Living in 1,200 square feet with a husband, two cats, two beagles, and a toddler has been an adventure. We sure love it, but it makes some things more challenging for us than families in larger homes (with playrooms and extra space). We needed toy storage ideas for small homes stat, once my son grew from infant to toddler and came with eight million items.
Honestly, I feel like our home still isn’t even that small compared to other families, but when it comes to clutter, we definitely notice if my son’s toys aren’t tucked away — because when stuff is everywhere, it drives me absolutely insane.
Organization expert Marty Basher tells Romper that a big thing that can help with toy clutter is to follow a “less-is-more” approach. “In fact, downsizing toys not only prevents overstimulation, but also fosters the appreciation of quantity over quality,” Basher says. “Toys should be seen as tools to promote creativity, imagination, and problem solving skills. Too often parents confuse flashy, trendy toys as a means to entertain their children.
“Always choose quality over quantity when it comes to picking out toys for children, and keep in mind the power of learning through play — for the sake of your child’s development and clutter control in your house,” he says.
Ryan Youngberg, dad and co-founder of parenting website Baby’s Journey tells Romper that babies will usually do well with three to five of their favorite “teethers, taggies, or small plush toys.” He says to not go crazy buying a ton of toys for your baby because you’ll be packing them away for the next baby should you choose to have one. But he says toddlers are more in the 25 to 50 toys range since their attention span is so short. Youngberg recommends a mix of engaging and education toys to stimulate their minds, like alphabet blocks or toys with numbers. “They’ll love interactive toys that light up and talk or sing to them the most.”
The blogger behind Reduce, Reuse, Renew, Laura Durenberger, tells Romper that her family created a “one item in, one item out” rule for their household. “When it comes to kids, there isn’t usually a shortage of toys coming in, especially for birthdays and holidays — this keeps the ‘clutter creep’ at bay,” she says.
If you’re already drowning in a mountain of toys even after a purge, you can either hide them in an attic or basement to rotate out every few weeks, or you can use any of the below products to help you organize all those toys within your small space.
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I personally have one of these FILSAT tables in my son’s room, and it’s just wonderful. You can add storage bins in it, and the flush flat surface has removable table squares so you can store all kinds of things in it for easy accessibility for kids. We currently store art supplies and Play-Doh in ours, and the table is pretty small, so it fits well in my son’s small space.
2. Delta Children 9-Bin Deluxe Toy Organizer
Durenberger recommends these colorful toy bins. “They make a great addition to any kid’s room, and are decorative enough to be in a main living room, for example. The multiple organizers within the unit allow for toys to be separated, making it easy to find certain ones.”
3. Shallow Bin Baskets
“I know baskets or bins such as this one are popular, but my advice is to make sure it is shallow so that items don’t get lost at the bottom,” Durenberger says.
KWLET makes a basket that’s long and narrow, making it easy to not lose toys.
4. Cube Organizers
“When it comes to storing a bunch of toys, the KALLAX shelving unit with DRÖNA cloth bins from IKEA have been perfect. We have multiple units in our bedroom, kid’s room, and basement filled with toys,” Youngberg says.
“The bins are super easy for your toddler to open and close over the smooth surface of the shelving unit. As your kids get older, you can turn them into a bookshelf as they collect their favorite books,” he says. “This is the ultimate space-saving storage system for smaller homes.”
Durenberger adds that ClosetMaid also has a Cubical Organizer storage unit in various sizes, and colors that will go great in any room of the house.
5. Underbed Storage
“If you’re really short on space, the SmartCube Underbed Storage Bag is amazing for storing smaller toys and stuffed animals,” Durenberger says. “You can store a ton of toys, clothes, or baby gear in these bags that you can simply slide right under a bed.”
6. Utilize Wallspace
“For smaller apartments and houses, utilizing wall space makes up for the lack of square footage,” Basher says. “Install floating shelves above desks and beds or any available wall surface.”
He also suggests hanging oversized totes or baskets on hooks for light and medium-weight items, like toy cars, stuffed animals, and books.
7. Double-Duty Furniture/Fixtures
“Although beneficial to have in every type of home, double-duty furniture comes in handy, especially for tiny homes when storing toys,” Basher says. Examples include benches that open into storage bins, beds with built-in drawers underneath, and ottomans or coffee tables with storage.
“By combining functions, homeowners cut down on clutter by providing out-of-sight (and clever) homes for toys. Sliding storage is another option that works well for both beds and sofas. And don’t forget bedside storage (which can also work on the back of a couch) via a hanging pouch with pockets for smaller items,” he says. He also recommends hiding bins, baskets, or short storage shelves behind a sofa since that’s a space not often used.
8. Corner Storage
“Corners are often a lost, unusable space,” Basher says. “Not so with a corner shelving or cabinet unit, allowing you to turn space that would normally remain empty into functional storage.” Corner hammocks specifically are an effective way to store soft toys like stuffed animals.
9. Rotation Bins
We definitely utilize this technique in our home — our basement looks like a mini toy storage unit. Basher says, “Parents who struggle with downsizing toys will rejoice with this simple solution: rotate toys in plastic bins, so every toy is not out all at once.” He adds that by giving access to just a fraction of your kids’ items, you prevent “disaster zones” while still maintaining your child’s interest by rekindling the “newness” of toys they haven’t seen in a while. You can rotate every week or so based on your child’s interest, but tweak to whatever fits for you and your family.
10. Pencil Pouches
If you have a ton of puzzles floating around your house, Basher says storing the pieces in a pencil pouch can be a great way to reduce clutter and keep the pieces together. This would work for board games, too, or even small items like marbles.
11. Shoe Organizers
Basher says that a fun and inexpensive way to store toys would be using a shoe organizer. “You can utilize them to store action figures, dinosaur figures, Barbie dolls, cars, trains, Legos, and art supplies; the options are endless,” he says. “Shoe organizers also make toys accessible for children, which makes it easier for them to clean up.”
You can also use the shoe organizer for actual shoes and turn unused shoe boxes into an art project for your child by having them decorate the boxes for organization. “Several boxes can be stacked on the shelf and neatly tucked away in a closet,” he says.
12. Mason Jars
“Mason jars are excellent for storing crayons, markers, pencils, paintbrushes, glitter, glue sticks, and scissors,” Basher says. “These also create the perfect opportunity to have a creative ‘decorate the jar’ session with your child. In the event that you don’t have any mason jars, you can take an old pasta jar, thoroughly clean it, and use it to store your craft supplies.”
Marty Basher, organization expert with Modular Closets.
Ryan Youngberg, father of two, co-founder of Baby’s Journey, a parenting website focused on finding, researching, and purchasing baby products.
Laura Durenberger, blogger at Reduce, Reuse, Renew, a site that acts as a guide to reduction-based living through mindfulness, minimalism, anxiety management, and zero waste living in order to make room for the things that matter.