale toys sit on a bottom shelf of the built-ins:

Cabinet doors will cover these, eventually.

Smaller cars get their own bin.  I do not keep a lid on this one because my little man is always getting cars out to play with, and it's so easy to toss them back in when we're done:

I picked up a TV/VHS combo (Hello, 1990's!) at Goodwill for a few bucks and put it under Little Man's loft bed.  We keep his books and VHS movies on this book shelf in his closet. He can pick out a movie and play it any time he wants to.

This book shelf was an ugly laminate faux-wood that I spray painted white.  I had the books arranged by color and size, but that didn't last long. :)

Dress up clothes have a spot in the closet (the closet is in progress, please forgive the ugly shelving and old paint color!).  I hung his dress up clothes with hooks that have adhesive backing, and put the hats and accessories into a bin for easy access and easy clean up. 

The (ugly) shelf on the right houses awkwardly shaped toys and a Toy Story suitcase.
You can see the builder beige paint color that was originally on the walls. Blah!
I can't wait to fix this space!

Big Boy Room closet - still in progress

The large white bins I got for $4.99 each at a local chain store called Bi-Mart.  They hold: (TOP) empty bags (diaper bag, tote bags, toy bags, etc.);  (MIDDLE) diapers/pull-ups, wipes;  (BOTTOM) sheets, pillow cases, little man towels.

The orange bin on the left shelf holds shoes.  The small blue bin: Hats/Scarves/Gloves

Large tracks/trucks, Dragon and guitars are stored in the closet as well.  Remember, the closet is not done yet, I have big plans for it! :)

The Toy Story suitcases were a Christmas gift from my Aunt and came as a set of two (large and small).  We use them both to put action figures with all of their tiny pieces:

Legos are stored in an easy-to-tote bin, which is parked on a shelf in the built-ins:

Items I want to keep out of reach from little hands are kept on the top shelf: 

I got this bookshelf from  It is no longer available, but I got it on clearance for about $45 (plus a whopping amount for shipping.).  I loved how the bottom shelf stuck out a bit further than the rest of the unit.

The bottom shelf is perfect for our stuffed friends:

The upper shelf has two bins:
  • Bin on the LEFT: is for swords, Nerf guns and darts.  
  • Bin on the RIGHT: is a "miscellaneous" bin.  Any little piece of toy or item that we don't have time to put away immediately (such as items I find while I am picking up the house) gets put into this bin.  On a regular basis I go through the items and put them away.  

Bottles of Bubbles are stored in this wooden box I picked up at Fred Meyer's for $6.00:

Bubbles:  Out of site, out of mind. :)

To hold small items, I chose these stackable boxes, with the Declaration of Independence written on the sides.  The one with the blue lid keeps small "treasures" such as rocks, shells (we do live at the beach!), unused arcade tokens, etc. The box with the red lid holds play money.

Under the loft bed we have a nice cozy rug for play time.  We love to sit or lay here and play.  A plastic drawer system holds lots of little toys.  
  • (TOP DRAWER) Action figures, kids meal toys.  
  • (MIDDLE DRAWER) Plastic animals such as farm animals, dinosaurs.  
  • (BOTTOM DRAWER) Miscellaneous little toys and musical instruments (drum sticks, maracas)

The TV is just sitting there right now, but I found a cutie little white shelf at Goodwill ($0.99!) that it will fit on perfectly... on the to do list.

Jolly the cat also likes to play under the bed. :)

The dresser doesn't hold any toys, but on the top I have a basket with some training pants, diapers, wipes, lotion, hair care and brush so I can quickly grab it when needed.

The top drawer holds socks and underwear on the left and baby toiletries on the right (diaper rash ointment, thermometer, nail clippers, etc.)

I found a cute silver silverware holder at Ross for a few bucks and use it as a sock/underwear organizer.  White socks in front, colored in the middle two and mismatches in the way back.  Middle dresser drawer holds jammies.  Bottom dresser drawer holds pants, shorts and swim trunks.

Silverware holder works great for sock organization

Keepsakes are stored in 3 different storage boxes (Joann's photo storage boxes I got on sale for less then $3 each). Red boxes house newborn keepsakes (porcelain baby shoes, knick knacks, etc.) and the white one holds current keepsakes. The large blue box is for artwork.

Artwork is stored in this Pottery Barn splurge ($19), pictured below.  I was surprised at how much it holds.  It holds a TON of artwork!  Each time my son brings home artwork from pre-school, we display it for a bit and then it is housed in here until I archive it.

You can't see it in this picture, but the label reads "Art".  Clever, I know. :)

And last, but certainly not least, I keep a toy bin in each main living area in our home. Living room, office, etc.  These bins are decorative to match our home colors (not primary colors like in my son's room).  They are meant to be catch-alls for quick clean ups.  In the living room I use a bin, in the office a storage ottoman.
I'll be honest, most nights we don't have the energy to put every.single.little.piece. away, so we toss them into the bin in the room we're in. Once a week I go through these bins and put items away in his room. 

We have been using this system for about 3 months now and I have to say, it is STILL working!  I am thrilled because I have tried several methods before and it always seemed to go back to chaos.  This method, though, is working. Everything has a home. Everything has a place.  I have a plan b for when things can't go into their homes immediately.  I can honestly say the toy clutter is not that bad anymore.  It no longer looks like a toy store threw up in my living room.  Except when Little Man plays "garbage dump" and dumps every toy out into a pile on the floor. :)

Thanks so much for reading!


  1. I love bins. How fabulous does it feel to have all that done? I am trying to get rid of things and simplify more too. We try to make it so that every time they get something new, we give away something we don't want anymore. Helps keep things manageable around here. Love all your organization.

  2. I the bins! Lots of storage is perfect for keeping things in their place. Did your hubby also make his bed? I love the space beneath for playing!

    Blessings & Aloha!
    (oh also...I'm a Mrs. B too...and so is our older daughter...and in May when our other daughter gets married, she will get to keep that initial too! We'll have 3 Mrs. B's :o)


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