How To Organize Kids Toys If You Don’t Want To Get Rid Of Them

How to Organize Kids Toys? Don't Bother.

How to organize kids toys is a topic that sounds basic. Buy some storage stuff and fill it up. You find yourself turning into a broken record of,

“Just clean it up!”

“This place is a mess!”

“Put your toys away when you’re done!”

Kids aren’t leaving a messy trail because they’re lazy slobs at heart. Nope. It’s something else.

So What's the Problem?!

Children can’t organize toys for one (very good) reason.

Their stuff has nowhere to go.

I know, I know! You worked hard to organize your home. You outfitted play areas with toy boxes, organizing cubes, containers, and more. Closets, attics, and garages hold less-used toys.

Editor’s note: Since this post, I’ve discovered the Simplicity Parenting theory by Dr. Kim John Payne and have chosen to edit down our collection of toys to the basics. Read more about the Simplicity Parenting toy list here if you’re looking to decrease the number of toys in your home (and not just organize what you already have).

All you’re asking is that they throw it in a bin, line it up against the wall, or jam it in a closet when they’re done playing.


It’ll never work. (Sorry.)

Children need structure. Kids don’t know how to organize toys, which means you need “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Which is a problem, because kids have so many toys it’s impossible to designate a spot for each one.

Kids need to learn to cope.  But they can’t learn how to organize kids toys if there’s no real organizational strategy.

The BC Plan

I had it all planned out BC (Before Kids).

The coffee table had three large baskets underneath it. Bam! Built-in toy storage.

How to organize kids toys? Pshaw. I got this.

Epic fail. Even with sparingly filled baskets, toys were never put away. My daughter was used to putting her things away at preschool… why couldn’t she clean up at home?

The Sneaky Culprit

The containers! My child had trouble organizing her toys because she had trouble retrieving toys from the high-sided baskets.

I wasn’t organizing toys… I was hiding them.

Welcome to The Toy Exchange

how to organize toys for kids

Out went the baskets. Now 5-7 toys take up residence under our coffee table. Not the prettiest site, but I prefer a few toys out over shoving them in a bin she can’t see or against a wall. There’s a small art table off to the side with a wall organizer that contains a small, rotating collection of art supplies.

One large play item stays out at a time (kitchen, dollhouse, playhouse, tent) and we rotate upon request or when something’s gone unused for too long.

A cabinet or storage boxes like these are filled with remaining toys. We organize toys by assigning each a designated spot. My daughter completes a toy exchange by switching out a “new” toy with a played-out “coffee table toy” when she’s ready to play with something different.

What If Your Child Forgets?

If she’s not playing with the current selection, I’ll take the lead and complete a toy rotation based on what I see her using or talking about. Older kids can do it themselves. You can get kids to organize toys.

You just have to put most of the toys away to give them a chance to succeed.

It works like a charm.

Every time your child has to throw unrelated toys together it undermines their ability to clean up.

Teach kids to appreciate their belongings by giving every item a home. Whether you have a 7-bedroom home or studio apartment, kids need to work with the space they have and so do to organize kids toys

Exceptions to the Rule

Some toys that benefit from a “dump it in” mentality:

  • Legos® or building sticks like these

  • trains

  • blocks

  • dolls and accessories

  • dress up play (this is our fave line)

  • collections of toys that are often mixed

I’ve found we don’t need every piece every time.

Example: My daughter recently received a 75-piece magnetic princess play set. Score! She loves it, but 75 pieces for a 3-year-old? Wayyyyy too much. I leave out 25 pieces and rotate them. Less mess, more play.

As For Everything Else

There’s no easy way to say this so I’m just going to rip the Band-Aid® off.

Keep your child’s favorite toys. Don’t learn how to organize kids toys they don’t even like. Get rid of the rest. 

Yes, giving stuff away that you or someone you love spent hard-earned money on is hard. It sucks. You’re worried you’ll offend someone. You’re worried your child might want to play with it next week.

I get that you don’t want to throw it all away.

Really, I get it.

But you work hard and care for your home. It’s not your job to deal with a houseful of guilt and mess.

It’ll be tough to weed out and organize toys. My advice is to involve the kids when you can.

Tips For How To Organize Kids Toys (Older Kids):

  1. Prepare the space where toys will be taking up residence. We use an old armoire/tv cabinet. Low-sided baskets like these and trays (love this one) are always helpful for storing items with smaller pieces.
  2. Open up a little. Let your kids know how draining it is to look at all the stuff all the time. Tell them you want to feel happier and spend more time with them and less time cleaning. One way to do this is to organize toys. They’ll whine, offer to help clean, promise to put things away, and try to manipulate you. They’re lying. Don’t fall for it.
  3. Empower your child. Offer up the storage space and organize toys in one sitting. It’s up to them what stays. Stick around to help facilitate the cleaning, but be like Switzerland. Just stay out of it. Help them, but don’t try to sway their decision.
  4. Let them fill up their space with their favorites and donate/sell the rest. If your child is very attached to possessions, passing along directly to families in need will be your best bet. Have them come with you to drop off donations. It makes a difference.

Younger kids are a bit easier. I cleaned out everything I didn’t want to interact with or read (yes, you read that right!), then watched my daughter for a bit. I noticed what toys she never reached for and got rid of them. A few I put away, knowing she was too young for them. That’s how we organize toys.

art table how to organize kids toys

The rest went to friends and donation. Even gifts.

A Note About Gifts

Touchy subject, right? Truly, I feel your pain. But gifts are not obligations. They’re considerations. And if someone’s laying a guilt trip on you because you donated a gift that’s no longer used? Shame on them. They’re the ones with the problem – not you.

Grandparents are often offended. It’s understandable. Explain you just can’t handle the amount of stuff. That there is so much stuff your child can’t even play with all of it.

Ask them how much they had growing up?! This much?? Stress that you appreciate their gifts and your child has kept their favorites.

Many families find creating an online wishlist ( is a great place to store the list) helps. I don’t, but I do make a point of telling gift-buyers what my daughter really wants. Rude? Maybe. But I don’t expect gifts. If they want to give my daughter something, I’m happy to point them in a direction she’ll enjoy. If they want to brainstorm on their own, awesome! Everyone understands we won’t keep it if it’s not a hit.

Decreasing toy quantity decreases stress and increases attention span and care. It’s not some crazy parenting technique. It’s science. Too many choices make us less able to choose. Decision Fatigue is a real and growing problem.

There’s no big trick. How to organize kids toys is about eliminating everything that doesn’t get used often, is broken, or is missing pieces, and keeping out a small rotation of loved toys.

how to organize kids toys

Drastically reducing the number of toys will result in a more engaged and careful child, who appreciates their belongings (most of the time).

Not to mention it makes holiday and birthday times MASSIVE hits! 😉

I can tell we have too many toys – especially after birthdays and holidays – when toys start piling up and getting shoved on top of each other. We know it’s time to weed out the old and make room for the new.

Remeber, a place for everything and everything in its place. That’s how to organize kids toys.

That’s how to get kids to clean up.

Take a day and go for it. We figured out how to organize kids toys and it works!

The Swap Out

Lies About Parenting




Ashley Trexler is Ashley is a blogger and growth coach who helps creative and driven people develop the knowledge and know-how they need to launch and monetize their passion project online.

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