How We Organize ALL THE THINGS
I've had a few people ask how we organize our toys, keep our house (semi) orderly and keep the clutter at bay, so I'm sharing my strategies with you - because 4 kids, 4 different age groups of toys, and a lot of clothes = 10 thousand messes (easy math, guys.)
. SORT & STORE: I have found that the kids are entertained much longer when their toys are separated. For example, I keep all the Peppa Pigs in a tub and will pull them out for Winnie as an activity. We do the same with Lego Duplos, Dress up Minnies, Puzzles, and more. That way there isn't a random pile of characters or puzzle pieces hanging out in the bottom of the toy basket getting ignored. I keep them out of reach so they have to ask for a new bin. The novelty of toys stays alive much longer this way! The rule is that we have to clean up one "set" before we can move on to another. This works 95% of the time (which is a win in our house) and teaches the kids that cleaning up is part of playing. #funmom ;)
2. SEASONAL TOYS & BOOKS: We don't keep all toys out, all year. I'll rotate toys into the garage that have some sort of seasonal appeal and all holiday/seasonal books get stored in the garage until their time to shine. This way, we don't have an excess of books that aren't being read AND it allows me to sort through things that aren't being played with or aren't missed. It's always SO exciting when we bring a new bucket of toys out and I always get excited when I manage to give half of it away without them ever knowing! Another note on this: we have long, rainy, dark winters so I save things like Playdoh, slime and indoor sandboxes for that time of year - they don't come out in the summer, which makes them much more appealing in the winter (sense a theme here?)
3. CLOSET SYSTEM: I keep two things in everyone's closet: A shopping bag ready for donations, and a tupperware bin for hand-me-down storage. All things go through the laundry and while I put away clothes, I sort and make sure that they don't need to be moved into one of those piles. It makes cleaning out the closets less of a "BIG PROJECT" and more of a routine. When the bag is full, we donate/sell & start a new one! This has been so helpful and allows me to have reasonable amounts of donations instead of heaping piles that feel like a chore to donate
4. ART CADDY: Art supplies was a real pain point for me for as long as we've had kids. I LOVE letting them do art, but dreaded taking out all the paints, just to find some markers. SO, I finally sorted all of our supplies (I did this while I was nesting when pregnant with Norah) and have everything in individual bins. We have an art caddy that bounces around the house (currently lives in the kitchen) filled with art supplies that we use consistently (markers, crayons, stickers, glue sticks, pipe cleaners, googley eyes, etc...) which allows us to do art projects or color much quicker than it would to take out all the art boxes. (ours is from Home Goods)
5. RAINY DAY CLOSET: One of my favorite ways to keep toys (especially new ones!) at a minimum is to keep a rainy day closet ... that means after Christmas, birthdays or really any time, I put at least 50% of what the kids get away into a storage closet. They always have at leats one or two things they're dying to open, and the rest used to sit on the dining room table (where all things go to die) for weeks before they'd get around to opening them. Now, we put them away and I let the kids go shopping in the closet whether it's on a rainy day where I'm trying to but some time, or if they've earned a reward/treat (i.e. after dentist, doing something extraordinary, or being brave at school :). I will also grab stuff out of there if we're traveling or eating out where I know they'll need to be occupied for longer than a few minutes! Honest to God, they don't even know anything is missing and they act like it's brand new when they see it!
I think ultimately, it helps if everything has a home. Not only does it make the house feel cleaner and more organized, but it makes cleaning up a mindless task. You're not trying to figure out where to shove 7 puzzles and 15 barbies, but instead returning them to their rightful homes :) ALSO, get yourself a labeler and go to town. Because nothing says organized like bins with labels. I promise, it will help!
A few of our favorite storage solutions for our toys: