I am a MAJOR neat freak. I can't go to bed until things are in some semblance of order, I don't leave things laying around or on the floor. You might say that I'm a bit of a perfectionist in that way. . .at least enough so that my husband likes to call me Monica Gellar. So, when I was expecting my first child I got a lot of comments like, "That'll change," "You'll be so busy with kids your house will never look the same," etc. To all those nay sayers, let me tell you my house STILL looks the way it did before kids. . .despite a few pieces of "furniture" like a bouncy and a pack-in-play that simply cannot be disguised, I live in a home that looks like children don't live in it. To be sure, my babies play all day in there but we pick up as we go and at the end of the day we have "clean up" time. Can you imagine what it would look like if we never did that and just let things pile up all over the place?? Mayhem!!
Well, all this to say that I think I might have a reputation for my organization/cleanliness because a dear friend of mine emailed me today with the following:
ok, what in the world are you currently doing for storage with all the toys...big and small? i seriously just broke down in tears tonight b/c we have no room for everything....help! what do you use??? i think we honestly need to get rid of some stuff, but i just need to figure out what's best.....toy chest......bookshelf....help! what are you doing to corral it all???
Here is my response to her and anyone interested in knowing how I keep things out of sight and out of mind in our home.
1) I use any and all available closet/storage space in our home for the things you REALLY don't use, such as baby swing, bouncy seats, portable high chairs, etc. If you are done with these and you know there won't be any more kiddos in your future, it's time to either give them away or put them on craigslist.com. I have things in guest bedroom closets, hallways closets, under beds, armoires, up high on unused cabinets, etc.
2) If you don't have extra closet space and need to use "out-in-the-open" space, Ikea has a great selection of matching colored baskets in all shapes and sizes for storage as well, so you don't have to spend a lot to keep a room clean and organized when toys are not being played with.
This is our upstairs play area. it's small but I store all of my son's toys in the two lidded baskets (from Ikea) and baby gear that our infant has outgrown in the armoire. I also keep unopened toys in the armoire because when Christmas and birthdays roll around, I ration the gifts so he gets something every few weeks and months. . .they don't play with it all if you give it at once anyway.
Up close. . .
This is a matching basket I picked up for books. It sits next to the sofa for easy story time access.
And another one for puzzles.
The smallest of the baskets in the matching set I use in my kids' closets. It's great for keeping things separate and organized. NOTE: all these baskets are sold individually. The ones above are only $5 each!!
3) I use decorative baskets in just about every room in the house because as much as you might try to corral kids into playing in only one specific area of your home, the truth is that they like to go where you go, am I right? So, my solution is the everywhere storage option: baskets. I have two baskets in our breakfast area that store 1) baby toys and 2) books. Twenty feet away I have an antique fisherman's basket that unbeknownst to outsiders, contains my older child's toys. Just flip up the lid and voila! He has his toys!
I found these cute baskets at Home Goods and they sit in our breakfast/kitchen area.
My fisherman's basket. You can use the ones from Ikea in the photo above.
Out of sight! Out of mind!! :)
This smaller basket sits in my bedroom. While I get dressed and ready, our youngest plays at my feet and in our carpeted closet area.
This is an OLD chest that sits at the foot of my son's bed. We don't use what's in it but it stores what's not in use now but might be if another baby every joins this family. . .
LASTLY. . .
4) Kids can accumulate A LOT through Christmas gifts, generous grandparents and birthdays. They don't always love everything they get well enough to play with it for more than 10 minutes, so the reality is that every now and again we just need to purge closets, toy chests, etc. For me, I like to let me son know that Christmas is coming and he is going to receive new things so he needs to choose a few toys that are in good condition that he doesn't play with and we are going to give those toys to kids who don't have any toys. This is a two birds/one stone thing because it 1) helps me get rid of some unused toys (that are literally in perfect condition - some have never even been played with at all) and 2) provides a teaching opportunity where I can teach my son compassion and the joy of giving.
I hope this has helped you friend and you reader.