Taming Toys: Tips to Keep Your Home from Looking Like a Toy Store Explosion

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Last week I wrote about the how and why of my mission to tackle toys in my home. It's important to me to find a healthy balance between adult and children's things in our home as well as to provide an environment for my daughters that encourages imagination and exploration. Whenever I face a parenting dilemma, one of my first instincts is to ask for the advice of other mothers, so I checked in with some of my favorite design-conscious moms on how they tame toys in their home. Here are some favorite tips and tricks I gleaned from their experience:

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1. Choose toys that are friendly on the eye: Erin Loechner of Design for Minikind says "I've found that the easiest way to curb toy clutter is to be mindful about what's coming in. Toys are notorious for spilling beyond cubbies, storage nooks and closets, so why not embrace the chaos and leave a few well-designed toys out in the open? By purchasing toys that fit the aesthetic of your home, they'll look less like clutter and more like well-loved decorative objects. A few key items to start with? Wooden musical toys or metal vintage cars. And never underestimate the power of a great set of wooden blocks!"

2. Mindfully incorporate play things into the main living spaces of your home: Keeping toys hidden away in children's rooms sounds ideal, but often isn't realistic. James Kicinski-McCoy of Bleubird has found various homes in her living space for her children's things: "We keep woven Moroccan baskets in the living room to keep some toys accessible like blocks and hand puppets. The baskets make for easy clean up too. We also have a credenza in our living room and designated one of the sides to the kids. We keep books and a few toys on one shelf and then diapers and wipes, blankets and slippers on the other. Its nice to have these things in the main part of the house so we don't have to run upstairs every time we need something for the kids."

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3. Less is More: Jen Lula-Richardson of Jen Loves Kev focuses on curbing the quantity of toys: "In our family we kind of go by the "less is more" motto when it comes to toys. I want our girls to be creative, use their imaginations and to want to get outside to play. I feel like this doesn't happen when there are thousands of toys lying around. Of course, I can't completely deny my daughters' love of princesses so we do have our fair share of toys. I like to keep things organized as best as possible though. Nowadays it's easy to find some really great baskets. I like to have baskets in each room of our house that toys can get thrown into. It makes for a fast and easy clean up while still being stylish in your home."

4. Cycle toys: If you have the space, rotating toys on a regular basis can help to keep your home less cluttered, make your kids feel less overwhelmed, and helps them to maintain interest in their play things. Joni Lay of Lay Baby Lay employs this strategy in her own household: "My strategy for taming toys is to frequently (typically once a month) sort through them and cycle out the ones that aren't being used as much. As Vivi gets older, it seems the toys come with smaller parts, so I have also been just taking away the smaller pieces that she doesn't really use that will compound the clutter. Sometimes it is hard, but I try to be a little ruthless; otherwise it gets very overwhelming! I have found that the fewer toys she has and the less cluttered her room, the more fun she has playing in there, so I do what I can to keep it that way."

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5. Give Your Child a Space of Their Own: Meta Coleman of One More Mushroom advocates for having a designated space for your little ones to play: "When designing family spaces I believe it is important to integrate a space where the children can read, draw, and play. In our home we have a section in the living room specifically for our children. There is a child's table and chairs for drawing, a cabinet with shelving for children's book and storage below for toys and a small TV. There is also a rug and bean bag cushion for their comfort while playing and watching movies."

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6. A Place for Everything: When every toy has a designated home, it's much easier for little ones to tidy up when they are finished playing. Rubyellen Bratcher of Cakies promotes this philosophy in her own home: "Our rule is everything has a place, and if it isn't in its place, that tells us they don't really care about it and it needs to be moved on. We want them to learn how to take care of things, so we are pretty good at enforcing this rule. With that said, we've turned one of the guest room/play room closets into a little play area for them. Behind the curtains is their wooden play kitchen and a picnic basket full of all their kitchen toys. It's not a lot of toys, but it's enough for them. They use this area to set up shop and usually the toys and play spill over into the rest of the room, but clean up is easy because they put everything back in the basket and then we hide it all behind the curtains."

7. Accept the fact that you're not going to be able to "hide" everything: I love the editor of Buy Modern Baby, Esther Garfield's attitude: "The kids are part of the family and their possessions deserve to be accessible. Some visible signs of their activities just reflect the character of our home, which is a safe, fun and comfortable place for our family to be together."

It was so fun and helpful to hear everyone's strategies and advice! Remember that what works for one person may not work for someone else - the important thing is to decide what's right for your family and get started. If you need a jumping off point to tackle to toy clutter in your home, visit Apartment Therapy's 7-Day Toy Cure. It's designed to work for you whenever you're ready. Do you have any great tips and tricks for curbing the toy clutter in your home? I'd love to hear about them!

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(Image credits: Leela Cyd Ross; Ken Loechner; Jen Lula-Richardson; Meta Coleman; Rubyellen Bratcher)

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