Last week I decided to tackle a big summer organizational project that has been on my mind since we first moved into this new house. When we moved in, we sort of randomly assigned closets for purposes. A linen closet here, another linen closet there, a medicine/first aid/paper products closet over there. Now that we’ve been in the house for a while, though, we are starting to find better places for things and better purposes for our closets.
I knew that I wanted and needed an activity closet for the kids. We have a lot of educational toys and activities that require adult help for the kids to use. Things like coloring books and board games and puzzles were taking up space in random drawers and closets, and not really getting used because they were scattered and shoved into places throughout the house. But before I could round up all these activities and put them into one closet, I had to clean out three different closets in order to make room.
I ended up cleaning out this small pantry outside our kitchen that holds serving dishes, paper/plastic serving ware, paper towels, table linens, and dog food (random, I know). This closet originally had one shelf on it that I had started collecting activities for the kids on, but we quickly ran out of room. Cleaning out this closet would mean that I would free up space for more serving dishes and entertaining accessories for my kitchen. One of the other things on my organizational list this summer is my kitchen cabinets and this pantry closet, so I’ll organize it more later. But for now, I took about two shelves worth of materials out of it, so that was a start.
The next closet I had to clean out was a very tiny linen closet outside the master bedroom. This closet originally held the kids linens – their sheets, blankets, and the family beach towels. But I always thought that was such a waste of space because we have a much bigger closet that could hold all of that stuff, and then that tiny closet would be freed up for
our activity closet.
(Is this too much detail? I mean, we’re just talking about my linen closets here…)
So, that’s what I did. I moved all of these linens into this giant closet in our spare guest bedroom, which is now our linen closet for the house. It still doesn’t LOOK great, but – hey! – it’s a closet. The important thing is that it is organized with sheets and blankets and duvet covers and inflatable mattresses and electric blankets and all those things that were stuck in cubbies all over my house.
Now, let’s get down to the important stuff… The Activity Closet!
The first thing I did was buy some supplies I needed for this closet. I had one crate, but I needed a few others. I also needed a couple small storage tubs for things with little pieces. While I was at Target, I also found this tiny little tub (rainbow striped, on top) that I thought would be perfect for holding all of our sidewalk chalk. All total, I spend $15 on supplies. And, actually, I later realized I probably could have found these things even cheaper at the dollar store. I’m heading there on Monday to see what other organizing goodies I can find. I’ll keep you posted.
Once I had my supplies ready, I came home and collected all the games, toys, and activities around the house that required adult help. Then, I divided these activities up into piles: educational, coloring/arts and crafts, and outside.
In my educational crate, I included sight word puzzles, sight word games, lacing cards, Play-Doh, memory games, and sets of collectable flashcards.
Inexpensive flashcard sets were taken out of their dilapidated boxes that the kids have slobbered on and torn into tiny pieces and each set was put in its own sandwich bag. Then, I put all of these sets into one of the smaller storage totes and it sits on the shelf next to the educational crate. (Incidentally, I find these flashcard sets in the dollar bins at Target a lot and we use them regularly for both Bean and Gracie. Bean is now learning to recognize some of the words and Gracie is learning words from pictures.)
Anything educational that wouldn’t fit in the crate went next to the crate on the shelf. These things included a few board games and a giant fabric checkers board.
In my coloring/arts and crafts bin, I have all the kids coloring books, notepads, and crayons. We have over 20 coloring and activity books, and I throw them out as they get ratty or used up. Those I also usually find in the dollar bins at Target or similar stores. I keep their crayons in a pencil case instead of the cardboard boxes they come in. It just saves my sanity to throw them all in one place and not worry about matching crayons to a specific box. Plus, my kids shred the boxes, so…. Markers are a new thing for us (thank you, Aunt Ginny. I’ll be sending you the dry cleaning bill for my couch.). I don’t mind Bean using them, but he has to do it with me or Chris. I keep these in a separate sandwich baggie so that I can get out the crayons without having to have the “but-I-want-markers!” fight every time.
(Sorry for the crappy picture of my crayons and markers. I really need a new camera lens!)
Also on the arts and crafts shelf is Bean’s tub of rainbow rice. Mostly because I couldn’t fit it anywhere else, but also because it was darn crafty of me to make it!!!!!!
The outside activity crate holds all those things that the kids love, but that I shudder if they pull them out inside. In here are bubbles, sidewalk chalk, sidewalk tattoos (super fun, made by Crayola, find ’em by the coloring books and crayons in stores), paddle balls, ring toss sets, frisbees, bowling sets, and the bean bag toss set. Not all of these things fit into the crate, so boxed sets of games and activities went on the shelf beside the outdoor crate.
On the bottom shelf, I put a spare storage bin that is a little bit larger in size. This bin holds all of our puzzles. One day, I’d like to get one of those puzzle racks, but this actually works pretty well because it fits so nicely into our activity closet. Any puzzle that didn’t have a board back to it (more advanced puzzles that Bean likes to work now) I put into individual sandwich baggies to keep all their pieces together. Again, cardboard storage boxes have a short shelf life with my two shredders.
On the bottom floor of this closet, I put three oversized, plain, white sketch pads the kids like to color on. Since the picture was taken, I’ve also added a big bag of balls that go in the Pack ‘n Play to turn it into a ball pit. On the very top shelf, I put our family beach towels. Partly because I consider these part of the “outdoor activities” shelf, but mostly because this closet is closest to our pool, so it’s easiest to grab the towels from. Sometimes practicality trumps organization.
As the kids get older and they require less supervision with these kinds of toys, I might end up putting one of those shoe hangers on the inside of the door with pockets to hold some of these things so they can get to them easier. But for now, it’s nice to have a place that houses everything that little prying hands can’t destroy. Bean knows where the closet is, and he’ll ask me now to get things out of the closet for him to play with. He thinks it’s like we got all new toys because most of these things have been packed away in places he hasn’t been able to see, so they haven’t been used. I love that about organizing. You get to uncover treasures you didn’t even know you had!