November 4, 2009

Toys... and more toys!

After my post on bedrooms, several people asked me what we do about toys. Well, I have to say it's a lot easier to deal with the toy situation at our current house than it was at the old house. First of all, at our old house, our rooms were a lot smaller. The basement was cold and dark so the kids rarely played down there, and when they did I usually had to go down there with them (kind of defeated the purpose!). But we managed. We didn't have toys in the bedrooms and we didn't have a constant mess throughout the house either.

If you have a smaller space, or even if you don't, I highly recommend toy rotating. First, keep only the best, most played with toys. Get rid of the rest. Then box up half of them and put them away in a closet or the basement. After a month or so, unpack the stored away toys and pack away the first batch. You won't believe how exciting it is! Like Christmas all over again! The toy that was boring a month ago is now exciting again (for 3 minutes at least)!!

The toys that you keep out shouldn't be an overwhelming amount. Keep a toy box or bins or shelves somewhere in your main room to store the toys. I don't really like toy boxes because the kids tend to dump them out to find what they are looking for, but we do use one because some toys are just too big to fit anywhere else.

At our old house we kept all the toys in the living room but when they were cleaned up they were completely out of sight. Where, you ask, did we keep them in our small living room? Well, we got creative! Who needs a front hall closet anyway!?! We took the jackets and the bar out of the closet and added shelves instead. We always came in the back door and hung our coats there anyway. Here is what it looked like:
I even stored some of the boxed up toys in there. The toys I didn't want them to get into without supervision were at the top and the bottom held the "toy box" which at that time was a plastic tub that fit into the closet. (See it overflowing?!) The other plastic bins held, and still do hold, our toy sets: legos, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train, cars, blocks, etc. All toys that can be, should be stored together. There will always be some odd and ends, but storing like toys together makes playing and cleaning up much easier.

We didn't get out all the legos and trains and cars and Bob toys all at once. Those are one-out-at-a-time type toys. They ask for them, we get them out, and when they're done they pick them up and put them away. The kids know what toys go in which bins and can clean up fairly easily on their own. It's nice, but not necessary, to label the bins with pictures of what's inside for the non-reading family members. Once everything was cleaned up we shut the doors and no toys could be seen. People who came to look at our house when it was for sale didn't even know we had kids until they got to the bedrooms! Ha! Then they saw we were stacking them like cordwood!

At the new house we have a much better set up. (Although we still don't use our front hall closet for coats. We liked the added storage so much we converted the front closet at this house into the homeschooling closet. Most of our school stuff is in there where it is nearby but out of sight when not in use!) We keep one small basket of "baby" toys in the living room and an end table with a door holds a few books, other than that there are no toys in the living room unless they are currently being played with.

The main toy zone is in our family room in the basement. We have bookshelves down there loaded with books. The toy box is out and has the current stash of toys stored inside. We do leave out the car tub since the boys play with cars EVERY day. The rest of the toys are kept in what we lovingly call the "game room". Off of the main family room is a small storage room. We had been storing toys in there but it wasn't that really organized. However, just this past weekend we put shelves in there. It is wonderful! Except for the baby toys, every single toy we own is in this room. Even the big ones like the play workbench and mini-trampoline.

We used all the same principles that we did at the old house...just the "closet" is a bit bigger! The new improved closet now also holds our many games (which were on shelves in the basement at the old house). I used Picnik to edit this photo to explain it a bit better. Click on the photos to enlarge:

These shelves are amazing. Amazing? Yep! There is nothing holding them in place but the weight of the stuff on the shelves. We installed the shelves on Fast Mount hooks. They are made for basements with cement walls that you wouldn't want to drill into. They went up fast; cutting the boards for the actual shelves took longer than installing the brackets. My husband was so skeptical they would work he called the company. After the lady stopped laughing, she assured him they would work just fine. Indeed they do!

The door has a knob with a keyed lock. If we let the boys loose in there we'd have a big mess on our hands! Plus, my husband is still a bit skeptical those shelves will really stay in place.

So what does the family room look like? Here are a few pictures for you:

This what it looked like after we picked up. A few hours before this there were toys all over the place. When the boys are playing it gets pretty messy, but when they are done cleaning up this is what it looks like. Some days I do just let them leave the mess out, but most days they clean up before going to bed.

Now, if you don't mind a mess...ignore this post. If it doesn't bother you to find plastic tomatoes in with the trains or Candyland cards in the Boggle box...ignore this post. If you have the neatest children on the planet who always keep their toys in order without are sooooo lucky...ignore this post! But if you are sick of stepping on Legos as you walk through the room and sick of finding Polly Pocket pieces everywhere...try something different! Get rid of some toys and organize the rest! The old "less is more" saying really is true of toys!

To see my other organizing posts, click here!

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