Thursday, January 03, 2008

How I store: the toys

Just when we have a system running smoothly, here comes Christmas! And with the overflow of new toys, I give you my home's imperfect and evolving philosophy of toy storage.

(You can click here to see how I decide if a toy is worth keeping for the long haul and how we periodically realize that our kids need far fewer toys than we think they do.)

A child-friendly home has toys in every room--whether you like it or not. My kids want to be where I am, and I don't want to be trapped in a playroom all day long.

My solution has been to create one or two play centers in each room, so that every room of the house can be enjoyed by people big and small.

Our 1950's cottage has very little built-in storage.

The living room holds two old picnic baskets filled with random wood blocks (top) and family games and preschool manipulatives (bottom).

Most of the building toys are kept in my five-year-old's room, so he can protect his creations from the toddler.

A daybed is our best space and money-saver: you only need one mattress, but you get all this easy access to toy bins!

Andrew also has two bedside tables set up as "centers": one holds LeapPad cartridges and books, the other has our old GeoSafari system and books on tape.

Across from the bed is a yard sale bookcase with more puzzles in the bottom.

In the kitchen, my kryptonite: the art cabinet. It's constantly messy because it's constantly used! Projects spill out onto the counter and child-size table.

On the other side of the kitchen is the wooden play kitchen I showed you earlier. It's filled with old Jello molds, tartlet tins and various scarves for pretend play.

That's pretty much it! Outdoors we have a planter filled with balls and bats, plus a bike and toddler ride toy in the garage.

23 comments:

hsgbdmama said...

Thanks for sharing the tips! We will be doing a big toy purge & organize this month.

(BTW, we have that same set of World Book encylopedias, which a friend blessed us with!)

TJ said...

I thought I just did a big toy purge, but here they are overflowing again!

Great ideas. I think my biggest problem is getting the toys back into the bins that I do have setup in the house.

Amy said...

Our son has a daybed, but we invested in the trundle underneath. It makes it difficult to do toy storage, but I just moved everything into a rolling cart into his closet. He has all of his toys there that he doesn't want Emily to play with and I don't have to worry about picking up all of those little pieces all of the time.

Great ideas!

Mrs. Mordecai said...

Thanks for the advice! This is really timely for me because we're moving from tiny apartment to big house this month. I'm going to set up several little play centers--great idea!

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I love this quote and couldn't agree more:

A child-friendly home has toys in every room--whether you like it or not.

We did a pretty major baby toy purge last month. While it made me a little sad to get rid of some toys, it didn't last long. ;) There are certain toys I want to hang on to for my girls' kids (like our Melissa & Doug things) but so many things can be purged pre-holiday. Plus I feel like it teaches them the importance of charity.

I have a drawer in the kitchen filled with art supplies, markers, stamps. And one of our end tables in the den has coloring books in one drawer and our Leapsters and My First Leap Pad and game cartridges in the other. I also have an old Winnie the Pooh backpack filled with all the little miscellaneous figurines they collect (like Happy Meals toys.) I have a large black bamboo handled basket in the den filled with their books, too. ONe of these days I will have one of those super swanky wall cube systems a la Pottery Barn Kids but for now I try to corral things the best way I can.

Anonymous said...

My 93yo grandmother kept a small dresser in the kitchen devoted to art supplies and special toys, small measuring cups and tupperware stored low in the kitchen, another closet of games for the back part of the house, ride-on toys and bikes in the garage, and simple sheet music at the piano.

Was it the toys, or the heart that placed the toys in every room, that kept the great-grands on her doorstep ; )

deb meyers

Emily said...

I love that yardsale bookcase!!!

Thanks for sharing your storage solutions!

Anonymous said...

Forget Toys R Us! Meredith, you have created such a child-friendly home on a budget. I have always said there are many, many wonderful used toys and books out there, and kids don't know the difference. Do you recall one of the Tightwad articles where Amy D. showed the difference between a new Lego and a used one? None, of course! Your kids have all they need to be happy and creative. I love the way you have organized it. Kudos to you!

Indie said...

I adore the idea of the play kitchen in the real kitchen. We don't have room in our tiny kitchen now, but I definitely plan to use that idea in the future.

Shannon@Idylwild said...

We have the toy room set up for now (instead of a dining room). It works well to keep so many littles contained! I love getting a peek at your toys, though. It's so nice to see other moms that don't try to mimic Toys R Us in their living rooms:)

Angela said...

Thank you Meredith! The pictures show how simply beautiful your set up is! We have a play room, and we are almost never in there. It's more of a storage room where we go pick a toy to bring to the family room. We don't keep toys in bedrooms for now, but when the boys are older, we might-under the bed like you do and in the closet of sight! :) Now I am inspired to purge more! At Christmas, I asked my 3 year old to go through some of his baby toys with me. We only had a handful of them left, and he told me I could give almost all of them away to another child who needs toys! I was amazed! (And it was hard for me to let go of one special toy he liked as an infant). I asked him about that one, and he said, "I like it, but I don't need it." I should have known that the stuffed animals that matter to him are both already in his bed! :)

Mrs. Fussy Fussypants said...

Have I ever told you I just love how you take pictures at such neat angles?

I do! :)

Sophia said...

Thanks for the peek into your wonderfully-organized home! I've gotten some great ideas, which came just in time. My dh and I are planning to do our yearly purge soon.

We store our kids' toys in their bedrooms, but of course they end up being played with all through the house throughout the day. I am not a "playroom" person because I can't stand the mess I've seen in most of them. Bedroom storage has worked wonderfully for us, since each child has a separate bedroom with adequate play space.

On My Mind said...

Love your ideas, especially the use of baskets! We are big basket lovers, too. We store all of our toys in small to mid-size baskets... one for musical items, one for cars/trucks, one for wooden train pieces, one for blocks... you get the picture. Last summer, I found a set of four matching BEAUTIFUL baskets from the Pottery Barn at a rummage sale. They hold toys very nicely, and are perched upon my son's three foot tall wooden rummage sale bookshelf :)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure most of us envision such a clutter-free environment. I am curious however if your children received toys from extended family and friends for Christmas. If so, where did you store them? If seems that everyone who came by my sister's home during the holidays had a gift (i.e. toy) for her son and toys are everywhere! I really don't know how one could graciously not accept a gift. Oh, well, my son is on his own so the clutter I have to deal with now is mine. And I intend to get rid of lots of stuff this year - starting Monday - right after the diet is underway - at least SOME stuff - probably. A girl can dream, can't she!!

hyperactivelu said...

Great ideas! I also have little puzzles and books in every room so that I am not stuck in the boys room all day! I don't have anything in the kitchen! I will have to carve out a section to do that! That would definitely help at dinner!

Homemaker of the 21st Century said...

Wow! That seems to really work for you :) If I took a picture of my kids toys you would all run and hide!!

Come check out the Free Fabric Softener Contest at Homemaker of the 21st Century!

Miss G said...

Meredith, thanks so much for giving us so much insight into your family's life. I am still single and no kids yet but I hope that I can remember some of these concepts when I do have kids underfoot. :) I really like your idea of making each room of the house friendly to big AND little people! I enjoy reading your blog! Kelly

Daiquiri said...

We have a giant play room upstairs, where all of the toys are supposed to stay. But you're absolutely right, the kids want to be with me all the time so the toys are always being dragged all over the house. As if it's not hard enough to keep the play room cleaned up...try gathering the toys from all over the house, bringing them BACK to the playroom and away. Ugh. I might have to break down and follow your lead. I love the old picnic basket idea. So much prettier than plastic totes.

I keep trying to remind myself that someday I'll miss having toys underfoot...

Thanks for your blog. I'm a faithful reader!

Daiquiri

Susan said...

Ooh this is fabulous! Cool collection of Kids Toy Storage.

Manda said...

i love your house!!!!!!!!!!!

Our Lives said...

It was such a timely read of your post. We are gearing up to re-organize our "play areas". Lego was a big project we have just accomplished. We didn't buy any containers, just use an old little drawers unit, some glass jars, a few recycled Ziploc bags, a couple of small containers and two shoe boxes. All of the glass jars could fit into the original big bin easily. The items that are left out are the drawer unit and the two shoe boxes. They rest on top of lid to the big bin. The Lego pieces are much easier to find nowadays.
I love your ideas on organizing. I got so motivated after each reading (I am still on the look-out for some white bath towels :)). Keep up the good work Meredith!

martha said...

I respect your decision to stop daily blogging for a bit.

But I really miss your perspective. I've been scrolling down memory lane here, and decided to randomly stop on this post and let you know. Your suggestions on classy frugal organization always inspire me.