5 Things We Do to Keep Toys Under Control

Our toy organization hacks can be piecemealed together over a series of several posts, like our recent nook refresh and Lucy’s nursery reveal, for example. But today, I want to really break down ​​​​​ the process of keeping our toys under control, in conjunction with the physical aspects of actually storing them. While I was pregnant, Scott and I had a lot of talks about how we hoped to handle later-life situations with Lucy – things like gifting (giving ​​​​​​​and receiving), discipline, manners and, yes, toys! ​​​​​​​

I’ll also preface this post by saying that we have one child, so of course our process could get more complicated with several children! Even still, we think of our home as belonging to all of us – not just Lucy, and not just Kim + Scott. It has to work for everyone to be harmonious, don’t you agree? So here’s what we do to keep the peace and prevent the toys from taking over our home, while also giving Lucy the freedom to explore, learn and be herself.

1 | We gave Lucy cabinets of her own

We like to think of our home as being just right for our family, although to some, our house may seem small at about 1,800 sq. ft. (And honestly, we almost nixed this very home from our house hunt because it was too big! We prefer a smaller footprint.) We’re cautious with what we bring into our home, which is something we learned together over the course of several years. I think this initial step of paring back isn’t one to take lightly, as it sets the foundation for the rest of our process.

Even still, we had some work to do in preparation of Lucy’s arrival. In the months leading up to her due date, we gave ourselves the task of decluttering BIG time. We already have a minimal amount of ‘stuff’, but we took a step back and looked at the larger picture of our home: What’s a necessity? What’s not? And if it’s not, do we love it enough to stay?

Before we brought Lucy home from the hospital, we reassessed the stuff we thought we needed, and we started with this credenza:

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

We thought, what if we could completely empty this credenza and allow this to be storage for Lucy? It was mostly old sketch books, office and craft supplies. We took everything out, shredded documents, moved sentimental items into the attic, donated a LOT, and finally, we stored the rest in our little work room (which is now a designated craft room). Then we picked up these felt bins and filled them with some of the toys we’d already been gifted. There are 3 doors, and behind each is 2 bins. The one on the far left is currently off limits (you can see the cabinet latch in the photo below), but one day, it will be Lucy’s! For now, the left bins contain fabric and wallpaper samples, which I’ve been setting aside for her.

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

When we upgraded our media cabinet in the living room, we continued the trend by giving Lucy another cabinet of her own! In fact, having ample space for a tall toy basket was a must-have when we were searching for a new cabinet. There’s enough space for this white cotton rope basket (we have several of these throughout our home!), which are filled with Lucy’s stuffies.

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

Lucy has learned which cabinets are hers, and she easily goes up to them and pulls out what she likes. Cabinets that are not hers have safety latches! (We’ve started using these and love them.)

2 | We use furniture with hidden storage

Although this home is bigger than our former condo, we still have a small home mentality. We love it when furniture can pull double duty, and this has never been more handy than with Lucy! Our coffee table has a hidden storage compartment that we thought we’d use for our own remotes, but Lucy figured it out much too quickly – ha! Instead, we keep some of her favorite knick knacks in there – a non-operational remote control, blocks, books and teething necklaces.

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
coffee table | felt coasters | toy remote | vintage rug (similar)

When purchasing new furniture, think about how a piece can work harder for you! Items like storage ottomans or even a two-tiered coffee table (with baskets for kid gadgets) can be a real sanity saver.

3 | We cut back first, then we choose our baskets

I think baskets can become a false sense of organization if you’re buying blindly and filling them up with​​​​​​​out assessing what you have first! It’s not helpful to have ten baskets if they’re all filled with underused items that should be passed along or donated. The first thing we do is decide how we’ll use the basket, and then we purchase the basket accordingly.

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

We use this tall seagrass basket (it’s soft, not scratchy!) in our nook, which is essentially Lucy’s little play room. Never underestimate the power of a lid! She can easily remove the lid and pull out her favorite items, and when she’s done, it can all be hidden away.

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

Don’t have a lid? We toss a blanket over this big open basket at our Tree House, and all of her toys are hidden underneath when not in use:

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
dresser | basket

4 | We keep open toy storage in her bedroom

For everything else, we rely on this bookcase and these baskets in Lucy’s bedroom. The open storage is great for her own space, because she can easily see everything available to her. By storing loose items in our favorite white baskets, things still look tidy at the end of the day! (We’ve also been putting a lot of energy into ‘pick-up time,’ which she weirdly seems to enjoy. Is she my child or what?!)

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
bookcase | crib

5 | We limit what comes in

This is, by far, the most challenging thing to get a handle on, we think, and this goes back to discussions Scott and I had before Lucy joined us! ​​​​​​​How do we handle gifts? Luckily, our family understands that we like to limit what we bring into our home, so more often than not, they’ll ask us first: ​​​​​​​Do you need X, Y, Z? I’m at the store and it’s on sale right now! Sometimes we do, most of the time, we don’t, and they respect that.​​​​​​​

However, we also understand that for special occasions, our family and friends find joy in gifting Lucy something special. I know we enjoy doing the same for them! So if they ask us for input, we’ll suggest books or simple wooden puzzles. I mean, this is as easy as having a conversation with your loved ones, but it’s also as hard as having a conversation with your loved ones, ha!

5 tips to keeping the toys under control | toy organization ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
navy rug | nursery rug | pouf | be nice art | pom pom curtains

When it really comes down to it, Lucy simply doesn’t have a lot of toys. We feel so fortunate to live in a city that has a lot to offer – countless parks that we can walk to, bike trails, and endless pop-up activities for kids. We take advantage of that as much as possible, and let’s be honest – Lucy’s favorite toys are nothing more than the empty box from our recent Amazon order.

What else would you add to this list?

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  • Steph M.7.2.19 - 8:35 AM

    I definitely needed this! Our little girl is newly mobile, and I’m looking for ways to let her have fun in each of our rooms instead of just her bedroom where everything has been up to this point. 
    I would also appreciate a post about clothes! My family cannot resist buying her ALL THE CLOTHES! I’ve recently made it VERY clear that she does not need anything else, and I’d appreciate it if they held off for quite awhile. We’ll see if the grandmas listen ????ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.2.19 - 8:39 AM

      Haha, Lucy has very limited clothes as well! We buy a few pieces every season (like we just got her 2 new pairs of shorts and a few packs of tank tops, but that’s it!), otherwise we keep our eyes out for secondhand stuff on Facebook groups or thrift stores. ALL of her clothes fit in her dresser with room to spare. Seriously, all it takes is a talk with family – we know it can be tough, but it’s worth it for your sanity.ReplyCancel

  • lak7.2.19 - 8:35 AM

    How smart you both are in limiting the number of toys in your home.  We had so fewer toys than kids do now and to be honest, our imaginations soared.  I can remember my brother as a toddle playing in the kitchen on the floor with my moms pots and pans!  they were great fun.  My great nephew does this now.  As a child appliance boxes were the best.  We had huge coloring books we got every Christmas and they were used.  Puzzles, Jax, trouble, and a bike as we got older.  We spent a lot of time exploring our world out of doors!  No play dates for us, we explored!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.2.19 - 8:41 AM

      The bigger the box, the happier the Lucy, ha! Love hearing this. Lucy plays with magnets on the fridge while we’re making dinner, or most times, we just tell her everything we’re doing and she LOVES it (i.e., ‘oooh, I’m pouring this box of pasta into boiling water now!’). I can’t wait until she’s old enough for coloring books. Maybe this Christmas?! That was always my favorite as a child. Coloring books or big, blank journals with endless crisp white pages and a fresh pack of gel pens.ReplyCancel

  • Halle7.2.19 - 10:02 AM

    Thank you for this! Our daughter is a few months younger than Lucy, so I’m always on the lookout for your posts about her – I know what’s coming down the line for us! One thing we have done is to rotate toys in and out of open storage. We’ll put some toys she doesn’t play with into a closed bin in her room, and then a few months later bring them back out and it’s like brand new toys! This allows us to keep only a few things out at a time, so tidying up is fast. We’ve also found that she would rather play with books than about anything else, so we moved all the board books to a low shelf where she can pull them down easily. I do have kind of a random question – what hairties do you use for her? My little girl’s hair is just long enough that it’s getting in her eyes, but she won’t tolerate bows/clips and I’m worried about damaging the superfine baby hairs with hairties.ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.2.19 - 1:40 PM

      Love that idea, we’ll give the ‘new toys’ a try!
      We just use those little elastics (the ones you can in the various hair colors), and they work really well. Sometimes she messes with them, but not too much.ReplyCancel

  • Emily Mosby7.2.19 - 1:51 PM

    This reminds me of the Montessori Toddler, a book I just read. A lot of info about how the design of your home can be part of your parenting philosophy and foster independence and creative thought. You might like it!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.2.19 - 3:08 PM

      Ooh, I’ll look into it! Thank you, Emily.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer7.2.19 - 5:53 PM

    You totally have toy storage under control!  I think the toy thing gets harder as they get older, my daughter is 8 now and I’ve heard that it decreases again after 10-12 but I’m still waiting for that stage.  Especially when kids start getting things in the goodie bags from every party they go to, etc.  But the storage in every room is genius, especially giving Lucy space in already existing furniture.  I’m going to try and adopt some of that to get the clutter in our house under control without adding more and more toy storage bins.  ReplyCancel

    • Ellen7.3.19 - 4:26 PM

      I’m seeing this already with my two year old. We have always limited the amount of stuff coming in and our families are of the same mind so we’re lucky. But. The toys get more complex and have more pieces (even if you don’t have a lot of them!) and the bins that worked for baby toys are a bit of a nightmare jumble when everything is put away in them. ReplyCancel

  • Rachael7.3.19 - 4:14 PM

    I love this. You are new parents, sweet and doe-eyed. And I say that with kindness. We are very similar to you in lifestyle; minimal, limit items, smaller home, etc etc. But my gosh, when they get to school and their friends send them home from parties with goodie bags full of crap, and your kid wants a lego set with more than 600 pieces, well, organizing it and keeping it minimal and beautiful gets tough. We have definitely influenced our kids to put stuff on our bed they no longer need (so we can donate it) so we don’t fight about it, but it really is a battle to try and keep it out of the house in the first place. And the art…omg every scribble they do they think belongs in an art museum. Alison at 600sq ft and a baby blogs about beautiful toy storage and the reality of it in a very honest, raw kind of way. Anyways, I like reading what you and your sweet family does and think that as you navigate kid stuff as Lucy gets older will be very helpful to those who follow behind you. ReplyCancel

  • Claire7.7.19 - 9:44 PM

    For us, we limit the number of places in the house that have toys. The big bay window in our living room is the play nook and a low shelf there houses most of the toys in current rotation – and that’s the other key: we have five collections of toys that we rotate, so at any given time, most toys are in storage in the basement with one collection out to play with for a week or two. ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.8.19 - 7:51 AM

      Love the idea of swapping out toys so that they feel new again. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • […] Russell and I have talked a lot about toys for future potential offspring. It can be such a mess! Here are some good tips for dealing with kid clutter. […]ReplyCancel

  • Anthony7.14.19 - 9:08 AM

    Your tips are really helpful, thanks :) I like it when blogs share videos and your gallery wall just looks amazing. I’ve never imagined that doing a gallery wall correctly would be so easy. These DIY wall hanging designs ideas also look really cool, hope they are as easy as yours looks


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