Hey Minimalist Mamas!

Do you want to know the secrets to toy storage when you feel like you simply have too many toys? Do you need solutions for your child’s chronic boredom? Do you want the answer to how you can be more productive at home? Well- keep reading, Mama, cause I’m letting you in on ALL of my toy storage secrets today!

Why My Kids Will NEVER Own A Toy Box Plus Toy Storage Secrets For Toys We Kept After Playing My Minimalist Mama Game

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The secret to how to organize and store too many toys really isn’t a even a secret at all.

You can’t.

Even if you come up with a system that works for the moment, the floor will disappear under toys in an instant and your brilliant toy storage system will be a mess again before you can blink your eyes. Amiright? The secret for neatly storing your child’s toys is to get rid of most of them.

You see, every item in your home, toys in this case, needs an assigned “home” of its own that every member of the household knows. If each toy cannot have a place to call its home then there are just too many in your collection. Simple as that. No Pinterest-worthy toy storage system can solve this for you until you’ve taken steps to eliminate clutter. I eliminated a portion of our toy collection last month for exactly that reason.


The secret to neatly storing toys is to get rid of most of them.

After you’ve finished the hard work of decluttering toys, I suggest checking with your church nursery to see if they would like to freshen their toy collection with your unwanted items. My favorite thing to do with our decluttered stuff is using a consignment shop that allows items to be dropped off, but donating to secondhand stores is a wonderful option as well.

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you’ve been enjoying the posts on my social media accounts for my Minimalist Mama Game in the month of January. I can hardly believe it’s over already!

I have to say, I’ve been impressed with the results. Posting on social media has been a great way of keeping me motivated and accountable to follow through each day. The best part in my eyes is that our vacation box for rotating toys (which was totally full on Jan. 1) is now less than half full and is neatly organized. Playing this game forced me to work through the hard decisions like the toys that I really like, but that my kiddos don’t give two craps about. The majority of what’s part of our toy rotation now is homeschool-related toys and games. I’m fine with that. Those toys are rotated more frequently as homeschool topics change and they need a landing zone for when they’re not in use.

Surprisingly, a few days after the game ended, I felt extreme motivation to clear out a few more toys that weren’t counted as part of my toy decluttering game. Isn’t it funny how once you get started on a task and work at it little by little your motivation builds up and, before you even realize it, you’re outside cleaning out the storage shed? The trick is just getting started. That’s really the hardest part.

Here’s a recap of which toys we decluttered in the past month:

Why My Kids Will Never Own A Toy Box Toys We Purged
Toys gettin’ no love got the boot!

A grand total of 45 toys were purged by us this month!

And that’s with counting the bucket of small, plastic Old West figures as only one item!

Throughout this whole Minimalist journey, I’m surprised each time once I realize the true number of items we own and not the guesstimate in my head. 45 toys gone?! And if I’m keeping it real ’round here, which I always try to do for you guys, we still have too many toys. And we aren’t alone. Did you know that the average American child has 238 toys, but plays with just 12? To make matters worse, this year alone, that same average child will receive 70 new toys!

So if our kids have so many toys then why are they following us around all day like baby ducklings quacking about how bored they are?

I think deep down you already know the answer. Having so many toys is distracting. Just when a child gets into playing, they are easily distracted by the potential a different toy in the room may have. The grass is always greener, right? Then it’s another toy and then another. You know the idea. You’re probably living it right now (& cleaning up the messes!).

Your child is frustrated from this fractured form of playtime and is acting out. You’re doubly frustrated trying to mediate your child’s feelings and clean up the havoc that is following.

What’s the answer?

Fewer toys. But not just any ol’ toy. The majority of a small toy collection should be items for pretend play. Regular, everyday household objects fit the bill, too.

In my first e-Book, The Ultimate Toy Storage Handbook, I outline exactly what types of toys work best for encouraging pretend play. It’s FREE!

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Why My Kids Will Never Own A Toy Box

Our set up for storing toys is ever changing as I’m still working to get our home to the point that it’s comfortable, decluttered, but able to be played in and enjoyed. I prefer cozy minimalism. I don’t want to be the Mama who’s always saying, “No.” I’ve been her for too long and I don’t like her. That’s why I’m creating systems in my home that allow my children to be themselves without triggering my anxiety. One of my tried and true examples is that I never have more toys in active play than I care to pick up each day. 

So- getting to the point of this post- none of our toys are stored in a toy box and here’s why: toy boxes are destined to be dumped! My kids have never had a toy box and I don’t plan on ever bringing one into our home. They’re evil! For the sake of your sanity, Mama, run far, far away from the toy boxes! Unless, of course, you get your kicks from picking up piles of toys every day. Then, by all means, get yourself a toy box and pick up ’til your heart’s content!

Why am I so anti-toy box? I was first inspired to go this route by reading Montessori homeschooling posts on other blogs. Using the Montessori Method, toys are limited to a small amount and displayed in ways that are tidy and visually appealing. Storing toys this way facilitates focus and learning while limiting over-stimulation and distractions. Using the Montessori Method as inspiration, here are a few rules we use for storing toys in our home:

  • Toys should be easy to see before the child ever physically reaches the toy.
    • Example: Your child should be able to clearly identify each toy in its assigned “home” from anywhere the child is standing in the room. There is no need for the child to dig and dump when everything is easily seen.
  • Use toy storage containers in a way that promotes visual access.
  • Limit the amount of toys in each storage space.
    • Examples: Medium-large size toys should have a space in a cube shelf where they are alone; small toys should be contained in some type of bin (listed above) and limit one bin per storage space on the shelf. Store very large toys, or oddly shaped toys, on the top of the shelf if it is easily reachable by the child. Limit the amount of these toys to 2-3 so that it stays visually appealing.
  • Divide sets or large collections.
    • Examples: Those 1,500 LEGOs that all came home in the same box when you bought them don’t have to stay together for an eternity. Divide the collection into a small, manageable amount and send the rest to your vacation box. Rotate them in when Baby Bear starts to get bored.
    • More examples: Barbie can be separated from the baby, or dog, or 10 outfits that she came with and still be enjoyed. OR, if your child likes her set of golf clubs, but doesn’t care at all for the golf balls- donate them! You don’t have to keep toys just because they came together in a set. That’s just not in the rule book. 😉

You don't have to keep toys just because they came together in a set

How To Store Toys

Our toy collection is stored between two cube shelves plus a few freestanding toys like our play kitchen. That’s it besides a handful of bath toys (post on that later!) and the toys in the vacation box that rotate in and out of active play. We don’t store or collect our toys anywhere else. The larger of the two cube shelves is in The Boy’s room at the moment and the smaller one is residing in the living room for now.

I love this storage method for several reasons. The biggest reason being that I want my children to be able to see their toys clearly displayed in a neat arrangement. Storing toys this way reduces mess making because the child doesn’t have to dig in a box or dump a bin to find the toy they have in mind. Plus, no digging = fewer distractions to interrupt focused play and less mess for you to clean up because the kiddo threw 10 toys in the floor while searching for the one he had in mind. Playing is important work for young children and I want to make that process as streamlined for my kiddos as possible. You should, too!

I love this way of storing our toys for the option of including baskets, if needed or wanted. We use baskets to store our Little People toys, collection of musical instruments, and wooden blocks. Using baskets creates a crisp, clean look in a room once all of the toys have been picked up or put away at the end of the day, but just go into using them knowing they should be paired correctly with the type of toy you choose to keep inside.

I try to avoid baskets if they are too deep or if you can’t easily see what’s inside them because they’ll inevitably end up dumped just like a toy box will, but for certain toys they are absolutely warranted. A good rule of thumb is don’t put small toys in baskets. If you decide to use them, don’t overfill them and only put items inside that you don’t mind picking up often- these would not be a good place to store fragile items or your big box of Legos with it’s 1,500 tiny pieces. Toys stored in baskets should be large enough in size that the toys inside fill the basket to the top where they can easily be identified. 

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Toys That Survived The Purge, Divided By Room

For those of you who have been following along with my toy decluttering spree for the past month, as promised, here’s our complete, current list of toys and where we store the toys.

The Girl’s Room

I moved our largest cube shelf out of her room and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Her bedroom now looks like a studio apartment or a baby doll’s nursery. Her favorite toys are her dolls so it only seemed fitting to create a space for her that supports that scenario of play.

Why My Kids Have NEVER Owned A Toy Box Plus Toy Storage Secrets For Toys We Kept After Playing The Minimalist Mama Game
Imma keep it real around here. Goldfish cracker crumbs and all.

Here’s what her room currently houses:

The Boy’s Room

The Boy’s room has just recently been converted into a space that belongs only to him. There are still a few lingering items that belong to my Husband and me like our hobby supplies stored in the closet. These items will probably be staying in that room since we live in a relatively small home and The Boy’s clothes collection doesn’t get in the way since he is an aspiring nudist apparently (ughhhhh- potty training!). Maybe the day will come where I free up space somewhere in order to move those last remaining items out, but if I’m being perfectly honest that isn’t at the top of the to-do list anytime soon.

Our little guy is only just beginning to share elements of his personality with us so that means the majority of the toys in his room were The Girl’s that he has inherited. I’m sure in the coming months he will tell us exactly what he likes. I imagine him as a Lego enthusiast, but so far he is enjoying kitchen gadgets like the toaster more than any actual “toy.” Whatever it takes to cook dinner and get it on the table, amiright?  Here’s the list of toys currently living in his room:

I’ve only just recently put this toy shelf in his room because The Girl’s room was feeling too much like a play room instead of a relaxing bedroom. A child’s bedroom should inspire a calm mood and shouldn’t be filled to the brim with distractions. Moving this to The Boy’s room has entirely changed the feel of The Girl’s room by opening up play space. Plus, deciding to move it to his room forced me to make room by taking my bookshelf out and into our bedroom. Good motivation!

Living Room

The toys in this room are stored in a short 6 cube shelf like this. This shelf is my favorite. It had a past life as a craft supply storage shelf before kids and has held up well. This play area happened by happy accident as I was rearranging the furniture one day. Do you do that? Randomly rearrange furniture? My Husband comes home perplexed by new arrangements more often than he would like, but he’s a good sport.

Why My Kids Have NEVER Owned A Toy Box Plus Toy Storage Secrets For Toys We Kept After Playing The Minimalist Mama Game

After a really good decluttering session, I always have the desire to make a space feel refreshed and new again by experimenting with furniture arrangements. Long story short, the toy shelf stayed in the living room and the rug that used to be in our entryway moved over to join it. The entryway rug was breaking up space in our entry in a negative way. I’m happy I’ve found a new home for it at the play area. Moving the small rug here was a nice compromise for the children to have a comfy place to sit and play rather than keeping our old, larger living room rug. Which, let’s be honest, was basically a glorified napkin for the kids.

I have always avoided housing toys in the living room for the simple reason that I did not want toys strewn about in this area of our home. I have since changed my mind. As the children have grown older, it became a daily habit for them to go to a play area at one end of the house and, instead of staying in that room and playing, they would collect whatever toys interested them and tote them back to the kitchen where I would be working. This didn’t satisfy them for long and they would lose interest almost immediately after dropping the toys off. This continued until the floor filled with toys. Their play, especially The Girl’s, was very short and fractured because of this.

I decided to do a test run with keeping toys in the living room and so far I’ve been very happy with the outcome. Very few toys ever leave their intended area of the house now and it’s not a chore for me to pick up the few that we keep in our living room. The kiddos are able to entertain themselves for longer periods of time, too, with the toys they do have available in this room because they are not forced to make a quick decision on a toy and then bring it across the house before playing with it.

Here’s what we keep in this play space:

Our living room also includes a toddler mattress that the children use as a couch. We had been using it in our homeschool room before we changed that room’s purpose. When we switched things around, the mattress went out to storage (because who can get rid of a perfectly good mattress?!) and there it has sat for the past few months. I do not like the idea of storing things without purpose so one of my current projects is working on removing everything unnecessary from our storage places. So- here I was- ready to rid ourselves of the mattress. I bring it inside to take to cosignment and before I know it the kids decide this is their most favorite toy in all the land.

The Toy of the Week, if you will.

One of my tenets as a mother is that time is my friend. I figured I could wait patiently for the two of them to lose interest. Wrong. So here it sits in our living room. They love it and it is useful so I indulge them. I’m not sure if it should qualify as a “toy,” maybe a piece of furniture, but they use it more for games rather than lounging. It has been an excellent toy for fostering pretend play often coupled with the aforementioned large cardboard box. The last few weeks they’ve been a bobcat’s den. I love their imaginations! 🙂

My first ebook is loaded down with ideas for encouraging imaginative play!

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If you’re reading this and saying, “Lady, this does not sound like a Minimalist amount of toys!” That’s okay. It’s less than we had yesterday. I’m still working on curating the amount that pleases everyone.

After my son was born, I lost sight of myself while I struggled with postpartum depression. Part of what exacerbated this stressful time for me was my lack of control in the toy storage department. I allowed too many to come through our front door. The result is our toy collection remaining much larger than would be ideal for me, but it is so much better now than it used to be. If you’re struggling with toy storage or just decluttering in general, sign up for my FREE ecourse, “Decluttering With Kids,” or contact me! I love getting to know my readers.

How do you store your children’s toys? Is it working for your family?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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