Simple Organization, Simple Parenting

Toy minimalism: How to simplify and organize toys for your family

Toy minimalism has made our lives simpler and more fun than I could ever have imagined.

About a year ago, I got totally fed up with the state of our playroom. We had so much random junk. So many things that didn’t have a real home in our toy organizing bins. I hated cleaning up the toys, so I usually just didn’t. They sat on the floor and piled up in front of the shelves that held the toys until you couldn’t get to the rest of the toys anymore. It probably goes without saying that we didn’t spend a lot of time there.

So when I found The Minimal Mom and learned how beneficial minimalism could be for my family, I knew I had to try toy minimalism. She talked about how much more creative her kids had become since getting rid of their toys. They love to create things with cardboard and tape, and they fight over their toys a lot less. That sounded glorious to me.

(She has a whole playlist about kids toys that you can check out here.)

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I also knew that the playroom would probably be one of the easiest spaces to declutter. There was a lot of low-hanging fruit there. 

Low-hanging fruit

Low-hanging fruit is anything that you can look at and automatically say, “Oh yeah, that needs to go.” In a play area, a good place to start is with anything that’s broken or unusable for some reason. Now, I’m not saying you need to get rid of anything with a crack in it. If the damage isn’t causing any issues to its usefulness, it can totally stay. I’m talking about things that aren’t usable in the way they were intended to be used.

\For example, we had a small table with a drawer in it, but the top of the table didn’t sit the way it should have, and so it was really hard to pull the drawer out and access what was inside. The fact that my then 2 year old couldn’t open the drawer by herself was a deal-breaker for me. So that table went.

Next in low-hanging fruit, I looked for toys that didn’t have all their parts. We all have those toys. Somewhere along the road, a doll gets lost, but we still have all the doll clothes, and they don’t fit any of the other dolls. It’s pretty easy to acknowledge that those doll clothes aren’t going to be used at our house, and maybe there’s another child somewhere that will be thrilled to have another set of clothes for their doll. So we let stuff like that go.

When the low-hanging fruit was gone, I had to actually face the sheer number of random toys we had. It was a bit overwhelming. I started to sort through it, and the best way I could come up with was to put things into categories. We’d always stored our toys in categories, but had a few “miscellaneous” bins, and that’s what I wasn’t sure what to do with. 

Our toy minimalism categories:

Blocks

Duplos

Fisher-Price Little People and Animals

Balls

Lincoln Logs

Cars

Puppets

Dinosaurs

Play food

Doctor set

Puzzles

Dress ups

Baby accessories (like diapers, bottles, etc)

(This sounds like a lot when I spell it out like that, but when they’re all in little bins, it really doesn’t end up taking up much room.)

As I sat and looked at the “miscellaneous” toys left on the floor, I could easily justify getting rid of any toys from the dollar store or happy meals. I grabbed the finger puppets and put them in a bag to store in the diaper bag for church. I also grabbed a few of the other “miscellaneous” toys and stashed them away to use on road trips, so they’d have something different to play with while we drove. And everything else, I got rid of. I couldn’t even tell you what was in that group of random toys. And my 2 year old didn’t notice either. I just knew that I didn’t want to keep picking those up off the floor. I knew that they weren’t worth my time and energy. So I got them out.

Quarantining toys

If you’re afraid that your child will notice that toys are missing, put them in a box and move it to a different room where your child won’t see it and won’t know it’s there. If your child asks for a specific item, get it out for them. After a few months (or maybe even less) you can safely assume that whatever is left in the box won’t be missed and can be donated or sold.

Toys stored on shelf

Toy storage

We’ve tried a few different storage situations, but recently we cleaned out a closet in our basement enough to fit the toys in there. It’s been perfect. On a lower shelf, we have things the kids play with daily (Fisher-Price dollhouse/farm and people/animals, and Duplos). On the top shelf in the closet, I store the rest of the bins. I don’t usually limit how many bins the kids have out at once unless I can tell they are done playing with something. I like to allow them the freedom to play with multiple things together. (My 3 year old likes her dinosaurs to live in her lincoln log houses. We have no idea where that came from.)

Having most of the bins up high just limits the number of bins that they can have dumped out on the floor at a time. I made sure to label the bins with pictures so that they know what’s in each one when they’re deciding what to play with.

I don’t do toy rotation (where you store toys somewhere else and then rotate them out) for a couple of reasons. First, I know myself, and I know that I probably wouldn’t remember to rotate them except for maybe every two years. And second, I have a hard time with the idea of dedicating storage space to something that isn’t being used at the moment. I do rotate out the bins on the lower shelves occasionally, as I notice that they’re consistently asking for a bin that’s on the top shelf.

Why it works

If you watch The Minimal Mom’s videos, you’ll notice that they don’t have dollhouses or play kitchens or anything like that. We do, but we also have a large, designated play area in our basement. My kids are younger, and they play with them almost every time we are downstairs. So we’ve kept things that we might not have kept if we had a smaller house. 

But that’s the great thing about toy minimalism. You get to cater to your family, house, and needs. The toys we have now are easy to clean up. I don’t feel overwhelmed by a toy mess anymore, because I know where everything goes. That’s what I go for when I’m decluttering, not a certain number of items or a specific type of item. I just go for something that is manageable and meets our needs.

The toys we’ve chosen to keep are the tried and true for our family. They’re open-ended toys that encourage creative play and motor skill development. And they’re things that we all enjoy playing with. (Especially the Duplos. If you don’t have Duplos yet, start looking for some. They’re fun for all of us!)

If you want to apply these principles to the rest of your house, you can read about how we’ve adopted minimalism in the rest of our home here.

Below, you can download a free printable list of steps for beginning toy minimalism. It includes everything from low-hanging fruit to how to get rid of the stuff you’re purging!

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