Why and How We Store Toys Without Using Toy Boxes

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One of the biggest conundrums of every parent – how do you store toys?

The landscape of your house changes drastically when you welcome children into your home and continues to change with every year they live there.

From playmats, jump-a-roos and exersaucers to Legos, Shopkins and ride along toys there is never a shortage of things to trip over, step on or clean up day after day.

No matter how hard we have tried to keep our floors clear of toys, it is inevitable that they will clutter our spaces for years to come. I know, I know, someday I will miss it.  I don’t doubt the truth in that sentiment, but it doesn’t help to make it less annoying in the moment.

How in the world do little people make such a big, dangerous mess in mere minutes left alone?

 We have many different ways to store toys in our house, but we do not have any traditional toy boxes. This is not to say we didn’t ever have them, because we did. In fact, at one time we had traditional toy boxes in two rooms of our house. A year or two ago we eliminated these toy boxes from our house for one big reason – they weren’t practical.


Yes, they did a great job of storing toys out of sight, but they are possibly the worst way to store toys you want a child to actually play with. A traditional toy box is the size of 2-3 toddlers. This is great for hide-and-seek, but how practical is it for that toddler to get toys in and out. Plus, how often does your child ever play with the toys at the bottom of the toy box.

Toy boxes are where toys go to be forgotten.

When we finally eliminated toy boxes from our house it was amazing what we found at the bottom of them. There were a lot of toys that our children had outgrown months and years ago, but we didn’t even know they were in there. In fact, some of the toys had never even been played with.

In my perfect world, which only exists in my head, toys would be put back in their assigned locations which are organized by type of item. Sometimes, when I’m feeling overly ambitious I organize the toys in our basement this way. But just as soon as I get them organized they are “reorganized” by the girls. Which is one reason why I choose not to organize my kids stuff.

So how do we organize and store toys without toy boxes? We primarily use storage containers, fabric bins, and cubbies. There are some organizational systems from Ikea and the Container Store that I love, but I am much too frugal to pay for them. Instead, I have bargain shopped through Varage Sale and Craigslist to find the items we use. It took patience and time, but I think we are finally satisfied with how the toys are organized.

Toy organizer with bins

Cassidy loves the organizer she has in her room. The bins are the perfect size to store her small toys. A lot of toys can be stored together, but also not get lost since the bins aren’t too deep. She even decided how to label the bins that make sense to her. Having my daughter find her own way to organize was a dream come true.

Cubbies and fabric bins

At the moment, these are my favorite way to organize toys. The cubbies can be used with fabric bins or without. We have one cubbie in Cassidy’s room that she can store multiple Lego Friends creations. She loves to get and build Lego Friends items, but they can be tricky to store. She enjoys building the creations and then playing with them so they need to be accessible and not just on display. The cubbie provides this convenience.

Amelia has cubbies in her room to store a variety of toys. We have tried to designate certain cubbies for certain toys, but that doesn’t usually seem to work. As long as she knows where to find things it is okay by me, plus it makes clean-up much easier.

Instead of needing to dump out an entire toy box to find a toy the girls usually only have to dump out one or two fabric bins.

I wasn’t lying when I said cubbies are my favorite way to organize and store toys. We also have two 3 x 3 cubbies in our basement for toys.  Do we have too many toys? Yes, yes I think we do, but I was outnumbered on the vote to downsize in the toy department.

Cubbies and fabric bins make clean-up quick. Ultimately, I have decided that it doesn’t matter what toys end up in which bins as long as they get cleaned up. I don’t have to look at the messy toys all over my floor and the girls don’t have to sort toys if it’s not important to them.

Plastic Storage Containers

For most of the girls’ toys it doesn’t matter if they are mix and matched, because that is how they play with them. All small toys, dollhouse people, Playschool people, Shopkins, LOL dolls get played with together in imaginary play. However, for items like Legos, manga tiles, marble works, and a race track they need to be kept together in order to play with them.

For these items we have found clear, plastic storage containers to store like items together. The most important features of these containers is that they are clear. Both girls can easily see what is in each container so they can select what they want and know at all times what toys they have.

I have no doubt that as the girls get older and the landscape of our house changes yet again, we will need different types of organization in their rooms. I anticipate that someday those cubbies that I love so much won’t be needed in our house anymore. It’s probably the reason I was able to find them on Craigslist in the first place; another family was moving out of the toy phase into a new phase of life.


What are other ways you store toys? Or do you love toy boxes?


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