Kids & Toy Clutter: How to find the floor

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We love to buy our grandchildren toys, books, and clothes…just like most grandparents…aunts, uncles,before the toy dumping family friends…and birthday party guests. Make that times 3 and what do you have? Wall to wall clutter. Last Saturday we visited as usual, only this time we couldn’t walk into the girls’ bedroom…there was no where to step! Sunday they spent most of the day cleaning up what they hadn’t taken the time to do so after their play time. You’d think that wouldn’t happen again but hindsight tells me it will!

How to Organize Kids & Toy Clutter

Fortunately, there are talented organized people out there that are so organized they have the time to write a book on that very same subject.  Barbara Tako is one of those organized mothers that my daughter envies. It’s so difficult to keep up when you work full time, care for 3 kids (one being an infant), and have a husband who works 6 days a week. So, I’ve recommended she read Barbara Tako’s self-help book, especially the chapter on Kids & Toy Clutter: How to find the floor. Among her relevant organizing tips, she addresses “toy dumping” at which we discovered our granddaughters are very good!

A partial excerpt from Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life follows:

Winter is the season when the walls shrink inward. So rather than label toy clutter as hopeless, I choose a frontal attack (minus the shovel). The first step is to reduce the sheer quantity of toys. It helps to weed out toys regularly (every six months or so). Now I know you are saying, “Easier said than done,” but please hang in there for a moment. My experience with my eldest child taught me that fewer toys works better for some children. When it came to sitting down to play creatively for an extended period of time with a toy, less was definitely more in her case. The fewer toys I had in her room to distract her, the better she played with those she had. Try fewer toys if you’ve observed “toy dumping” or lack of focus when your children play.


One friend of mine limits where toys may live. She reclaimed her family room as a multi-purpose and multi-family-member room. Toys are brought in for play. But, as a general rule, they go back to each child’s room for storage purposes. I also don’t think it is cruel or unusual punishment to reclaim an adult space in part of the home. Maybe the living room and dining room can be designated as “toy free” zones.

Beware of duplicates:

Don’t double (or triple) up on toys. My second child taught me not to duplicate function with toys. Between gifts and hand-me-downs from her sister, duplications sometimes happened. As an infant, she wound up with six standard pop-up toys in assorted makes and models. Of course I wanted her to develop her infant motor skills. But–we didn’t need six toys that basically worked the same way. I began to look at blocks and markers this way. How many “different” building sets (plastic blocks, wooden blocks, plastic logs, foam blocks…) did my children really require in order to become budding architects? How many different markers (over-writers, under-writers, fine-line, wide-line, neons, fluorescents, classics…) did they “need” to develop their artistic talents?

Rotate toys:

Another trick to reduce toy clutter is to rotate out some toys for a while. Put unused toys in a rotation box. Bring them back out on a sick day or a snow day. A stricter version is to have a “time out” box for toys that haven’t been picked up after a reasonable request or specified time. A mom in one of my classes said she sends toys that aren’t back in their rightful places after clean-up time “to jail.”


When weeding out toys, it is helpful to get input from your children too. They may surprise you and be more willing to part with things than you would have guessed. They may even enjoy the decision-making process. As for young children, we sometimes give them too much to manage and organize. Could you tidy a major department store by yourself?

Motivate a “saver”:

If you have a “saver” in the family, there are other options: You can limit the space they have to store their treasures. Give them a certain number of shelves or boxes for their collections. Or, you can offer an incentive. Let them sell their extras to a second-hand store and spend the proceeds at a store of their choice. With pennies on the dollar being returned for a typical transaction, you will still come out ahead space-wise.

Don’t forget to enjoy!:

When toys are weeded down to a reasonable quantity, it is easier to find a functional place to organize and store them. The kids can get to the toys they want more easily, and it will be easier to pick up. Weeding out toys isn’t a goal in itself. It is a tool to teach children useful life management skills and to reclaim valuable energy and space in a busy family’s life. Besides, life is too short to spend it sorting all those puzzle and game pieces back into the right boxes. Right?

Barbara Tako has been a motivational clutter clearing and home organizing speaker and author since 1998. Her book Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, Jan., 2010) is available wherever books are sold. Sign up for her FREE monthly clutter clearing tips e-mail newsletter at

(I’m required to let you know if I received anything for this review – I have not except for an electronicclutterbook copy of the book. I review only books and products that I truly approve of. – The excerpt was submitted by the author, Barbara Tako. You can purchase Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home & Reclaim Your Life at

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