Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation

Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation | SimplyRebekah.com

I don’t mind toy clutter.  I really don’t.  Learning through play is my kids’ main job right now.  However, I can’t stand clutter from toys that my kids aren’t even playing with. Even worse is when my kids try to see how many toys they can dump all over the floor and then they don’t even play with the mess.

Mama is fed up and last Saturday I took action.  I decided to try toy rotation.

Toy rotation is the concept of only having a limited amount of toys available to your children, packing up the rest of their toys, and then rotating the toys on a regular basis.  This idea works well for younger children who can easily get overwhelmed by endless play options.  I’m excited to see how Grace (age 4) and Noah (age 1.5) react to our toy rotation.

Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation

Toy Rotation: Before

This is our living room before I started sorting the toys.  It doesn’t look like that much until you get a closer look at the chaos.

Toy Rotation: Before

That shelf had some baskets that were awful clutter hot zones.  Toys were thrown in there when we didn’t know where else to put them.

Toy Rotation: Before

Toy Rotation: Before

Plus there was a bigger basket on the floor that was another mess of forgotten toys.

Toy Rotation: Before

Before I started sorting through the toy chaos, I gathered all the necessary supplies:

  • 4 bins – Four isn’t the magic number, it is just how many empty bins I already had.  Boxes would also work.
  • trash bag
  • yard sale box
  • box for outgrown toys – I used this for all our baby toys that I wanted to put in storage.
  • box for toys to pack away – This was for toys I didn’t want to include in the rotation, but I wasn’t ready to sell.
  • bag for stuff that belongs somewhere else – I used this to gather together everything that needed to be put back in it’s proper home.

Toy Rotation: Sorting

I warned my husband that things were going to get a lot worse before they got better.  Boy was I right!  It really was a bit of a disaster as I started to sort through all the toys.

A few months ago I went through the kids’ toys and boxed up some that they hadn’t been playing with.  I brought all of those toys out from storage and started by sorting those first. The kids hadn’t been asking for these toys, so many of them went into the yard sale box. However, there were a few that I wanted to try out again.  I set those aside to add to the rotation.

I organized the toys by type so I could see how many cars, balls, baby dolls, puzzles, etc. that we had.  Then I began filling my bins.

Toy Rotation: Sorting I was strategic in how I divided the toys into the bins.  I made sure each bin had:

  • a car, truck, tractor, etc
  • a stuffed animal or baby doll
  • puzzles
  • something that made noise
  • blocks
  • a fisher price little people set
  • age appropriate toys for Grace
  • age appropriate toys for Noah
  • a newer toy from Christmas

There is actually a bit of science behind this.  There are several different types of play and each type helps kids learn a new skill (fine motor, gross motor, logic, role play, literacy, etc.).  The bins aren’t perfectly even, but I’m confident that there is a good mix in each one.

There are several things that I didn’t put into the rotation because I want Grace and Noah to have full access to them all the time or they were too big.

  • books
  • art supplies
  • dress up clothes (which we moved to Grace’s bedroom)
  • games (moved to Grace’s closet)
  • a tea set
  • the play kitchen & supplies
  • the doll house
  • a sit & ride car and tractor
  • DVDs (I moved these out of the living room, but if the kids want to watch one they can pick from the entire collection.)

After all the bins were filled, I labeled them 1-4 and Nate took them to the basement.  The yard sale toys were taken to the attic.  The baby toys were stored away, along with the toys I wasn’t sure about getting rid of yet.  The entire project took 2.5 hours.

Toy Rotation: After

We put all of the bins in the basement and only kept out a handful of toys.  I was curious to see how Grace & Noah would react with so many of their toys packed away.  We packed up the bins on Saturday and I didn’t pull out the first bin until Wednesday when Grace started requesting some of her toys that were packed up.

Toy Rotation: After

Grace and Noah waited upstairs while I brought up the first bin.  I organized all the “new” toys and brought them downstairs for the big reveal.  I kind of expected them to react like it was Christmas morning, but instead Grace was disappointed that I had brought out the wrong green ball.  Eh.  Kids.

In the last week since starting the toy rotation…

  • Noah, who almost never plays with toys, is interested in the few we have out.  He is initiating playing with things he has never done on his own before, like puzzles.
  • We have gotten more creative by playing with things that aren’t toys: dried beans, dancing, art projects, and playing school.
  • Every now and then Grace has requested a toy that is packed up.  I’m wondering if she might end up frustrated when we start switching bins.
  • The house has been 1,000 times easier and faster to clean up each day.

We have been experimenting with toy rotation for only a week.  At this point I still don’t know if it truly works for our family.  Will the kids miss toys that get packed up?  Will they be more interested in each week’s new toys?  Will it feel like a hassle to pack and unpack toys each week?

In a few months I will write an update to share how toy rotation works (or doesn’t work!) for our family. UPDATE: I wrote the update and you can now read Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort?

Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort? Plus 7 More Questions Answered!

Have you experimented in toy rotation?  What was your experience like?

This post is being linked to the Decluttering Party hosted by A Slob Comes Clean.


    1. Sharon, I hear ya! We don’t have a dedicated play space in our house (playroom or finished basement). There really are toys in every room! It was just too much. Let me know if you try it and how it works out for you.

    1. Leigh Ann, how often do you rotate your toys? I’ve heard that doing it once a week is smart, but the more I do it the more… well… the more I have do it! Haha!

  1. Like Tommie, I wish I had know about this when my older two were little. My daughter is my biggest mess generator, but she knows exactly what she has and where it is at all times. Ugh.

    1. Do you think your daughter is too old to try this now? What if you always left out at least half of the toys, but then packed up the other half in two bins?

  2. Just explain that she can play with that requested toy the next time it is out. Maybe once they get used to it, you could go longer between rotations. Maybe even do without and be able to get rid of more toys.

    1. Lisa, I think this will help us see what toys we can permanently get rid of. If the kids don’t play with a toy after a couple rotations then we will probably move it to the garage sale box.

  3. We’ve been doing a toy rotation for over a year and it’s wonderful! Toys are not taking over our home and our boys actually play so much better when they have fewer things to choose from.

    1. Rachel, how often do you rotate the toys for your boys? I’m still trying to figure out how often to switch out my bins.

      1. We have all of our out of rotation toys stored in the closet. Every week or two, I’ll trade a few things out. Sometimes our oldest will ask for a specific toy so we’ll ask him what he wants to trade to get that toy out. It’s worked well.

  4. I love how you sorted everything by category! I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my girl’s toys that they weren’t playing with. I’m kind of doing a toy rotation but the problem with my girls toys are that they have a lot of the same type of toy. It’s a project for me to get better toy storage for them too-right now they use my old bookcase from my apartment life and it’s not doing the best job.

    1. Lydia, I struggle with our toy storage too. I’m not a fan of having lots of bins or baskets. They just end up being cluttered chaos. If you find something fabulous, let me know!

  5. Excellent post, Rebekah 🙂 All the sorting steps you shared are sure to help many moms. I like how you have left toys out of rotation, too. I hope it works out for your family.

  6. Wonderful idea! Makes all the ‘stuff’ so much more manageable. Our daughter and daughter-in-law use the rotation system to keep control of the toy clutter. They have found it makes for happier children as well as a happier Mama.
    Thanks for sharing your pics – great job! Stopping by from the Declutter Party at A Slob Comes Clean.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Linda! Clean up these days has been soooooooo much easier. I have a tendency to be messy, so anything that can help is good for me!

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  8. I love that people are getting into this, I have done the toy rotation from the time my son was a year old (he’s 4 now) and have always loved that we have a large clean place to play and have sorted out what he really plays with and what he’s not interested in. Mostly cars and trains 🙂

  9. I’m just starting this project for our family! When you bring the bin of toys out for a new rotation do you just leave the whole bin out, or do you take toys out and organize them on shelves and put the bin away?

    1. I highly recommend organizing the toys and putting the empty bin away. There have been a couple of times that the bin stayed out for awhile and the toys were dumped back in each night. It ended up being a big mess that the kids didn’t play with.

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