Conquering the Toy Mess

by Kelsey Norwood

in Making Over

I have finally concluded that for me, the key to being (and looking) organized is using as few different types of organizational containers as possible. In other words, find a few different sizes of containers that are pretty one-size-fits-all and use them for everything.

For most things in my house, I have settled on the

  • Sterilite 6-qt. plastic shoe boxes ($.90 each)
  • Sterilite 16-qt. plastic sweater box ($2.70 each)

Here are some examples of how I use these two containers in my house:

plastic sweater box toy organization

We live in a town home and have little closet space, so at the bottom of our coat closet on our main floor where we spend most of our time, I have the 16-qt. sweater boxes with bigger toys or toys that we have lots of: cars, puzzles, animals, dress up, tools, etc. I have labeled each container with an actual word label and also a vinyl picture of the contents so my small children know what toys go in which bucket.

I also use the 16-qt. boxes in my utility room for things like Play-Doh (which only gets played with at the kitchen table), cookie cutters (the utility room serves as my kitchen overflow since I don’t have a pantry), tape, man tools, and other household fix-it type supplies.

plastic shoe box toy organization

On the shelf at the top of the coat closet I have the 6-qt. shoe boxes with games and smaller sets of toys: Mr. Potato Head, play food, play dishes, playing cards, and other toddler games.

This one simple strategy has completely transformed how organized I feel. All the containers match, so I look organized. The toys get played with more since they’re not all out all the time and we have less of a toy mess problem. So my house is more organized.

My next project is to transfer as many games and large puzzles as possible into the shoe boxes. I’ve been holding off for a long time because I have a mental block about getting rid of the original boxes, but all those different sized boxes look terribly cluttered and I know I’ll be more happy with the way they all look in like containers.

What is your household organization/clutter control secret???


1 Allison January 12, 2011 at 11:47 am

I LOVE totes! I never thought to put puzzles in them so I will be doing this very soon!

2 Missy January 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Where are you finding the boxes so cheap?

3 Kelsey January 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Smith’s Marketplace (in Highland) often has the shoe boxes on sale for $.99 and the sweater boxes for $2.99 and then they usually have a 10% off coupon for everything in the home department, which includes the containers, so they’re really $.90 and $2.70.

I used to be able to get the sweater boxes at JoAnn for $2 but they have really gone up in price and the cheapest I’ve seen them lately is $3.50. Boo! So I hold out for the Smith’s sales…

4 Amy January 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I use fabric tote bins for Little Bits toys. I have a bookcase in the living room that is divided into nine cube sections. So far I have given up six of them to fabric totes that contain most of Little Bits toys. I also have a large wheely fabric tote that I keep in the corner with his larger toys. I let him have one tote at a time. That way the mess is minimal. When he goes down for a nap I pick up the tote and we start over with a fresh one when he gets up. He is only 11 months old right now so when he gets a bit bigger he can help me clean up the toys. It is working for us so far. The toys are about the only thing organizationally I am truly happy with. I have been battling the rest of the house since last summer but I don’t feel like I am anywhere near where I want to be. I guess it takes a long time to undo ten years worth of disorganization ;D Good luck with the puzzles!

5 Eva Wallace January 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Very nice! It’s a great way to take advantage of small spaces AND teaches kids how to organize their stuff at an early age; win – win!!

6 Rebekah October 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

I found the containers at walmart :0)

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