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A smart way to organize toys, plus, how to curb unnecessary “gifting” and avoid clutter

A smart way to organize toys

HELLO! I am alive, I promise. Know it’s been quiet on here lately–but I suppose that’s to be expected now that summer madness has started. I rolled off one Santa Barbara trip, into the long weekend at the lake house, then got strep throat over the weekend (JOY) anddd I’m going on a girls’ trip to Napa with Kate and Melissa on Thursday. (Hallelujah for Z-Packs!)

Oh, also, June was out of school yesterday so not only was I sick in bed unable to get any work done, but Neal and I had to tag team her all day. (And by that I mean Neal took her the entire first half of the day so I could sleep. ♥️) And I haven’t packed yet and our flight is at 7am tomorrow. WHEWWWW. So grateful for all these wonderful trips but also the past couple weeks have been a real rollercoaster. That all being said…now you know why it’s been mostly crickets lately. 😂

A smart way to organize toys

How are you doing?!

Anyway, today’s blog post is for my fellow parents out there. I can’t take credit for the genius idea I’m about to share with you–it’s all my House Manager, Janine! (If you don’t know about Janine and her wizardry, or what a House Manager is, head over to this highlight on my stories!) She’s a professional in all things that fall under the “improving your home” umbrella, and every day I thank my stars that when the time came that I was able to hire help, I decided to hire an assistant to help me in my home rather than my business. 🤯

Anyway, she shared this solution with me that I thought was such a game changer for organizing toys: mesh toy bags! I knew I had to turn this into a blog post.

If you’re fed up with toys littering your house and want them out of sight, you will love this trick.

First, I think it’s essential to pare down your toys in general.

We don’t have a lot of toys for June because A. I think too many toys can be overwhelming for kids (and parents!) and hinder their creativity and B. I don’t want to look at them and C. More importantly, I don’t want to be constantly cleaning them up!

Second, get yourself some toy bags and aesthetically pretty bins, and use this method:

instead of just throwing everything loose in bins, each separate toy set gets its own bag that keeps all the pieces together. (This is especially helpful as June is getting older. And I find different types of play food mixed with puzzle pieces mixed with half of a train set, mixed with a finger puppet and it becomes a HUGE headache!)

This method keeps everything neatly organized, together, and easy to see. So cycling toys in and out of her play space is a breeze! (More on rotating toys here and why I think it’s great! You don’t have to have Montessori toys to follow this Montessori method, either.) Note: it’s not intended to give your KIDS access to these–these are for parents only. You control the few sets of toys that are out at one time.

I put them all in two seagrass baskets I picked up at World Market and they fit perfectly on our bookshelf in the living room. Easy for me to access, but she can’t reach them. And she’s able to focus on the small handful of toys in front of her. Best of all, I love that you can’t SEE what’s in the baskets, specifically, but when you pull the basket out, the mesh bags make it easy to find what you’re looking for!)

Now, I keep most of her toys in here, with only a few at a time down in her toy cupboard for her to access at a time. This ensures that she’s always interested in her toys because it’s always something “new” to keep her attention, and it also makes it WAY easier to clean them up in the evenings after she’s gone to bed!

A smart way to organize toys
mesh bag for toys

How to prevent the ongoing clutter from family and friends:

I’m adding a part two to this post, because I’ve been asked so often “but how do you curb OTHER PEOPLE from bringing so much crap into your house!? The amount of gifts from family and friends is out of hand! It’s so stressful and taking over my life!”

(So family, friends, if you’re reading this–this is the #1 most common sentiment I hear from parents of young kids in my DMs–like literal hundreds. PLEASE STOP GIFTING OUR KIDS SHIT NOBODY ASKED FOR!)

**I would also like to take this moment to spotlight both my MIL and my own mother who are (for the most part 😂) PHENOMENAL at respecting my boundaries here. I love you both so much–thank you! 😭**

Anyway, here’s my answer:

I am very open about how I do NOT want people sending/bringing unapproved toys and gifts into my house.

Hear me out for a second, because a lot of people say “wow, that’s amazing. I could never do that.”

But here’s the thing–a lot of the time, people just want to show their love, and for a lot of people–that’s with gifts. But if they know there are better ways to show up for you–they want to know and do those things! Just TELL THEM. (And if they DO have a problem with it, that’s not your problem. That’s theirs. And it says more about them than you! Your job is to set the boundary, you have nothing to do with how others react to it.)

We have a known rule that people are allowed to purchase whatever they would like for her, but those things stay at their house for June to wear/use/play with during visits.

If it is unapproved and comes into my house, there is a known likelihood it may get donated or tossed. (And I do a lot of purging.) I do not reinforce gifting without permission. (No, you don’t owe anyone a picture of your kid in the outfits that you don’t like that they keep sending without your permission. You don’t need to feel bad about chucking them straight into the donate bin with the tags still on. It’s not ungrateful. Your sanity is more important than someone else’s urge to shop.)

Sample scripts to hold your boundaries around gifting:

If friends or family ask for her size to buy her something outside of birthdays and Christmas (where I’m happy to provide specific gift ideas with links of where to purchase them) I say something along the following:

If it’s a close friend, a joking but serious tone, “I love you so much–but real talk. She has enough toys as it is and it’s like a part time job trying to keep them organized/purge them regularly. Truly. It’s a big source of stress for us. But the thought means everything! The best gift would be if you wanted to take her to ice cream–so let me know your schedule!”

Or someone I’m not quite so casual with:

“I love you, thank you for thinking of her! That is so sweet, but we’re trying to be intentional about keeping her toy collection minimal for everyone’s sanity. If you want to gift her something, she would love a gift certificate to X ice cream shop/museum/etc.” OR

“She’s actually in a tough phase where she only wears this one specific pair of sneakers because the act of choosing shoes causes too many tantrums, so I appreciate the gesture SO MUCH, but it would be best if she didn’t receive any new shoes right now. Thank you so much for understanding! ♥️”

OR, if someone asks, and you really do need something, tell them what you need! (And make sure to thank them for ASKING YOU ahead of time!)

So often we feel bad actually communicating something we need. Don’t feel guilty–whoever is doing the shopping LOVES YOUR KID and likely truly does want to get them something they want and you need. So send a link: I SO appreciate you asking me. She actually does need some new spring dresses and I know she would LOVE this one in the flamingo print. She wears a size 2T! THANK YOU! ♥️

Or maybe you haven’t enforced a boundary yet, but you want to start. Here are a couple examples of what I might say–you can be funny, lighthearted, and kind and still get your point across!

Maybe you could take a picture of how many toys are taking over your house while you’re cleaning them up. You could send a lighthearted text to your family thread with a photo of the toy disaster: “Family–we need to talk. 👀 I love you all dearly but it’s been taking me like an hour to clean up all these toys every night and it’s quite literally killing me. We have a new rule called “nobody is allowed to gift new toys without my approval. If you wish to not comply, Salvation Army thanks you for your donations in advance. 🙏 We are so grateful to have loving family that spoils these kids rotten but it’s taking a toll on me. –signed, drowning mother.”

Or maybe you aren’t on that level with your family, you could say something like,

“Hii Linda! Are you free to FaceTime tonight? The girls would love to see you! Also, it’s been taking me 30+ minutes to clean up all their toys every night for the past couple months and to be honest it’s really killing me. We’re implementing a new “no gift” rule with family and friends, so moving forward, we ask that you OK any gifts you send/bring with us beforehand. Otherwise, you are more than welcome to spoil them rotten with any new toys that can be left at your house–they’ll look forward to having special things to play with at Nanna’s house! Thanks for your understanding–it means more than you know. Love you!”

For birthdays and birthday parties:

You can simply state on the invitation: “No gifts please, we are trying to keep our home clutter-free!” or even, a personal favorite taken from another reader, “No gifts please. Your attendance is the biggest gift. (We’re serious.)” or “This year in lieu of gifts, we are asking for donations to Alex’s Lemonade Stand to end childhood cancer. Our family goal is to raise “$1,000!”

I hope this was helpful! ♥️ And godspeed!!