Organizing the Playroom

While I’m not a parent, after almost 15 years of organizing the playroom, I understand the challenges. Mostly, I understand the limitations of just how organized a playroom can get. You just can’t hold it up to the same standards as rooms that you have more control of.

I often have clients ask for a playroom where their children can learn good organizing habits. I have yet to create a playroom, where the children are inspired to keep it tidy. However, we have created playrooms, that make it easier for the parents  to keep it tidy. Here’s 8 strategies that help. They are universal organizing strategies, but modified for the playroom.

1. Edit (where possible)

Nothing makes it harder to keep a playroom organized than having way too many toys. I recommend doing this in phases. Do the first phase on your own. Toss the pieces of garbage and the stuff you know your kids won’t miss. Also set aside a few things that you think your kids might have outgrown.

In the second phase work with your kids and review these items. Gently introduce the idea that maybe they might have gotten too big for some of these items. Sometimes the idea of donating to kids-in-need helps. However, be prepare for them to hold on to way more than you want. At least you’ve introduced the thought. Maybe next time.

It’s not a bad idea to do an annual toy purge. A great time to do this is after the holidays. The new toys need to find a home in the playroom. It might be time for some of the old unused toys to circulate out. Speaking of circulation…

2. Circulate

My central organizing philosophy is circulation prevents accumulation. This is really more about a plan to stay organized, but parents I know, employ another kind of circulation. They will rotate their kids toys. This particularly seems to be the parents with the overly generous parents. In this case, the kids have way more toys than they can possibly use. To manage the quantity, the parents will rotate the playroom toys with toys in storage. My only suggestion is to store the ones in the basement in opaque bins. There is a time and a place for things to be seen. That leads me to my next strategy.

3. Reveal, don’t conceal

Many of my clients don’t like to hear this, but I think kids toys should be revealed not concealed. I understand the resistance. You don’t want to see the kids toys revealed all over the house. I get it, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to reveal.  There is not a helpful way to conceal (except for the last basement tip:-) 

The right way to reveal is on open shelves, open cubby holes, and clear bins. Maybe the clear bins don’t look as pretty as canvas bins, but they are more helpful. Your kids can see what’s inside them. They have a clearer idea where their toys are. You have a clear idea where the toys go. When they get put away, it’s a much better look than when they are revealed all over the floor. Canvas bins and baskets hide toys. Toys hidden are toys unused. This just adds to the clutter.

4. Provide surface

On many occasions I have stated that your number one organizing tool is a clear work surface. Kids need a surface too, for arts and crafts, models, and puzzles. A surface also makes it easier for you to clean up all those small pieces. The key to keeping a surface clear, is to never squander it on storage. Reserve it as a tool for processing (playing). For arts and crafts, I like this table from The Container Store

5. Store vertically (up to a point)

Of course you can’t take too much advantage of vertical storage with kids. They can’t access anything that’s stored too high. One solution that I like if there’s a lot of stuffed animals is the toy hammock. You can run out of storage on shelves with their awkward shapes and sizes. The hammock accommodates nicely.

Also, there tends to be a lot of tall awkward toys that are not shelf friendly. For these, I like to store a tall bin like this in the corner, for support.

6. Recognize variety of sizes

One playroom convention that I am not a fan of is the traditional toy box. For starters, it’s a concealer. Also, it doesn’t recognize the wide variety of sizes of toys these days. There are a lot of options for storing toys more visibly.  Here’s one.

For small items like Legos, I like these Iris towers. They are clear, easy to label and come with wheels. 

If there are a lot of large toy trucks, it might not make sense to try and contain them. However, what you can do is create a “garage” area, maybe a corner. That leads me to my next tip.

7. Dedicated zones

Kids often like to shift from one activity to another and another. That doesn’t mean that the play areas need to be all mixed up. That’s where dedicated zones come in. A dedicated zone is a limited space for each activity.

The garage I just mentioned could be a limited section of floor or carpet. The art area could be the table with an art supply cart.

A great product for establishing a dedicated zone is foam flooring. This is particularly helpful for things like models, legos, and puzzles, if you have a carpeted floor. It makes for easier clean-up too!

8. Allowance for display

Toys need to be stored down low, so the kids can access them, but display items don’t. So reserve upper shelves for the finished Lego projects and papier mâché animals. If you hate the way scotch tape and torn, curled artwork looks, keep a patch of wall for these. These simple wall frames make it easy to rotate artwork in and out. They keep the artwork protected and looking great.

Americans love their toys. We have only 4% of the world’s children, but we consume over 40% of the world’s toys. So it’s understandable if you are having a hard time organizing them all, especially given the variety. A variety of toys calls for a variety of strategies. Hopefully, these eight will help.

If it’s just too overwhelming, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you organize your playroom.

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