Especially now, when the holiday haul collides with our desire to simplify, some toy anti-proliferation hacks are in order.
The best thing you can do about kids/toy organizing is have a play room, I think. I know that that isn't always possible, esp. for those in apartments – but many people live in homes with a formal living room and a family room. One of those can be used as a playroom. That's the choice we made and I'm so glad! It really simplifies bed/nap times, and creates a calmer environment in the bedrooms.
For toy storage, (not too original, but I actually don't know too many people who do this), I get clear plastic bins of various sizes that fit on the sets of storage shelves that we have. I label them for my own convenience if something gets dumped out, but since their see-through, even non-readers can usually tell where the toys go. It also helps limit the amount of a certain type of toy. I do sometimes have to 'upgrade' a toy box (get a bigger size), but with some types of toys I'm determined to not outgrow the size of box it's in now.
[I second see-through toy storage. Our playroom is organized with baskets from Ikea, and although it looks great and all the parents who come down ooh and ahh over how tidy it looks, my kids rarely pull out the baskets. It's like they forget what kinds of toys are in there. — Ed.]
Also, for cleaning up toys – I've noticed that my daughter (and me, sometimes!) gets overwhelmed with the visual stimulation of a messy playroom. She honestly can't see through the clutter to where she needs to start. I now just gather a bunch of stuff quickly and put it into a shopping bag for her. She grabs just one thing out at a time and puts it away. It's helped immensely (and she complains less, too!).
[Similar idea: start in one corner of the room and work your way around. — Ed]
How do I keep my kiddo's room clean? Keep fewer toys in it. Of course, my son doesn't always agree that a toy needs to go, so when toy sorting time arrives we do this: We get a big rubbermaid bin, a box, a trash bag and a bucket of soapy water. We dump the toys out of their bins, and wipe the dust and yuck out. Toys we're keeping go back in. Broken toys get pitched. Perfectly good toys that he is done with go in the box to go to the Salvation Army. If there are toys that he doesn't play with, but he's not ready to say goodbye to, they go into the rubbermaid bin. At the next sorting time they will be revisited, and often times he is now ready to let them go. Other times they seem new and get a second lease on life.
On a similar note; my baby daughter received no fewer than six teddy bears this Christmas. We decided to donate the bears to our local ambulance service. They take them on runs and give them to children who could use a pick-me-up at a scary time.
Related: More hacks for getting organized