Spring cleaning: day eight

Alright, today’s the last day for the kids’ rooms. Yesterday, I focused on sorting and organizing my kids’ clothes, and I also highlighted some of my preferences on storing books.

Today, I’ll focus on toys and craft supplies, some of the most challenging clutter monsters of all.  Mandi at Organizing Your Way shares some great tips for deciding on how to organize toys that work well for your family.


Like several types of potential clutter discussed in this series, I recommend using “meta stuff” as a finite way to put a limit on toys. Instead of unconsciously collecting toys until you can no longer see the floor, get some baskets, buckets, or boxes, and use those to cap the amount allowed. Once those buckets are filled, that’s it for the toys – if your child wants another one, she’ll need to be willing to part with one already housed in the bucket.

Working with your children, sort through the toys and toss out any broken ones or ones with missing pieces that are no longer reparable. Select the ones they’ve outgrown or just don’t love anymore, and add those to your “give” box.

I find that the fewer toys my kids have, the more they play with them. They’re easier to see, they’re more valuable, and there’s simply more room for the imagination to roam when there’s not clutter everywhere.

I’m also partial to having fewer quality toys that will last over a myriad of freebie plastic tchotchkies or sub-quality gizmos – especially if they make noise. The less a toy does, the more engaged the child is in harnessing his creativity.

For more ideas on selecting toys, read up on quality toys that are worth the money, and on many ideas for nearly-free playthings.

Arts & Craft Supplies

I love creating and crafting, and my daughter seems to not have fallen far from the tree. So I like having craft supplies easily-accessible and as stocked as possible. At four years old, she’s taken a giant leap developmentally in the past year, and I can now trust her with most everything in that cabinet (or, at the very least, she knows what she has to ask to get first).

But in the beginning, I was diligent about making sure paints, glue, sharp scissors, and anything else remotely hazardous (which can be a lot of things, with a creative preschooler) was out of reach. She’d have to ask me first to retrieve something.

Crayons, paper, safety scissors, and old magazines were at her reach, to use at any time.

I’ll have to reinstitute this policy soon, as my baby is starting to really get mobile, but for now, our daughter has earned my trust with the art supplies.

For more ideas on creating an art-friendly environment in your home, I highly recommend reading The Creative Family by Amanda Soule. She was my inspiration for creating our cabinet.

Our Playroom

We’ve done a decent job curbing the toy intake. We went through a major purge in March, so I really didn’t have to do too much in that department. We just organized everything back into its respective buckets, and displayed our current favorite toys on the shelves.

before: after:
playroom before playroom after
before: after:
playroom before playroom after

As usual, we keep like things with like, and label the toy buckets with both a photo of the toys and the words. Our daughter is learning to read, so this furthers that connection – plus, it helps to see the actual toys that belong in that particular bucket.

toys after

toys after

playroom after

We have a craft closet in the playroom, full of crayons, glue, scrapbook paper, pipe cleaners, finger paint, older magazines, felt, beads… I could go on.

Normally, we keep it fairly organized, but since we’ve returned home from our winter in the States, it’s become pretty disheveled. We’ve gotten in the habit of tossing craft items back in, or throwing a random piece of cardboard in there with the assumption that it’ll surely make a great tool for artwork. What once was organized has now become a clutter giant.

I tossed some of the things I just knew we’d never get around to using. We have more than enough crayons than we’ll ever need, so I put some in the “give” pile (we’ve made chunky crayons in the past with our crayon stubs, and that was fun, too).

Scrap paper, bits of magazines, and dried up glue sticks were tossed to make room for those better art supplies we’ll enjoy more. Now, it’s much easier to see what we have.

before: after:
crafts before art after

Still waiting are the frugal artwork waiting to be hung – I photocopied illustrations from some of our favorite children’s books – I hope to rotate these regularly with fresh illustrations.

art for the playrom

Alright, let’s see your stuff – how do you organize toys? Have any tips for arts and craft supplies?

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Love this: “Once those buckets are filled, that’s it for the toys – if your child wants another one, she’ll need to be willing to part with one already housed in the bucket.”

    And this: “I find that the fewer toys my kids have, the more they play with them. ”

    I totally agree with the “less is more” theme (to borrow a phrase from Zen Habits). I like the picture labels too.

    TIPS: For art supplies my wife started using small red metal buckets to separate crayons, from markers, from pencils etc…but keeps them all easy to access and put away. Most of the containers these things come in are hard for kids to put back so that final clean up stage is unlikely to happen. Make it easy and that increases the chances of it happening.

    Thanks and great article and pictures!


  2. Looks fabulous! What an inspiration you are to others – great series! Just stopped in to say “bonjour”! xJ


  3. I love the idea of photocopying illustrations from children’s books – thanks for mentioning!

    Also in regards to toys, we rotate some of ours. We keep a few things out, but also have some stored in the basement that we just bring up on occasion. This helps retain the “wow” factor.


  4. Love all your photos…so inspiring. Just like Jamie, when I worked at a daycare, we used to rotate the toys and games. It was like Christmas everytime we brought out something ‘new’!

    For arts and crafts supplies, we used plastic baskets. It was easy for the kids to get at the supplies and easy to put away.

  5. We rotate my daughters toys out and the current ones are in a toy box in our living room. For the crayons and markers and such I store them in hard plastic pencil cases. It makes them easy to store and easy to access.

    Since my daughter has such a small room and I cleaned the toys when I cleaned the living room, today I decided to clean off my desk. You can check it out here.

  6. Mikaela says:

    Where is your toy shelf and bins from? Great ideas as always! Thanks:)

  7. Off to get started! Blog to come later today … Yea for cleaning the girl’s room!!!! 🙂

  8. Love your kid room organization! We did a pretty good purge of toys a month or so ago, but I still would like to get my hands on a few more, but I know my kids will fight me on them. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the bucket idea. My kids toys are threatening to overtake their rooms! Time to donate and reorganize!

    Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home´s last blog post…Chickens: Q and A

  10. Well, we have the kids’ room in shape now. They don’t play in here; all of the toys are in the living room. (We still haven’t tackled that room yet because we know it will be a huge project.)

    Here is a link to the clean kids’ room:

  11. Wow, I am so impressed with your kids’ rooms Tsh! I love the toy bins with the pictures. They look so cute and they are excellent for keeping things organized. My son’s toy collection is fairly small so far, since he’s just 6 months old, but it is growing, so I will definitely borrow your bin idea! I do have one toy basket in the living room that we started and so far that is AMAZING for keeping toys picked up in the living room. Organization will be key for his room because it is so tiny. Thanks for all of your work in this project! Although I haven’t been able to keep up with the cleaning, I have been getting so many good ideas and my house is cleaner for having participated! Have a great day everyone 🙂

  12. I love the ‘less is more’ mantra. We got some adorable red tin buckets (drink coolers) from Bed, Bath & Beyond after summer a few years ago for $1.47 each and they are the perfect little size for matchbox cars, dinosaurs, and baby toys. We have only 5 between the two boys and go through them on a regular basis.

    I’m all about toy swapping as well 🙂 TFS Tsh!

    Angie @ The Creative Mama´s last blog post…What I found Wednesdays!

  13. How do you organize your craft supplies? Right now, we just have everything in two drawers, but that is not inviting for Robert to do some craft! Any ideas how to organize it and be inviting at the same time?

    lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog post…Starting Seedlings Again!

    • I keep crayons, colored pencils, scrap paper, and construction paper at easy reach, in those three drawers you see in the wardrobe – my daughter can come get those at any time she wants. The middle shelf is stuff like TP rolls, cardboard, butcher paper scraps, craft sticks, feathers – tools for creating. The top shelf is paint, glue, scissors, tape, chalk… things she needs to ask before getting.

      All of this is in a wardrobe in our playroom. When the doors shut, you can’t see a thing.

      We also encourage creativity by keeping a kid-sized table and chairs right by the wardrobe (to the left – you can’t see it in the photo), making it easy to create. And we honor prized work by framing them in the playroom, pinning on the bulletin board, and hanging them on a magnetic strip in the kitchen. It makes her proud to see her art on display. In fact, today she drew for about two hours straight – we ended replacing all the framed artwork in the playroom (you can see the frames above the white shelf with the Wheetabix tin).

  14. I see you are an expedit lover, like me! I am getting 2 more this weekend, I can’t wait!

    My only tip for organizing toys is bins with picture labels of what belongs inside, same as you. Worked for me when my kids were small. Arts and crafts stuff was kept in those big plastic drawer units on wheels…I could pull it out when needed and hide it away in the closet when they were done. We don’t have alot of toys now, just lego, stuffed animals and video games…not as much to store and organize, its really nice 🙂

    Laurie´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning Continues….The kid’s rooms

  15. I keep all of the kids crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc. separarte in plastic cups and containers This makes it easy for them to grab what they want.

    I absolutley love the idea of the illustrations from kids books in frames. Great Idea!

  16. I discovered that I had the perfect thing for organizing our most used craft and sewing supplies, right in my kitchen cabinet! I blogged it a few weeks ago here:


  17. Love the less is more in toys philosophy. My one year old already has too many, and I’ve been trying to decide what to toss.

  18. I love what you’ve done here! You’ve seriously inspired me to get my act together. I’m starting tomorrow on cleaning out all our junk. I remember when we were little, my mom had a rotating system for our toys. She would gather some up and store them away in the basement. Then every couple of months she would bring out the box of toys and swap them with ones we were tired of. It was like Christmas morning every few months and our toys never got old!

  19. oh i think i am in need of a craft closet too…not just for the kids but for myself :). great idea on the framed artwork…i would have never thought of that. we framed some sleeves from a few 45s to hang in our daughter’s bedroom…that was a money saver and added a unique touch to her room.

    prasti´s last blog post…wordless (sort of) wednesday::a taste of home

  20. Great ideas here! I really liked the before and after pictures! So colorful!

  21. CarrieK says:

    To keep crafts organized, I opted for the plastic shoebox system. I hit the dollar store and picked up enough identical plastic boxes with lids to hold stamps/ink pads, stickers, notebooks, paint supplies, playdoh, markers, pencils, pens and beads. They are all labeled and sitting on a shelf in the playroom. I like that the box limits how much you can have; if the lid won’t fit, you’ve got too much. The kids like picking out the box they want and mostly put it away properly 🙂 I also like having a children’s table (yay ikea!); we recently upgraded to a larger table that seats 6 instead of 2. Great for playdates!

  22. Agree with Hairstyles for Girls – It was inspiring!

  23. Blog is up … and this was a very emotional thing for me. More than I imagined it would be. Just spent three hours in my daughter’s room and am feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude for the person she is becoming and the blessing it is to be “Casiday’s Mom.”


  24. I saw a great craft organizing tip recently and have to share. (I haven’t read through the other comments, so hopefully someone else hasn’t already mentioned it!)

    If you put an over-the-door plastic shoe organizer on the back of a closet or pantry door, the “shoe cubbies” are perfect for paint brushes, safety scissors, small pads of paper, etc. Seeing your post reminded me of this idea and I’m excited to go get the hanger today!

    Seeing the pictures on your bins has inspired me to finish my labeling project today. Maybe I’ll post pictures and add a link to that when I’m done.

    Also, I’m laughing that you used the word, “tchotchkies.” My grandmother used to say that and no one in Phoenix seems to know what it means. And I say it often because my kids LOVE those cheap little party-favor-bag toys. I silently pray that they’ll get lost or fall out of their pockets. My son even pulled several out of the trash when I cleaned out their playroom yesterday with a “Hey…Mo-om!!!” I tried! 🙂

  25. I love the bucket rule.
    I have been doing your spring cleaning in my abstract random way.
    Toys is the next big to do.
    Thanks much!

  26. Today’s work was manageable, thank to a huge toy purge I did when I started my playgroup. I donated a lot of stuff then.

    -We rotate toys too.
    -We use bins and organize toys by type of play eg: cooking (of course!), farming, building, and automobile (I’ve got two boys!) This works well.of course there’s a ‘misc’ bin as well to catch the rest.

    Aimee´s last blog post…Mother’s Day Announcement and a Giveaway!

  27. It’s tough for us with a range of ages from 1 year – 8 year and one playroom to fit it all in. We label our bins and boxes with pictures and group like items inside.

    We also try to keep toys to a minimum by requesting “consumable” presents like arts and crafts, books, or a day out “somewhere” with the person giving the gift! The girls will remember and enjoy the moments spent out with their family and friends much better than another plastic toy!


    Olivia @ Moomama´s last blog post…

  28. We keep it all in containers. It helps to keep most of it contained.


  29. Another room done. Yeah!!! We don’t keep the craft supplies in the bedrooms, I have a craft cabinet in the living room where the kids do their crafts that I feel like I clean out every other day.


  30. Awesome CHUNKY CRAYONS! I’ve had a ton of these laying around the house (my daughter’s favorite past time seems to be breaking crayons lately), and hate to throw them out. Now I can recycle them! Also, wonderful cleaning tips, and I need them! I should apply those principles to my sewing area! Hmmm chunky crayons, sounds like an awesome Happy Hour Monday drink! Cheers!


    Rebecca´s last blog post…Happy Hour Monday, Everybody Needs A Little Time Away

  31. I love the toy boxes with the labels – great set up.

    I wanted to mention for any mums in Melbourne wanting to pass things onto other parents (for free) there is a Yahoo group to do this:


  32. Great job on the kids stuff! I’ve been following your “Spring Cleaning” in “spirit” as I am 9 months pregnant and it would be too overwhelming to participate. Honestly, I’ve been busy “nesting” the last few months. I’ve done my spring cleaning early…

    Here’s how I organize my son’s toys/crafts. http://theclarkinfamily.blogspot.com/search/label/organizing

    I’ve since expanded or “bin” collection to make room for the baby equipment. I just can’t take toys everywhere! I love when everything has a home aka bin!
    Thanks for all the cleaning inspiration!!

  33. We have a toy box that she can get into and an ottoman that she can’t. We use the ottoman to hold stuff that isn’t in active rotation. Luckily, she is just now getting enough toys to play with. She still prefers the food storage drawer though!


    Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker´s last blog post…Spring Cleaning – Day 7/8

  34. Tsh!
    How did you do the labels?! I am blown away, because we have the exact bins from IKEA (we just have the natural shelves instead of the white) and this EXACT project has been on my list of to-do’s for a month 🙁 I’ve even taken the photos, but hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the labels…care to share how you did them?
    Thanks so much,

  35. We got it done. It was a challenge, but it looks so much better now.


  36. I absolutely love that idea about photocopying the artwork from their favorite books. We’re going to have to do that.

  37. I did my bathroom today, due to two solid “one of THOSE days” in a row…sheesh! But I’m still moving along quickly enough to satisfy me. 🙂

    The Bathroom (cue: horror movie music)

    Fantastic playroom and toy organization ideas! I’m going to have a problem with this, since I literally have zero storage for toys…just the floor of their closet…

    Tiff @ The Faery Inn´s last blog post…The Bathroom (cue: horror movie music)

  38. I am a little bit behind – life throws things at you that you cant control! So I have finally found the time to work on the playroom and have blogged about it today!

    Kristin R´s last blog post…The playroom …….

  39. I love Ikea’s line of children’s storage! These rooms of yours are so cheery and playful – I’ll bet your kids really like to spend time there. 🙂

    I was able to complete both of my children’s bedrooms in one day yesterday! This means I’ll finally get to paint my daughter’s room this weekend. Very cool…

    Thanks again so much for hosting this!

    Kids’ rooms

    Tiff @ The Faery Inn´s last blog post…Kids’ Rooms: Before

  40. I know what I am building next weekend. Thanks for the idea..

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