If I’m honest, I’ve always thought setting up a birthday gift closet was a pretty unrealistic and over-the-top idea (as evidence by probably the most popular thing I’ve ever written).
But then my son started elementary school and I quickly realized that the number of birthday party invites that come once your child becomes a student can be immense.
Not only is it a stress-saver to always have an appropriate gift around, it can also be a serious money saver if you stock up whenever you see a quality toy on sale.
But how do you know how many gifts (and what type) to keep on hand? Today our resident professional organizer, Annie, is here sharing her signature strategy for setting up a killer gift closet.
And how do you know a high quality toy when you see one on sale? Check out all 350+ of our toy recommendations in our famous MPMK Toy Gift Guides (17 detailed guides sorted by age and interests).
Here’s Annie with the DIY…
In my experience, parents of young children tend to fall into three camps in regards the birthday party present-prep.
1. They keep no gifts on hand, have no time to shop, and generally find themselves whispering obscenities under their breath when they realize, hours before the big event, there’s nothing in the house to give to little ____.
2. They stock up on potential birthday presents like birthday presents were going out of stock. They’ve given over whole closets to would-be gifts, and end up with far more presents than there will ever be time or playgroup friends to gift to. Ultimately, these parents find themselves overwhelmed by a collection of items initially meant to ward off overwhelm with that cautionary preparedness.
3. They have a moderate amount of gift-able items, only they don’t have an appointed place or an orderly way of keeping said presents. Despite the parents’ best efforts, access to the right present at the right time remains elusive.
You can be Parent Group # 4: those are the ones who would keep a moderate amount of presents on hand – items that are thoughtfully stored so as to facilitate ease of selection for babies, two year olds, preschoolers, kindergartners, elementary students, etc.
Gather together all the gift-able items around your house. Consider whether the item is still one which you would feel proud to give as a gift, or whether it no longer aligns with your values.
Those presents that are still in gift-able condition and that you feel would make wonderful gifts need to get sorted.
You’ll want to choose organizers that are best suited for the space in which you’re keeping presents. In general, I find that cupboards and some sort of open bin works well for this purpose.
You can sort by whatever categories make the most sense to you, and you can determine what these should be by asking yourself what factors you consider first when you need to come up with a gift to give.
I’d suggest sorting first by broader groups such as age and gender. That might be enough in and of itself, but you can also (depending upon how many presents you have) sort further by things like: personality type (outdoorsy, creative, etc.), or simply by type of gift (puzzles, books, dolls, etc.).
Some parents choose to have items pre-wrapped, but unless you’re also going to attach a post-it note to remind you what, in fact, is contained within, I’d advise against this. The more visible the gifts are, the more likely you are to actually give them out.
If you’re set on having presents wrapped in advance, I would recommend gift bags over wrapping paper so that you can easily remind yourself what the gift is and adjust the contents. Or, pre-wrap only the kinds of gifts that you’re not overly particular about (LEGOs might be LEGOs to you, American Girl Doll gifts interchangeable).
Label the gift categories. It doesn’t matter whether you have a label maker or masking tape and a marker, so long as you spell out the intention for a set of gifts clearly for yourself.
Finally, a note on filling your bins. My best advice is not to worry about how many presents and what range of presents you have in the beginning, but to stock up when you see a great deal! (And don’t forget to also fill your closets with gifts your own kids can’t use for one reason or another but can easily be re-gifted to others)
Toys are often clearanced in January, following the holiday rush, and again in July – making these two months an excellent time to fill your Birthday Gift Closet!
Ultimately, you’re working on having a few gender specific toys, as well as a few gender-neutral toys appropriate for kids the same age as each of your own children. That way, when it’s down to the wire, all you’ll have to do is head to your present cupboard, scan the keywords, select, wrap, and send it, and your little one, on their merry way.
Got a new or picky eater?
Sign up for our newsletter to get a handy stick-it-your-fridge list of our favorite healthy recipes for toddlers and a link to all of the recipes!