By Laura Gee, Storage and Organization Contributor

My mom used to spend what seemed like days walking up and down the toy aisles at stores trying to find the perfect birthday or holiday present for my friends and cousins. She has pros and cons for everything. One made too much noise. One looked too complicated. One looked too cheap. One looked like it would be messy. She was so particular because she would look at the toy and think “how much fun would the kid have with this?” and “how much of a headache is this going to be for the kid’s parents?” Unfortunately, I don’t think everybody puts this much thought into presents as my mom did, but that’s okay. Today I’m going to share with you some simple storage tips and tricks to deal with storage of all those toys your kids receive that my mom would’ve deemed “not parent friendly” enough.

First, try to avoid the big toy box as much as possible. Cover shoe boxes with wrapping paper or newspaper or even spray paint them to create small containers for toys. Each container should hold a different activity and the container should be labeled as such. For example, take an old boot box, cover it in red wrapping paper, write “race cars” on it and put a picture of a race car on the box. Inside that box should only be race cars and race car related items. This way you kid can easily identify what is in that box and can easily access what they want to play with. This is PERFECT for enforcing the “only one toy at a time” rule because each toy is in its own box. It is far too easy to dump out big bins full of toys which create nearly an instant mess. Having small containers on shelves or in a cabinet is an easy way to keep toys with lots of small pieces together.

Next, get at your kids eye level for a second and see what they can easily reach. If everything is on the floor, then everything is fair game for them to play with at anytime. Only put toys and items that you want your kids having easy access to at those reachable levels. You don’t have to treat all toys equally. Keeping a doll house with hundreds of little pieces out of reach isn’t a bad idea. Some toys that are super complicated are best left for rainy days when kids can spend time enjoying what takes you so long to set up. This not only makes your life easier because all of those pieces aren’t tossed around your house all day but it also makes that toy special. It is a treat that a kid can look forward to. Stuff that is used everyday becomes old hat. It’s okay to make your life easier by keeping some stuff off limits and just playing it off it is a “special toy” when it is really just a “pain to deal with” toy.

Last tiny tip is to spend about a week or so with your kids in their playrooms or bedrooms working on the organizational rules. The more time you spend showing kids what to do and modeling good toy behaviors the more likely they will do them on a regular basis in the future. Kids require lots of practice on new skills—especially ones that aren’t exactly fun. Show little ones that when you are ready to pull out a new bin to play with, you have to put the first bin and its contents away before the new one can come out. Be casual, yet firm, with this concept. Make it more a matter of fact that things have to be put away instead of some big torturous practice that must be done. Putting toys away is like having to eat every day. It is just has to be. No big deal—just another part of life.

Starting with these basic ideas with your kids should help create more organization and harmony in your playrooms and kids’ bedrooms. Setting up easy-to-follow organizational routines and only putting some toys out at a time are simple things to make everybody happier. Kids have more room to play when a room is clean. Your house isn’t a mess when kids’ toys are put away. When kids can clean somewhat independently, everybody is happier.