One of the things I pride myself on is how we are able to quasi-control the toy mess in our home. It’s a lot of work, but we have a pretty good system, and it might work for you too.
Stage 1: Contain the mess! First of all, a few years ago, hubs bought a bunch of 20 quart Steralite containers with snap on lids at an auction for a song. So, we separated all of the toys by type and put them in boxes with a lid.
Obviously the Legos and Thomas the Tank Engine toys go into larger boxes because, well, we have tons more then will fit in the 20 quart containers. We also re-use random plastic containers, like these plastic jugs that hard pretzels come in, the large bottles that Nesquik powder comes in, and dishwasher tab boxes.
Stage 2: Label! We label everything. All of the original totes have Kidecals labels, but the newer /larger containers have different labels. I try to do labels that have drawings of the toys too, so it’s easier for non-readers to know what’s in the box without opening them.
I used the terminology that Lil’ Man uses for his toys. The box marked “Guy Men” has action figures and little toys (like his Sesame Street “guys”), and “Mean Animals” (Plastic/Vinyl animals of various sizes).
Some of the toys that don’t get a lot of play (or annoy me), are stored in the closet. I rotate the less frequently played toys through, so that all of the toys get loved.
Stage 3: Limit Access! Another thing that helps is that we have a three toys at a time rule. Lil’ Man can have three types of toys out at a time. Right now, it’s guy men, mean animals, and cars.