General Question

jca's avatar

People with kids: Do you find you tend to accumulate so much stuff, and if so, how do you organize it all?

Asked by jca (27953 points ) April 21st, 2012

I am going through and organizing my pre-schooler’s stuff today, and there’s so much it’s overwhelming. Each toy has little parts, and then there’s the McDonald’s Happy Meals toys, and the art stuff, and the theme stuff (Olivia, fairies, Squinkies, etc.).

How do you keep track and organize your children’s stuff, and do you find it is overwhelming?

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14 Answers

marinelife's avatar

It’s not just people with kids. I don’t have kids, but I have too much stuff.

It just migrates into our houses and never leaves.

My sister was great at organizing and getting rid of stuff. You just have to be ruthless about throwing stuff out.

Trillian's avatar

I never saw the need to keep every little thing. Especially useless stuff like happy meal toys, etc. If the child doesn’t play with it, chances are he won’t miss it.
I was going to use the word “ruthless” to describe myself, how funny to see that’s how @marinelife described her sister.
Seriously, I was in the military for a long time and had to move every two or three years. Knowing that helped me keep from accumulating stuff to begin with. That and simply not attaching too much importance to material “things”.
It’s something I tried to pass along to my kids. Not to blindly “want” every stupid toy they saw on tv, and not to allow your possessions to own you.

Coloma's avatar

I think everyone can accumulate too much “stuff”, kids or not. I’m getting ready to have a yard sale next month with a friend, I can’t believe how much stuff I have around that I want gone.
My daughter is 24 now, hasn’t lived at home for 3 years and I still have 3–4 HUGE containers of her stuff in my garage. Schoolwork, her Breyer horse and book collection, her tea set, on & on. haha Kids never fully leave home. :-)

tom_g's avatar

Like @marinelife said, most people accumulate stuff. However, having kids is really a recipe for a significant increase in “stuff”. We’re constantly struggling with it and have not found a the perfect method for our family. However, here are a few things that we do that tend to work…

- We don’t do happy meals or anything that results in a useless piece of plastic.
– We communicate very often to our family (grandmothers, aunts, uncles, etc) that we do not want the kids getting junk. They get presents for their birthdays – they don’t need to be sprinkled with tiny crap all the time. Want to give my kid something? Give them an experience. Bring them to a museum. Make mud pies in the back yard. Draw with them.
– Art stuff: We have bins that are organized by material (more or less). The kids are expected to return the unused materials to the appropriate bins when they are finished.
– Art: Anything that really stands out to us or to them (we let them decide) gets hung up in the house somewhere. Periodically, we (my wife and I) take it down to make more room. If it’s exceptional or really moves us, we have storage bins in the basement for keeping some of their art. Otherwise, it makes its way into recycling.
– Toys, such as cars, playmobil, etc are cycled throughout the year. We only keep a few things out at a time. This serves to keep the mess to a minimum. It also helps keep the toys fresh. After a few weeks of sitting out, the dinosaurs can get a bit stale. We put them away (in more bins) in the basement or closet. Then, when we pull them out again in a few weeks or so, it’s like they just got them as a present all over again.
– Xmas and birthdays: We have strict rules about presents from our family members. This was communicated one xmas about 8 years ago, and I send out the rules every years before xmas. Basically, 2 gifts per child. We make recommendations, and we highly encourage gifts that are an experience rather than a piece of plastic.

Also, it’s inevitable that the kids will collect some small plastic crap. They each have a system for that stuff (a small box). We go through the stuff from time to time and clear it out (throw stuff away that we don’t want/need).

Regarding the bin system we have: Each bin is one of those huge plastic bins. Each one has a specific use and is clearly labeled.
If I think of anything else, I’ll mention it later. good luck!

tom_g's avatar

Also, we do a ton of donating and giving away stuff. Most of the clothes up until now have been second hand, and often we’re able to pass these on when we’re done. Same with toys. The kids don’t show much interest in a toy or game…it’s gone.

Charles's avatar

Throw it in the trash.

bkcunningham's avatar

I had several small plastic, stackable bins and shelves that helped to kept things organized. My rule was to put something away completely before something else was brought out for play. The kids always had to help with the organization, even if I went behind their backs and did rearranged things when it needed to be done. The one thing that really helped me keep toys organized (or as organized as I could get) was keeping a couple of plastic bins of toys put away, out of sight and out of mind. Seasonally, I’d swap out the toys. It was like having new things when the bin was brought out.

The most important thing to remember and the best piece of advice I can offer is not to sweat it if you aren’t organized and the pieces don’t match. The toys and the little mismatched pieces are only temporary. They don’t stay toddlers for very long. Enjoy the chaos and kicking through the mess while you are can.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have kids, but it is tough for me to organizing my stuff. A girlfriend of mine who had two children was very good about all the “stuff.” Once they got to a certain age, every time they got something new, they had to pick out so thi g to get rid of, something they did not play with anymore. She kept a lot of their things in a wall unit of shelves. She had baskets that organized the stuff and then the basket fit on the shelf. The kids would only take down one or two baskets at a time, and everything went away in the basket and back on the shelf before they took down another basket. The kids were amazingly disciplined.

cookieman's avatar

Twice a year I fill up 12–20 trash bags with outgrown clothes, rarely used toys, well-read books, etc. and bring them to the Salvation Army.

Also doubles as a tax write off.

tedibear's avatar

You cannot organize the cluttery stuff, you can only get rid of it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Our oldest has the stackable plastic drawer/tote things he uses to keep his toys organized. He has one he puts all of his Star Wars action figures in, one with Army stuff, etc. He also has totes for his Legos. He knows that when he is done with one thing, he has to clean it up before pulling out other things and he is usually good about it.

The small things (like Happy Meal toys) usually end up being donated or thrown away (depending on the toy/condition) because he doesn’t play with those things. He does not get Happy Meals anymore when we go out.

ro_in_motion's avatar

I lived with a family for a while. The kids had everything they wanted in the world … and about 10 times more than that.

The rule we came up with was based on this logic: “If you like a toy, you put it away. Leaving it out where people can walk or trip over it shows you don’t like it that much.” Ten minutes or so before bedtime we’d have the children pick up their toys. For weeks, we let them take stuff out of the box until they learned to put stuff away. Anything left out became a candidate for ‘The Box’. The Box was for giving to charity. We weren’t cruel about it. If it was a cherished toy, they would come down to breakfast with it ‘mysteriously’ being at the breakfast table. They were old enough to know we had put them there on purpose and were pretending otherwise.

Over time, we introduced the idea that there were children with no toys. The children ‘got’ it and would periodically, put toys into ‘The Box’ of their own accord. Whenever the box was full, we’d make a big thing about all going to donate them and then out for ice cream.

augustlan's avatar

We use(d) 2 sets of plastic ‘drawer towers’ in the play room, and each drawer had a purpose (Barbies and all the stuff that goes with them in one, cars & such in another, and so on). Once or twice a year, the kids would go through their toys & books and weed out the outdated ones to contribute to the family yard sale. We let them keep the money they earned from the sales, and whatever didn’t sell had to be donated.

Art supplies are all kept in a little armoire.

For things we or they wanted to keep for sentimental purposes, each child has a very large plastic bin in the basement. Stuff like report cards, special art, big school projects, awards and such live in those.

This is not to say that we have this problem under control… we definitely don’t! But it’s better than nothing. :)

whiteliondreams's avatar

There are many good solutions and some I wouldn’t recommend, but if there are items that your children enjoy playing with on a daily or frequent basis, you should get totes or anything will multiple bins to separate the items. We have little carry bags, almost purse sized, that hold the smaller pieces for certain dolls and toys. Keeping things organized by category would help a ton because once the child is aware of what the box contains, it is more likely that the items will be located there and put back in that place. Assuming, of course, that your children are older than four years old.

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