Welcome to Week 5 of the Less Mess Challenge. By now, you’ve been on a roll and you’ve modeled tidying and decluttering to your kids for a few weeks. Now it’s time to hit their things! This week we’ll be decluttering & organizing toys and playrooms!

The Less Mess Challenge, Week 5: Decluttering & Organizing Toys, Playrooms, and Hobbies.
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Are you dreading this? Are your children dreading this? Toys are hard — but I PROMISE when it’s done, your kids will actually play more and for longer in their clean space.

Side note: If you’ve got a toy-free home, focus on organizing hobbies or a craft room.

Decluttering & Organizing Toys and Playrooms

Decluttering Toys

It’s easy to think the opposite, but the less kids have, the better they play.

By starting with toys and playrooms, your children may give you some extra time to focus on the other areas of your home later in the challenge.

If you have a playroom in your home, focus on that room. If your children’s toys are in various places, then you’ll have to hop around a bit.

Remember, there are three levels to this challenge, so choose the one you feel you have time to accomplish.

Kid-Friendly Playroom Organization Tips

  • Less is more for toys. If you’re overwhelmed when you look at the playroom, I guarantee your child is also overwhelmed.
  • Complex systems aren’t good long-term solutions — that’s why toy boxes are so great for very young kids. Match the complexity of your system with your child’s age.
  • Don’t expect your kids to clean up like you do. Not that you shouldn’t expect your kids to clean up — you definitely should — just keep your expectations reasonable and keep your storage systems age appropriate. Let good enough be good enough.
  • Remember — this is a space for them to play and create. If they love LEGO, incorporate a spot for building and maybe a display shelf for their projects. If they love babies, set up a little nursery in a corner.

If You Only Have 30 Minutes: Quick Declutter

  • Throw out or donate obvious items that your children no longer need—happy meal toys, goodie bag items, broken toys, puzzles, games, ripped books, old crafts, and toys they’ve grown out of.
  • Do a quick tidy of the room, returning items to their proper locations.
  • If there’s just too much stuff and it’s everywhere, quickly grab a bin or box and fill it with items you don’t think your children love, items that are always out of batteries, or items they seem to have a hard time taking care of. Don’t donate these items, just take a break from them for a while and see if your children ask about them.

If You Have an Hour: Declutter & Surface Clean

  • Do the same as above, but go a step further.
  • One at a time, remove items from a shelf, dust, then replace items neatly.
  • Empty a toy box if you’ve got one and dust bust the inside.
  • Move large toys, vacuum the edges of the room, then replace the large toys neatly.
  • Vacuum the center of the room. 

If You Have a Few Hours: Declutter, Deep Clean & Organize

Gather Toys

Ready to declutter toys? Gather them all in one spot to see just how much you have

If you’ve got the space, I highly suggest dragging all the toys to one central location. It’s a dramatic way of seeing JUST HOW MUCH the little human(s) in your life has/have. I’m betting it’s A LOT more than they need.

Another benefit of moving everything is that it allows you to reimagine your space and your storage solutions. Don’t just keep items where they are out of habit, make sure the items make sense and fit the space where you have them.

Have a few empty boxes or bags handy—one for donations/hand-me-downs, one for garbage/recycling, one for items that belong elsewhere in the home.

Clean Toys, Shelves, & Bins

  • Empty each shelf, bin, or box where there are toys and wipe it out (it’s amazing how much pet hair, dirt, and dust collect in the bottom of toys bins). You’ll probably want to give the toys a dust or a wipe, as well. How to Clean and Disinfect Toys

Decide What Stays & What Goes

  • Sort through each and every toy.
  • Evaluate each item—is it worth the space it takes up? Does your child get a lot of playtime out of it? Is it good quality? Will it continue to be loved in the future?
  • Put all items being kept into piles of similar items (ex: all Barbies in a pile, all Minecraft toys in a pile).

Decluttering & Organizing Toys and Playrooms is easier when you have criteria for keeping toys

Related Post: Toy Purge

Depending on the ages of your children, you can involve them in the process and allow them to decide what they keep and what they will pass on for another child to love. If they have a lot of one item (matchbox cars comes to mind), agree on a reasonable number to keep and have them pick their favorites. This takes A LOT of practice, so be patient if they want to keep more than you’d like.

If they’re not ready to let go of certain items you know they don’t love, tell them they can keep those items for a bit longer, but you’ll check back with them in a few months to see if they’ve played with it.

Consider Toy Rotation

If your child(ren) still has a lot of toys but the mess gets to you, setting up a toy rotation system is a great option.

Related Post: Setting Up a Toy Rotation System

Related Post: Seasonal Book Rotation

Contain the Toys

  • Once you’ve decided what stays and what can go, it’s time to make sure each item has a storage system that makes sense for the toys you’re storing AND the ages of the kids you’re storing them for — after all, they’re the ones who are going to be playing and (hopefully) tidying.

My go-to toy storage option is a cube shelf full of bins or baskets. Shelves are great ways to use vertical space in a room, however they can also be dangerous if children climb them.

  • If using bins, put one type of toy in each basket (babies, kitchen items, vehicles, figures, dress up, etc.).

Toy Storage and Organization

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  • Place larger toys on a shelf, in a large toy box, or placed on the floor around the room—the way you store a toy depends on the toy itself. Be mindful of placing each item. Keep toys for younger children or heavier toys lower and easier to reach. Keep toys for older children higher out of reach.
  • Put small toys (Shopkins, Micro-machines, etc) in a few smaller bins or baskets, preferably with lids and stacked up.

Related Post: Creating and Organizing a LEGO Closet

Related Post: Board Game Organization

Related Post: Decluttering Books

  • If using a book shelf, make sure you secure it to the wall, especially if you have climbers.

Add Labels

  • Label each bin with the name of the toy inside. Don’t get too specific. You don’t need a bin just for “small toy cars” when “cars” will work just fine. Consider adding pictures to the bins to help pre-readers be independent when cleaning up.

Related Post: My Favorite Ways to Label

Labels for organizing toys
Labels help everyone know where toys go

Finish Cleaning

  • Once all the toys are in their bins and on their shelves and you’ve found your floor, vacuum it thoroughly.
  • Wipe down baseboards, light switches. Clean windows. Tidy or wipe anything else in the room.
Playroom organization does not mean the end of fun!
Cube shelves and bins are my favorite playroom organization combination.

Share The New Systems

Explain to your expectations to your children. Show them where each item goes and how to clean it up (keep it suuuuuper simple—don’t ask them to line toys up just so or place books in rainbow order by size—it’s one thing to make it look like that short term to make you feel good, but it’s too much to ask of kids).

Show them the pictures or the labels. Explain to them that if they have too many toys that they can’t clean up on their own, they’re going to have to let some go. Let them know that this isn’t a threat, it’s just healthier to have only what you can keep track of and take care of.

Sorting Lego is not for everyone, but try it if you think your kids would like to play that way!
If your children can’t maintain color sorted Lego, don’t use this system!


For the next few weeks (or longer, depending on the ages and abilities of your children), spend some extra time helping them clean up the toys. Remind them of how to clean up and where each item goes. Make it a game by setting a timer, having them find all the toys that belong in each category (ex: Can you find all the blocks? Ready, set, go!), recording a time lapse video of them cleaning. Be patient and guide them.

As you’re doing this, monitor items that aren’t being touched from day to day. Move these items around so they get more attention or let them go if they just aren’t loved.

Decluttering & Organizing Toys and Playrooms

This space WILL get messy again — that’s its purpose — but it will also be easier to clean up and reset when you have less and when you have systems in place!

Next Up: Master Bedroom & Closet

Last Week: Dining Room & Living Room

Back to the Full Less Mess Challenge

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