Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Great Toy Organization of 2010

It happens every January. I get the itch to reevaluate, reshuffle, and reorganize several areas of my life: pictures from Christmas cards, spices, freezer, pantry, kids' clothes, you name it. This year, however, I'm most excited about how we've recently organized the toys. For less than $100, the playroom now feels like a new and exciting place and our living room looks like a grown-up space again.

CURRENT PROBLEM: I'll admit we have too much stuff and between three kids, all that stuff migrates to every inch of the house. It's not that we buy a lot. Between Christmas, birthday gifts, holiday parties, and birthday party gift bags, it's easy for a home to get over-run with chachkies quickly. And when you have toys for both genders spanning from baby to elementary age, it's hard to maintain simplicity.

PREVIOUS SOLUTIONS: 2007 was the first "great toy organization" in our home. A professional organizer had suggested two tips that worked well for awhile:
1. Divide your space into specific play zones.
2. Group smaller toys by category that store well in clear shoebox size containers.
Our playroom had the art box, train table, kitchen, ride-ons, puppet house, and fire station. We also had a collection of those bins holding everything from small cars to action figures to train tracks.

PROBLEM WITH PREVIOUS SOLUTIONS: Though the designated areas worked pretty well, after several years of having them in the same spot, we were all bored with them. Then there was the issue with how to store the rest of the toys. There was the table we shoved a bunch of miscellaneous toys under and two huge bins where we piled the larger random toys. Not surprisingly, toys in those areas saw much less play or when kids did pull them out, the mess that followed was harder to clean up. I also found with several of the categories that those shoebox size bins were just too small. If I only had something a little bigger...


1. RESHUFFLE: My first mode of action was to do a big switch-a-roo. The art box moved to that corner, the playhouse to the other corner and the train table in the middle. Every zone found a new home. Now that Brooke is cruising, I turned the coffee table into the room, covered it with a bumper and put all her toys above or below it. I'd spent no money and I already felt better.

2. SORT & PARE DOWN: I put all the other toys in the middle of the room (once the kids were in bed) and began sorting: keep, needs batteries or repair, consignment, or trash. Getting rid of four boxes of toys and one bag of trash felt great.

3. NEW BINS: Looking at all the smaller toys, I decided on categories and the sizes of bin I needed for each. The shoebox worked for some, the five quart for others. I recommend the sturdy Sterilite containers because they last longer and kids can open the tops better than those made by Rubbermaid. I also made labels for each bin with a word and a picture of what belongs in that bin. This helps Bobby to read new words and Devin to independently find what he needs.

4. NEW SHELF: Once I had all the toys in their new homes, Hubby and I decided we really needed a new shelf. Since he's handy with tools, he designed one perfect for the space we have. The bottom was open so that ride-ons could easily slide underneath. The next shelf was just high enough to fit the larger bins and since it was 8 feet long, we could fit every bin there. The top shelf was open for all those taller, bulkier toys (like Imaginext toys, puzzles, and board games). The best part is that it's still short enough for our three-year-old to reach any toy on there.

5. NEW LIVING ROOM: Our living room had become an extension of the playroom, with the corner becoming a graveyard for many of the toys at the end of the day. Now that all the toys have a designated space in the playroom, we're hoping to minimize the number of toys upstairs. And at the end of the day, any toys in the living room will be piled into empty bins that are stored in a trunk. Those will periodically be taken back downstairs to find their rightful homes. We'll see how it works.

Finally, I thought about new paint but haven't found the energy for that yet. By spending $75 on the materials for the shelf and another $25 on bins, we have not only achieved organization but have breathed new life into old spaces. What tips for toy organization do you have?

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