Our toy organization hacks can be piecemealed together over a series of several posts, like our recent nook refresh and Lucy’s nursery reveal, for example. But today, I want to really break down the process of keeping our toys under control, in conjunction with the physical aspects of actually storing them. While I was pregnant, Scott and I had a lot of talks about how we hoped to handle later-life situations with Lucy – things like gifting (giving and receiving), discipline, manners and, yes, toys!
I’ll also preface this post by saying that we have one child, so of course our process could get more complicated with several children! Even still, we think of our home as belonging to all of us – not just Lucy, and not just Kim + Scott. It has to work for everyone to be harmonious, don’t you agree? So here’s what we do to keep the peace and prevent the toys from taking over our home, while also giving Lucy the freedom to explore, learn and be herself.
1 | We gave Lucy cabinets of her own
We like to think of our home as being just right for our family, although to some, our house may seem small at about 1,800 sq. ft. (And honestly, we almost nixed this very home from our house hunt because it was too big! We prefer a smaller footprint.) We’re cautious with what we bring into our home, which is something we learned together over the course of several years. I think this initial step of paring back isn’t one to take lightly, as it sets the foundation for the rest of our process.
Even still, we had some work to do in preparation of Lucy’s arrival. In the months leading up to her due date, we gave ourselves the task of decluttering BIG time. We already have a minimal amount of ‘stuff’, but we took a step back and looked at the larger picture of our home: What’s a necessity? What’s not? And if it’s not, do we love it enough to stay?
Before we brought Lucy home from the hospital, we reassessed the stuff we thought we needed, and we started with this credenza:
We thought, what if we could completely empty this credenza and allow this to be storage for Lucy? It was mostly old sketch books, office and craft supplies. We took everything out, shredded documents, moved sentimental items into the attic, donated a LOT, and finally, we stored the rest in our little work room (which is now a designated craft room). Then we picked up these felt bins and filled them with some of the toys we’d already been gifted. There are 3 doors, and behind each is 2 bins. The one on the far left is currently off limits (you can see the cabinet latch in the photo below), but one day, it will be Lucy’s! For now, the left bins contain fabric and wallpaper samples, which I’ve been setting aside for her.
When we upgraded our media cabinet in the living room, we continued the trend by giving Lucy another cabinet of her own! In fact, having ample space for a tall toy basket was a must-have when we were searching for a new cabinet. There’s enough space for this white cotton rope basket (we have several of these throughout our home!), which are filled with Lucy’s stuffies.
Lucy has learned which cabinets are hers, and she easily goes up to them and pulls out what she likes. Cabinets that are not hers have safety latches! (We’ve started using these and love them.)
2 | We use furniture with hidden storage
Although this home is bigger than our former condo, we still have a small home mentality. We love it when furniture can pull double duty, and this has never been more handy than with Lucy! Our coffee table has a hidden storage compartment that we thought we’d use for our own remotes, but Lucy figured it out much too quickly – ha! Instead, we keep some of her favorite knick knacks in there – a non-operational remote control, blocks, books and teething necklaces.
When purchasing new furniture, think about how a piece can work harder for you! Items like storage ottomans or even a two-tiered coffee table (with baskets for kid gadgets) can be a real sanity saver.
3 | We cut back first, then we choose our baskets
I think baskets can become a false sense of organization if you’re buying blindly and filling them up without assessing what you have first! It’s not helpful to have ten baskets if they’re all filled with underused items that should be passed along or donated. The first thing we do is decide how we’ll use the basket, and then we purchase the basket accordingly.
We use this tall seagrass basket (it’s soft, not scratchy!) in our nook, which is essentially Lucy’s little play room. Never underestimate the power of a lid! She can easily remove the lid and pull out her favorite items, and when she’s done, it can all be hidden away.
Don’t have a lid? We toss a blanket over this big open basket at our Tree House, and all of her toys are hidden underneath when not in use:
4 | We keep open toy storage in her bedroom
For everything else, we rely on this bookcase and these baskets in Lucy’s bedroom. The open storage is great for her own space, because she can easily see everything available to her. By storing loose items in our favorite white baskets, things still look tidy at the end of the day! (We’ve also been putting a lot of energy into ‘pick-up time,’ which she weirdly seems to enjoy. Is she my child or what?!)
5 | We limit what comes in
This is, by far, the most challenging thing to get a handle on, we think, and this goes back to discussions Scott and I had before Lucy joined us! How do we handle gifts? Luckily, our family understands that we like to limit what we bring into our home, so more often than not, they’ll ask us first: Do you need X, Y, Z? I’m at the store and it’s on sale right now! Sometimes we do, most of the time, we don’t, and they respect that.
However, we also understand that for special occasions, our family and friends find joy in gifting Lucy something special. I know we enjoy doing the same for them! So if they ask us for input, we’ll suggest books or simple wooden puzzles. I mean, this is as easy as having a conversation with your loved ones, but it’s also as hard as having a conversation with your loved ones, ha!
When it really comes down to it, Lucy simply doesn’t have a lot of toys. We feel so fortunate to live in a city that has a lot to offer – countless parks that we can walk to, bike trails, and endless pop-up activities for kids. We take advantage of that as much as possible, and let’s be honest – Lucy’s favorite toys are nothing more than the empty box from our recent Amazon order.
What else would you add to this list?