10 Ways to Keep Toys Clean and Organised

When you feel like the toy population in your house is out of control, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Everywhere you step, there’s LEGO underfoot, the tables are covered in craft ‘essentials’, and a small army of cars and dolls and teddies roam the floors unchecked.

The time has come to take matters in hand, and we’ve got 10 top tips to get you started on keeping toys clean and organised.

1. Start the cull

The first step, says Lissanne Oliver, professional organiser and founder of Sorted! Organising and Decluttering is simply to reduce the volume.

“With so much of our stuff, we use 20 percent of what we have, 80 percent of the time,” she says. “Kids are the same. Help them identify those items (or make your own secret squirrel decisions when they’re not around, if that’s easier) and place emphasis on those items, rather than what’s being let go.”

She suggests using your storage as boundaries – “We are going to save and value what fits comfortably on these shelves.”

Extra: A great time to do this is pre-Christmas and birthday, when you can focus on “making room for new stuff”.

2. Help your kids manage their own stuff

We all know that it’s much easier to make decisions and think clearly when we’re in a clean, decluttered space. Teaching kids how to maintain their living areas is a life skill. “Ask your kids to nominate their top five favourite toys and make them responsible for looking after those items,” says Oliver. “And lead by example. If you’re sorting out stuff around the house, get them involved so that they can learn the process.”

Extra: When you do your own sorting, make four piles – keep, donate, recycle, trash – and explain to older kids why you’re putting things in each pile.

3. Dump the toy box

The old-fashioned toy box might look cute, but we all know that the toy your child wants is somehow ALWAYS at the bottom, which means everything ends up on the floor. Instead, divide toys into categories, in clear or easily visible tubs, and put them at child-friendly height.

Extra: A picture on the outside can be used to identify contents for kids who are not yet able to read.

4. Cull the craft materials

You know that feeling when you go to the supermarket and there are 30 kinds of cereal and you just don’t even know where to start. Now look at your craft supply box or table: “Creativity is stymied by too much choice,” says Lissanne. “Take a less is more approach to craft materials and the kids might surprise you.”

Extra: A spice rack can be perfect for storing glitter, beads, googly eyes, and other small craft pieces. And try a simple draw divider for everything from washi tape to pencils.

5. Use unusual spaces

If you’ve never considered the true beauty of a clear, plastic over-the door shoe holder think again. They’re perfect for everything from Barbie dolls and model cars, to craft supplies and even small dress-up items.

Extra: The walls become vertical storage with the addition of a magnetic knife strip (you see them in kitchens). Use the strip for model cars and other metal toys, or simply glue a small magnet to any small item you want off the floor.

6. Banish mouldy bath toys

Fix a spring-tension shower or curtain rod (the spring-loading is in the fitting and means the rod is not permanent) above your bath. Then hang some small, simple wire baskets from curtain rings, and use those to store your bath toys (like this). The wire baskets mean the toys dry out between use and should remain mould-free longer.

Extra: To clean mouldy bath toys, soak overnight in a mix of 2 cups white vinegar to 500ml warm water (make sure toys are completely covered in solution, weighing down if necessary). Remove from mix and scrub with a bristle cleaning brush. Rinse thoroughly. If toys are not completely clean at this stage, cover toys in warm water and add two foaming denture tablets. Soak overnight.

7. The puzzle puzzle

If your child loves puzzles, chances are you’re losing a lot of storage space to bulky boxes. Instead, place each puzzle in a large, zippered pencil case, remembering to cut the image from the front of the box and stick it to the front of each pouch. Then put all pouches in one, larger tub.

Extra: If you want to save a particular puzzle for posterity, you can use puzzle glue to keep it together. Slide wax paper under the completed puzzle, leaving an extra inch all the way around. Use a rolling pin to flatten your puzzle, then, following the instructions on the glue bottle, spread the glue all over the puzzle. Once dry (two to four hours), you should be able to pick up the puzzle in one piece.

8. Where the action is

If your child’s action figure collection is beginning to resemble a small, jumbled city, take action. Photo shelves or ledges are the perfect width for the action heroes of the world.

Extra: If all that world-saving sometimes leaves your action figure collection a bit dusty, submerge them in lukewarm water (never hot) with simple dish soap (or fizzy denture tablets if you prefer) for five minutes. Brush gently with a toothbrush, rinse in cold water and pat dry.

9. Stuffed with teddies?

The first step with stuffed toy storage is to cull (see step one). No child really needs 20-plus teddy bears. Really. To house the collection, look at using the corners of the room, with neat corner shelving, or try wire garden baskets attached to the wall for a funky look that kids will love.

Extra: To clean plush toys, read the care label first. Some will only need dust removed, and this can be done with a vacuum (place old pantyhose over the brush attachment to make it easy). Some toys can be placed in the washing machine, but be sure to put in a ‘delicates’ bag or pillowcase first, wash in cold water, and dry thoroughly.

10. Plastic parade

Most small plastic toys are easily organised into groups of like nature and kept in small tubs. Lego has its own special qualities and can be dealt with in many different ways: a wall of drawers with different coloured and sized pieces sorted into each one; the iconic Lego head storage centre (for smaller collections only); a table with storage underneath; or craft storage systems repurposed. There are so many ideas limited only by the space in your spare room.

Extra: While some sites do suggest that Lego can be washed, in a delicates bag on the top rack of the dishwasher, Lego recommends that parts are washed by hand only, at a max of 40°C, using a mild detergent and rinsing with clear water afterwards. Air dry.

Leading by example

One last tip that you might be able to work in: lead by example.

I realise this can be challenging but if you’re cleaning out your wardrobe or sorting anything around the house, involve the kids in the process so they start to understand that being organised is something you need to do regularly.

It’s not challenging: keep, donate, recycle, rubbish (and the latter is a lot of it when we’re talking broken/spent/outdated and unusable, e.g. missing jigsaw pieces). Give them some small, achievable tasks to assist with and keep the time frame short with a reward at the end. Even making labels or stashing in containers are child-friendly tasks they can contribute and participate with.

This article was written by Allison Tait for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz

Which toys do you find the most difficult to store away? What are your best tps for keeping things tidy?

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  1. candyjanenz 02/08/2019 at 4:46 pm

    I love the idea of using a spice rack for storing craft supplies -will be easy to see what we have – will have to try this one. One way we try to keep the toys under control is putting some away in the cupboard and swapping with their toys so it is like they have new toys all the time. We also use a toy library so they get new toys every month.

  2. MuddledUpMolly 30/07/2019 at 10:11 pm

    There are some fantastic ideas here! #1 I do every year before Christmas and our children’s birthdays, culling broken or forgotten toys in preparation for new ones. #6 will soon be rectified as we are renovating our bathroom and the bath is going as of Friday, eek! #9 stuffed toys are a particular gripe for me, I can’t stand the array of unnecessary soft toys our children receive!

  3. Alezandra 28/07/2019 at 12:21 am

    My song and I did the Marie Kondo way of tidying his toys. I got him to get them all out and ask which ones that Spark Joy for him…well I asked him in a more simpler way which of the toys he still likes to play with. It was a good task. This is basically the step 1 in this article. I try to segregate all his toys per category as well. Sometimes we do it right, but sometimes we still get the mess. But I guess it’s a process.

  4. Mands1980 17/07/2019 at 7:32 pm

    I love these ideas when school starts back I think some unused toys are going to disappear from there bedrooms. I find nerf guns the hardest to put away somewhere tidy as they take up a lot of room and still have not found a good way. We have a train set and that is stacked away in a big plastic tub with a lid. We also have LEGO made up so it’s is stacked in big plastic containers. Soft toys are in big containers if you have lots you can put them in a bean bag and zip it up.

  5. Shorrty4life1 17/07/2019 at 6:53 pm

    I agree with number 2 tip let the kids have their favourite 5 toys out and the rest go away. We live in a caravan so toys are hidden in storage under the kids beds it’s pretty ideal storage and it’s huge the size of a single bed in diameter and 60cm on depth so very ideal. The most annoying things for storage would be the bigger toys like big nerf guns etc. As it’s hard to put them away and my son always wants it out but in such small spaces it takes up large amounts of room and I’m forever tripping over it with it being on the floor etc.

  6. SarahBlair 13/07/2019 at 10:51 pm

    This is great, I have been smuggling old toys out lately and putting them in the bin outside or donating them, they have so many that they cant find their good toys that they actually want to play with! My husband is as bad as the kids, never wants to part with anything, I have to wait until he’s not looking too!!

  7. Micht 12/07/2019 at 11:48 am

    Brilliant ideas.. thank you for a great article. We seriously need a cull… we have years of toys that this mama cant seem to let go of but truly they dont need them and i could definitely find better places to let go of them to.. the kids are happy to let go and move on , so now begins the clean up… there is alot to be grateful for and alot to share with others too… we need to show them how.

  8. Bevik1971 09/07/2019 at 9:35 am

    Funnily enough we had a huge cull of our 6 year old’s room including toys and games etc in the weekend. It was out of control as she has a pretty small bedroom and not enough space to have too much stuff. We got her involved as we sorted through her stuff, she helped with deciding on what to keep and what to donate and what to throw away. She was actually really good and surprised me with some of the stuff she said to donate, but we explain to her that another child that’s less fortunate than her would get lots of joy from something she doesn’t use anymore 🙂 She was happy about that.

  9. Jen_Wiig 08/07/2019 at 9:16 pm

    Love love love these ideas…especially like the idea of the puzzle puzzle …I currently have some plastic zip folder type things that will be perfect for my three boys puzzles so yay winning now and getting some much needed cupbaord space back.
    The biggest thing I find hard to store toy wise is Mr 4s hot wheels cars and my 2 older boys Pokemon go cards …we’ve used containers,albums,boxes you name we’ve tried it and no avale too…recently I got some Taurus toy stacker boxes to organise and full…there are 3 and each a different colour …they stack on top of one another and a reasonable size without being over the top big but enough space to have toys and Teddy’s inside and accessible for Mr 4 and biggest thing super easy to tidy up for him as he just throws in it there and done they’ve certainly helped the toy mountain we once had and forced us all to full which was badly needed.

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