Nothing overwhelms me faster than a new toy with zillions of parts and no logical way to keep them together. As much as I'd like to have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head when I think about December 25th, dancing excesses of toys is more likely the reality.

Do you know this syndrome?

If your kids are the only grandkids, I guarantee you do.

If you're the type of person who has beautifully coordinated cloth and wicker baskets for everything in your home, you may not need this post.

If you like a bit of organization without spending any money, keep reading!

Save Your Junk

The first step to reclaiming free storage containers is to make sure you stop throwing them away and recycling them. Itís a mindset change of repurposing and usefulness, really. I have a few boxes in my basement where I collect cute small boxes, bottles, jars, bags, and more - anything I think might be useful to contain something again later.


I'm always ready to store something, whether it's food, toys, or just junk. ;)

1. Crayons and colored pencils live in glass salsa jars:


2. Those plastic containers that you moved away from when you found glass containers can be reused to store little toy sets, like these piratey things:


3. Three oatmeal canisters taped together for the tall toys - hockey sticks, baseball bats, swords. This was an inspired and much-needed creation!


4. We always buy big bags of grapefruit this time of year. Keep the bags for sure - they're great for foamy puzzles, and even more appropriate for sand toys (the sand falls right out instead of piling up in the bottom of the bag):



5. Be sure to save any heavy-duty plastic bag that acts as packaging. This is from a blanket, and it lasted a few years as a puzzle stash:


6. For flat games cut from magazines or perhaps Montessori works like this one, Styrofoam trays like the ones I hate getting from my reduced produce section end up working well:


Bonus: Free Toy!

Here's a simple toy that you can make from collected "junk" otherwise thrown away:


Made from an oatmeal canister and caps from milk, juice and water bottles, it serves as an "in and out game" toy for 8-18 mos., then a small motor skill toy for toddlers (putting the caps in the slot), then a sorting by color and counting manipulative for the preschool set. And all for zero dollars.

I kept a small bag under my sink to collect these guys for a few years when I was teaching. The caps can also be free math manipulatives.

How do you store toys and keep your sanity?

Copyright 2010 Katie Kimball