Over the years, I have tried to keep our toy storage organized and somewhat contained in our house. I don’t want to be one of those houses that looks like a toy store… or, given the wear and tear around our house, a toy dump. I don’t want toys all over. I want to be able to sit down on my couch or have people into my home and not have us all swimming in toys the entire time.
That’s not to say there aren’t points throughout any given day when we don’t have toys all over the place. Our kids are active, creative, imaginative, and playful. And all of those things require at least a certain level of messiness. But the key to our sanity has been giving everything a spot in our house. Even if toys come out of their spot to be played with – even if LOTS of toys come out of their spots to be played with – we are never more than a quick pick-up away from a somewhat neat house because everything has a place.
As the kids have gotten older, the toy and game storage has changed quite a bit. When they were infants and toddlers, we used the drawers in our living room entertainment center and a few cleverly disguised toy boxes that looked like part of our home decor as the bulk of most storage because they did the majority of their playing in our living room where we could be with them. When they were a little bit older, we moved a lot of the kids storage into our office closet upstairs so that I could monitor what they pulled out to keep us from losing too many pieces. We stored things like puzzles, board games, and more expensive learning toys in there. The rest of their toys, we moved into big bins in their bedrooms that were easy for them to get to. Having the toys out of our main living area gave Chris and I the space to claim some of our home back, and we loved that.
Now, the kids storage needs are changing once again. Most of the things they play with on a daily basis are not really “toys,” per se. They are more like activities. Boxes of perler beads. Cotton loops for potholder looms. Pokemon cards. Beads for jewelry and arts and crafts. Art supplies for Gracie. Legos for Bean. It’s just a lot of little things that they don’t want to put completely away, but that still are attempting to take over our home.
I have found that, once again, my trustee $10 oil pan from Walmart that I bought when the kids were 2 and 3 years old has yet another use. Storage for long-term activities. Bean spends a few days at a time working on Lego sets, and I know he can’t clean up the entire thing every day because he spends so much time laying all his pieces out and sorting them to make building them easier. Our solution has been the oil pan. Now, Bean builds his Lego sets on our giant oil pant. This means that he can move his Lego creations around easier. Chris and I can help him carry the pan downstairs and he can build with the rest of the family in the family room or we can put it up on the kitchen tables while I’m cooking dinner or it can go in his room when he’s playing alone, and it easily moves all his pieces with him without messing up his organization. It also makes for easy storage in his bedroom. He just slides the pan under his bed at night, and the mess is out of sight. Being able to slide it under his bed has also been nice when we have friends over and he doesn’t want other kids messing with his Lego sets. The pan keeps his work out of everyone’s way and out of sight of little hands.
Another thing that needed a new storage option was some of Bean’s old super hero toys. He doesn’t play with these too often anymore and they were just taking up valuable real estate on his toy shelves. We also had a big problem with Nerf guns. He got quite the arsenal for Christmas this year. Between the guns themselves and the bullets, our house was starting to look like a military battle zone. I solved both these issues in one storage solution. I used a $4 over the door shoe rack. I put the super hero toys (“They aren’t dolls, Mom!!!!”) in the top half of the rack and he can use his stool if he really wants to get them down, but he hardly plays with these anymore. He just isn’t ready to get rid of them. The Nerf guns are at the bottom because they are used almost daily. And we have several pockets devoted entirely to Nerf bullets.
The last issue we had were all the little arts and crafts that were being piled up all over the house. My solution began first with beads. Gracie got this giant thing of crafting beads from Santa, and when it was time to consolidate all our Christmas toys, the giant, plastic, pink container had to go. I looked around and found a pink plastic pencil box that we never used for school in one of my closets and it was a perfect fit. As she gets older, she might want one of those craft boxes with all the little compartments to sort by colors, shapes, and sizes, but she doesn’t really care right now. You can buy the pencil boxes at the Dollar Store, and so I stocked up the last time I was there. Now, we have pencil boxes that hold loops for Gracie’s potholder loom, perler beads and their pegboards, and Gracie’s beads for crafting. The pencil boxes are smaller than regular plastic bins and they are much cheaper, too.
I have also had Gracie start to play with her beads on a metal cookie tray for the same reason as Bean uses the oil pan. It’s easy for her to start and stop a project, but then clean up without having to put it all away. We keep the pencil boxes and any cookie trays she is working on in our game closet in the office.
I think the key to storage and organization for the kids has been making it accessible and easy for them to use. It has also been reevaluating our storage options every few months as the kids grow and their preferences for entertainment change.
Now, if someone would find a way to store Chris’s tools without taking over my entire garage, I would be forever grateful… #marriedlife