How to Maintain [Some] Order in a Shared Kids’ Room

Like many of you, my children share a room. Sharing a room teaches valuable lessons about simplicity, getting along and life. However, trying to fit all the toys and clothes for multiple children in a small room and leave room for playing is a challenge.

Rearranging the furniture for optimal floor space helps, but pursuing simplicity in the toy and clothes collection is essential.

Ten ways to simplify the toys:

Christmas & birthdays. Thrift store finds. Generous friends.

Before you know it, your child’s room can be overflowing with toys. Toys are meant to be played with. To loosely paraphrase Solomon, “where no children are, the toys are picked up, but happily playing children are a great blessing.” (Prov. 14:4)

Boy building blocks

 photo credit

However, more toys do not necessarily equal more happiness. A few sticks and pebbles are all some children in the world have. I’m not sure American kids are any happier with their buckets and buckets of toys.

Here are a ten ways that I try to balance fun and simplicity.  (You can see pictures of my children’s room here, though I’ve rearranged it since then.)

  1. Distinguish between durable and disposable toys. Some of my children’s toys I hope my grandchildren will play with, like Duplos. Some toys however (say the Easter eggs from the neighbor) I consider disposable and only keep for a few weeks. After the fun has worn off they are donated or tossed.
  2. Choose neutral toys, when possible. Dolls and trucks are practically indispensable parts of a toy collection, but you don’t need a pink and blue version of everything!
  3. Say “No!” Just because you’re offered free hand-me-downs or find a toy for a quarter at a yard sale, doesn’t mean your child needs it. Sometimes, you just need to say “no!” (Or let your children play with them for a few weeks and then pass them on.)
  4. Rotate the toys so that there are less toys out and they get “new” toys regularly.
  5. Set mess perimeters. I mentioned this in my post on clutter, but having a few guidelines for where and when toys can be played with makes such a difference! We have set clean-up times several times daily as well as a “no toys in the living room after dinner” rule. Play with one toy “set” at a time, then put it away (we’re working on this one!)
  6. Keep birthdays & Christmas gifts simple: Laura Ingalls was happy with a tin cup and a penny. You can show your love without going overboard. Choose quality over quantity.
  7. Gifts are a way many grandparents, other family members or friends show their love. However, sometimes the influx of gifts can get overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with multiple children in a small room. This is a sensitive issue and may not be wise or kind in all situations, but  if possible, respectfully address overly generous gift-givers. My children have been blessed with grandparents that are so thoughtful of my children and me with their gifts. But, if you are getting overwhelmed by gifts, try to find a kind way to encourage gifts that will bless your child and you. A frazzled mom is not a good gift! A few possible ideas: offer hints for toys your child would treasure, let them know that what your child has plenty of toys and would most like would be to spend time with them (a trip to the zoo, museum, etc.) or set up an Amazon wish list for your child. (Remember though, never wound someone who loves your child over gifts!)
  8. Embrace the simple things. Boxes for boats, blankets for forts, chairs for houses. Children are so creative and content! Often, it’s the parent not the child who thinks they need more.
  9. Donate, sell or toss unused toys. Clearing out the toys that aren’t loved makes room to really enjoy the treasured toys. If you find toys consistently taken out and forsaken (for you to step on ;)) it’s time for them to go!
  10. Get outside. Let them play with the sticks and pebbles… and maybe even take a dip in the mud.

This post is getting dreadfully long. We’ll have to tackle the kids’ clothes Wednesday…

(Thank you Jenn, from the lovely blog The Purposeful Mom for inspiring this post with your comment! )

What about you? How do you handle all the toys? I would *love* your ideas (especially since we plan to add little Meg to the kids’ room soon)! 

Linking up at Handful of Heart and Better Mom Monday 

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  1. says

    I don’t remember having lots of “toys” to play with when I was little. I know I had dolls and stuffed animals. When I was 4 we also lived in a very unfinished 100+ year-old house where the three of us children slept in the dining/living room. 🙂 Outside was great! And sometimes, when grandparents or friends have special toys, it makes it even more fun to go visit. 😀 (speaking from experience)

    If there is room under a bed, put clothes in boxes, or toys or storage, and store them under there.

    • anna says

      Wow! Did you think sleeping in the living room was kind of like camping or did you get tired of it? Both Josh and I had “hideouts” in our closets when we were little and I think that sleeping in the living room would have been the height of “adventure” as a four-year-old.

      • says

        I don’t really remember that much about it. It was just the thing to do. I mean, doesn’t everyone sleep in the living room? 🙂 Once we got another room “finished” us kids slept in the “school room” instead. I always loved going to my grandparents where I could sleep in the “cave.” (A large closet with a slanted roof. 😀 ) Having a real bedroom was rather novel when it finally happened many years later. 🙂

  2. says

    My kids also share a room (boy/girl, ages 6 and 4). We do many of the above mentioned things, but specifically regarding order in their room, we just don’t keep many toys in there. I like having the toys downstairs so they are nearer to me while playing. This was actually something we started when they were much younger and HAD to be closer to me, but also when toys in the room resulted in terribly distracting naptimes. Now their room is primarily for sleeping and resting. Toys in the other rooms can sometimes get out of hand, but I prefer to clear them out instead of loading up the bedrooms with toys as well. It’s an ongoing challenge, for sure! 🙂

    • anna says

      Wonderful idea! Our home is very small and there really isn’t room anywhere *but* in their bedroom for most of the toys. However, if we move into a larger home in the future I *love* that idea! Especially, as you said, because it would mean the children had to be closer to me. Right now, they’re young and I really enjoy having them always close by… because there’s no where else for them to go!

      Thanks so much for sharing Tessa!

  3. Kasey says

    We have lots of room sharing going on around here and we are in the process of weeding out and reorganizing. These are some great tips!

    • anna says

      Hope you’re able to get all settled soon (and what a *sweet* son to help you through the process! LOVED your post today!)

  4. says

    I have 4 girls that share one room, and it is SO hard to keep things in order! We normally keep things orderly for a few months until a birthday or Christmas time arrives, and it’s chaos again for a few months. It’s back & forth – so I’m just learning to get rid of things!!! Thanks for the ideas! I cannot stand messy rooms! 🙂

    • anna says

      Thanks so much for stopping by Jill! Wow, four girls in one room, that would be exciting. 🙂

      I so know what you mean about Christmas & birthdays. We are pretty minimalistic, but still end up with so many toys from family to try to squeeze into their room after a trip home for Christmas. I try to practice a “one in, one out” rule, but it doesn’t always work.

  5. Jenni / Life from the Roof says

    I second what Tessa said – we had an “organized” cubby shelf in our boys’ room for awhile, and there was an assigned bin for different toys, like Tinkertoys, Legos, etc. But the problem was, they woke up earlier than us, and we could hear all of the toys being dumped into one big heap every morning. Not fun at all to wake up to!

    My husband finally got tired of it and took about 70% of their toys down to the basement, though we put the bins of things like trains, Legos, etc. in a closet on the main level for ease of access. Now the rule is that they can only have one main bin out at a time, and have to put that away if they want another. I will probably go through some of the things in the basement soon and decide what’s really worth keeping.

    • anna says

      Love the bin idea. Once we have more room I’m hoping to get a few bins for “like” toys. Right now we use bags and shoes boxes and whatever we can get to fit under the bed or squeezed behind the vacuum in the closet.

      One bin (or toy collection) at a time is a great idea!

  6. says

    Here is a thought for the “older” children. You probably had special toys or items when you were little that meant something to you (even if others thought it was junk) that you wanted to keep. Where do you put those treasures? Get each older child a box. It really doesn’t matter what size of box wether shoe box or file box. Write the child’s name on it and let it become their treasure box. When it gets full, they have to decide what to keep and what to toss, only rule: it must all fit in the box. 🙂

    We did this with the S. family when we nannied and the girls loved it. (Their room was also a lot cleaner and easier to keep clean.) I still have a “treasure box” for all those special things that just don’t “fit” anywhere. 🙂

    • anna says

      Such a great idea Bekah! I’m sure that would really help children learn to prioritize—and really value what they had in that box. I’m filing this idea away for use down the road. Thanks!

  7. says

    I definitely needed this post, Anna– you should SEE my children’s bedroom right now!

    I plan to put many of your points to good use. Tackling “that room” is on my ‘to do’ for the week end. 😉

    Thanks for the nudge in the right direction!

    • anna says

      After writing the post about kids’ clothes, I looked at my baby’s clothes and realized that she has outgrown so much of what is in her drawer… so, it looks like I’ll be tackling kids clothes this week too. 🙂

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