The most helpful thing I’ve found for keeping toys organized in a limited space is getting rid of what you don’t really get a lot of use or benefit from.
A while back I went through all of our toys. Most of what we brought with us to Israel was board games and learning manipulatives but it’s amazing how easy it is to accumulate stuff! I began to take note of which toys my children played with most, and no surprise, I once again saw the 80/20 rule in effect.
In this case that rule means that 20 percent of toys will be played with 80 percent of the time, and 80 percent of toys will be played with just 20 percent of the time. And that means, that your space is mostly taken up with toys your kids rarely use! If you can figure out what is getting the most use and significantly scale down the rest, you’re on your way to an organized play space!
I took note of what toys they used the most, and began a big giveaway pile of all the rest. This cut down on the storage space needed quite a bit! I strongly recommend that everyone go through this process; not only does it help you keep your house cleaner, but more importantly, it helps the kids get more enjoyment from what they have. It allows them to focus without the distraction of toys they don’t use cluttering up space. Most of our learning manipulatives fall into the category of being used 20 percent of the time, but these are worth keeping around for when we do use them.
Here’s the cabinet that I use for toy storage – it has two internal shelves and two drawers.
We keep the games and puzzles on the shelves inside – the games to the right are smaller boxes and there’s another pile behind each of those.
This drawer is for Yirmiyahu’s toys.
The bottom drawer is where I now keep the printer and laminator, which were taking up prime space by being kept out all the time. I tend to use them heavily all at once and then not at all for long periods of time, so it makes more sense to take them out when I need them than to leave them out all the time.
By putting the printer and laminator in a drawer, it makes space on top for things that I want to keep visible and easy to access – learning manipulatives and several more toys.
For those who are wondering what kind of manipulatives are included, here you go!
Left to right – pattern blocks (2 boxes), base ten blocks, cuisenaire rods, assortment of mostly card games, flash cards, tangrams (2 boxes); bottom left – geoboard, 100 number tiles, word cards with plastic letters, dominoes, teddy bear counters.
We have several boxes of toys that we keep in the closet opposite this cabinet. (Bottom, l – r – Lincoln Logs, Legos; top l – r – Morphun blocks, toy animals; tall box is a ball and stick construction activity).
Below you can see the wagon of building blocks for young children, next to it a huge box of building blocks for somewhat bigger children (and next to that a couple of toys the kids found being given away).
Our boys love building toys – it’s what they use 80 percent of the time – and this is where I invest most of my storage space and money.
Last year someone gave us a starter set of Duplo blocks, Lincoln Logs and Mega Bloks, and this is what my boys would play with every single morning. The only problem was that there are three of them and there just wasn’t enough for them to play together so there was usually some kind of conflict. When I cleaned out all the toys that weren’t getting much use, I determined that if I had an opportunity, I would add on to these toys that already got so much use rather than get more kinds of toys.
Now, eight months after that decision, I’m amazed at how the opportunities to add to the toys that mattered most to them have all somehow come around!
A friend was clearing out her toys, and I bought a mega blocks wagon and blocks from her. That doubled our collection of these building blocks for young children.
Then, someone else was downsizing her toy collection and was selling Lincoln Logs, so naturally I bought that! And that doubled our Lincoln Log collection.
The other two toys I wanted to get more of were Duplo block and Legos – Duplo because we didn’t have that much, Lego because they were ready for the challenge of more detailed building but we had only a sprinkling that my kids found being given away. But both of these were really expensive and here in Israel, the price is double buying them in the US. Not happening.
In the winter my mom traveled to the US and asked what the kids would like. I told her if she wanted to get them Lego, they’d love it! She was able to find some great smaller sets on clearance at Walmart.; my in-laws also got them a mid sized set.
I also ordered a Duplo compatible block made in Canada that was half the price (Unico blocks, 250 blocks for $50), and my mom brought back a box of them. I was so happy with these that I wanted to get more, but they’re bulky and it’s not the kind of thing you can ask anyone but your mother to bring for you. :)
Then this spring a blog reader told me she was coming and would be able to bring things for us. I ordered two more boxes of Unico blocks (thank you, SH!) and this was the best money spent ever. They play with this all of the time, and there’s plenty for them to all play together even when friends come over.
Organizing things in this way has helped us maximize our space and keep clutter at bay. I hope you find some of these ideas helpful in your home!