by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Set a specific space to store a group of items (a bin, shelves and open bins, etc.). When the space if full, it's a signal to declutter, not buy more organizing products.
The same techniques that work for the playroom can work for your yard. You can teach your kids to keep their outdoor toys organized by making it clear where everything belongs.
Declutter Outdoor Toys
Gather all the outdoor toys to one space.
Sort similar toys together (you can do this as you gather the toys).
Toss the broken, deflated toys – particularly if you’ve already replaced them. And, just because you are tossing a broken toy doesn’t mean that you need to replace it. Chances are your kids or grandkids haven’t been playing with it and so they won’t miss it.
Limit duplicates. Just because there are seven balls strewn about your yard doesn’t mean that the kids need all seven. Consider if there are duplicates because toys weren’t put away properly and new ones were purchased. Or, some were gifts. If there is one soccer ball, the kids will be more conscientious about putting it away than if they have five. And, chances are that they will take better care of fewer toys than if they feel they have so many that one going missing doesn’t matter. (You can always keep a back up or two where the kids can’t access it.)
Ask the kids if there are toys that they are willing to give away to children who have no toys. If you haven’t done this in the past, you may want to box up the items for a few months, particularly if you think your child won’t understand that they aren’t getting another toy to replace what they’ve given away.
Or, ask kids what they want to play with right now (in the next week) and box up everything else. They can ask you for a toy from the box, but they must decide to put another toy in the box to replace what they are having taken out.
Or, box up the toys you are convinced that your kids don’t play with but don’t toss the items. See if your kids ask for what is missing.
Organize Outdoor Toys
Use bins. Bins are perfect for containing toys and creating limits because only so many toys will fit in a bin. One big bin for all the toys may seem like a good option but can create more chaos because to get to a specific toy, kids might end up pulling everything from the big bin.
Sort toys, but not too specifically. So, all balls can go in a bin; but, it isn’t necessary to create a bin for each sport (unless your child participates in different sports and having their baseball stuff separate from soccer stuff makes sense – however, if this is just for casual backyard games, then all sports stuff could go together). Keep sand toys together, nature investigation toys together, etc.
Keep these bins someplace where the kids can reach them so they can not only take out what they want but put it away. And, don’t put covers on the bins. One, it becomes too easy to pile things on top of the cover so it’s more difficult to open the bin; and two, taking off the cover will slow kids down.
Create a repercussion for toys that aren’t put away. It could be that toys left in the yard aren’t available the next day (although the other toys are). If toys aren’t put away on a consistent basis, this means your child will have fewer toys to play with. This may not bother them.
Declutter and organize outdoor toys (including pool toys, sports equipment, nature investigation toys) the way you would indoor toys. Kids can learn to care for their belongings – a good life skill, and you will be saved the hunt for rogue toys when it comes to cutting the grass.
Sign up for emails from A Less Cluttered Life and learn how simple, everyday practices can eliminate the scattered feeling of trying to do too much. Join the free program, A Year of Decluttering, at any time of the year and get access to the 7-day e-course, Distraction-free Decluttering.
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).