Next to the bed we keep our basket of board books (these are books the baby can pull out, too!) and a box of wooden blocks (also baby-friendly).
We do have a couple larger toys in one corner - a basket with bats, balls, and hockey sticks, plus their two larger super-hero hideouts.
And the rest of their toys.... are in the closet. Our new house came with this big beautiful closet plus built-in shelves. It's been a game changer.
We're still working on the open shelving. I'd like it to be cute, but I also need it to work for the boys (and I need them not climbing up it to get things down). We'll keep you posted on that.
The bottom shelf has their cd player and collection of read-along books (in the red basket). I taped an envelope in the back of each book to keep the cd with it. It's taken some practice, but they're getting pretty good about putting one cd away before getting out the next!
The bottom cupboard has puzzles on the top shelf and the big box of super heroes & action figures on the bottom. These boys love the super heroes.
In the big closet we have rest of the toys. For the most part they are organized into totes and they only get one or two out at a time, then have to put them away to get something else out. We try to focus on a few main "toy groups" sorted into boxes, and we keep what fits in the box. If we get too many cars for the car box, we get rid of some. Because I can't keep cleaning up endless messes, you guys. I can't and I won't. There's life outside of picking up toys.
So here's what we have in the closet at the moment (with a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 10 month old):
Left Stack: a few dress-up outfit for each boy and baskets with slippers and ties
Center stack (top-to-bottom, you can see it in both pics below): A bin of backpacks and a bin of ball caps, a tote of play food and a tote of legos, the narrow shelf has a basket of mis-matched socks... next to a wad of hang-up shirts I haven't hung up yet, then the smaller super castles & hero houses plus the box of Tinker Toys, a box of toy animals and a box of Dinosaur Train, and finally a basket at the bottom full of what they boys call their "soft toys."
Right stack, top-to-bottom: dress-up-hats and mega-block pirate ship, a box of "adventure play" toys (things like walkie talkies, binoculars, magnifying glasses, whistles, etc.), a cash register and box with a take-apart airplane, red toolbox and bin of cars, large blue tote with lego duplos, large gray tote with costumes, large black tote with wooden trains.
We also have a few toys stashed downstairs, like a basket of baby toys in the living room and a smaller train set in the sun room. But that's it.
If you're looking to get started paring back and organizing your toys, I think one of the best things you can do is start by designating the space and then working within it. Choose an organization system (a closet, bookshelf, Ikea storage unit, whatever). Designate a space for each type of toy (a box for animals, a box for trains, shelf space for a larger toy, etc.). Then only keep what fits in each box. Too many animals for your box? Get rid of the extras.
If you start with boxes large enough to fit all of the toys, then you're looking for space to keep all those large boxes. It will eat up space in the room fast, plus make an overwhelming mess to clean up (even when they just have one or two boxes out). We've found one of the best defenses against an overwhelming mess is staying on top of the amount of toys we let in in the first place.
I'm sure this is something we'll be constantly tailoring over the years, but for the moment we've found a happy medium with plenty to keep the boys entertained, without leaving us totally overwhelmed.
Now that we have all their toys organized into bins and totes, I thought some labels would help the boys (and the mom) keep everything neat. I wanted labels that included pictures, and when I couldn't find something I liked I made my own! I just cut them out and used packing tape to attach them to each box.
You can download and print your own set here!
Our last tip is to remember this is an area where quantity is not better than quality! We've found we don't need as many toys when we try to focus on broader, imaginative toys that give the boys more options for play. They will play with the same legos day after day without getting bored, and the box of super heroes usually pulls at least couple hours of play at a time. These kinds of toys are the best use of our shelf space.
What do toys look like at your house? How many do you keep and how do you store them?