7 Strategies for Controlling Toy Clutter


Any parent of young children can tell you that keeping up with the toy clutter is an ongoing — and losing — battle.

Before I had my daughter, I swore that my home would not become overrun with primary-colored bits of plastic, but reality was a different story. While the chances are slim of your living room being the pristine, perfectly accessorized space you dream of (at least until the kids outgrow their toys), these strategies for controlling the toy clutter can help give you a little visual relief. (See also: How to Get Rid of Your Junk)

1. Rotate and Limit Toys

I’ve found that my daughter quickly gets bored of new toys, so I try to rotate them out to keep them fresh.

When she receives a bunch of new toys for holidays or her birthday, I let her play with one new toy and keep the rest in the guest room closet. Fewer toys out in the family room means less daily clutter. When I notice my daughter neglecting her toys, I switch them out. My plan is to bring the old toys back when she has forgotten about them, although since my daughter is the only grandchild on both sides, I think she’ll have enough new toys to last for years.

2. Baskets and Bins

Having a variety of large baskets and bins to corral loose toys makes cleanup faster and easier. After all, they’ll be played with and messed up the next day, so who cares if they’re stored in a big pile in a basket or box? My toddler enjoys putting things in boxes, so I try to make cleanup a game for her — hopefully she’ll learn some good habits along the way!

If you want to organize toys a little better, you can label the baskets and bins — all dolls in one bin, for example, or all cars in another. Having everything in its own bin makes it easier for your child to find the toy he or she is looking for.

3. Purge

This might be the best way to control the toy clutter — just don’t keep so many toys! Whether you put them in storage, give them to friends, or donate them to the local thrift store, get rid of the toys your child no longer plays with. Alternatively, swap them with another child’s toys so you’re not storing useless clutter.

Having fewer toys might actually help your child to focus better on his or her play instead of getting distracted by another toy within reach.

4. Store Toys in Every Room

Having just one storage area in the entire house can make it difficult to put all the toys away at the end of the day. Instead, designate toy storage areas in several rooms, whether it’s a drawer in your child’s bedroom, a box in the pantry, or a mesh bag for the bath toys in the bathroom. That way, there’s always a storage spot within easy reach so you can tuck away the clutter.

However, don’t let toys get strewn all over — designating one room for primary play and toy storage helps to prevent the chaos from reaching the rest of the house.

5. Store Toys at Grandma’s

It’s hard to control the continuous flow of toys into our home, as both sets of grandparents have made it their mission to shower my daughter with every piece of pink plastic known to humankind. To prevent my home from being overrun, I tactfully suggest that my daughter’s grandparents keep some toys at their home for her to play with when she comes over. That way, my daughter gets super excited to visit her grandparents, and I can always rotate the toys from their house to mine if needed.

6. Clean Up Every Night

Don’t wait for the clutter to pile up and drive you crazy before cleaning up. Keep the toy clutter manageable by cleaning up frequently, such as every evening before your child goes to bed. That way, the mess won’t be as intimidating and you can de-stress a little before heading to bed yourself.

7. Discover Hidden Storage

Storage ottomans, closed cabinets, and bins under the bed can keep toy clutter out of sight and help you feel like you’re a little more in control of your home.

How do you control toy clutter at home?

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Guest's picture

Thanks for the great ideas! With a large and loving family, our girls seem to wind up with too many toys. We have used a number of these ideas to help control the clutter but I look forward to sharing this with my wife and thinking about some additional things we can do to keep the toy clutter in their rooms under control.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Thanks for your comment! If you have more ideas, I'm all ears!

Guest's picture

Children are really strange. I have a few brothers sisters, nephews and nieces and they always have toys all over the place! The weird thing is, they don't actually seem to be playing with the toys- they just like to scatter them. I honestly believe that.

Guest's picture

We have a basement playroom full of toys, with 4 kids ranging from 4 to 12, 2 girls and 2 boys. We started participating in our neighborhood's annual garage sale last year, and we got rid of lots of stuff (and made some money!). I've been making mental notes to myself of what can go this year....

Guest's picture

With six years between my middle and my last child we didn't have any baby/toddler toys around. Our community centre and library have toy lending sections. The toys were borrowed for 2 weeks. The staff sanitize the toys when they are returned.

For twenty dollars a year I found this an excellent option. My little one got to pick out 2 toys every 2 weeks. By the end of the 2 weeks she was excited to trade them in. For her it was like having a birthday or Christmas every couple of weeks.

Camilla Cheung's picture

What a great idea!