In part three of the series, “Get Organized Today,” lifestyle expert Elizabeth Mayhew shares some tips on how to bring order to a messy playroom.
For most families with kids, every room of the house seems to have it's share of plastic Polly Pockets and Legos. Trying to contain it all to one room seems as impossible as getting your kids to listen to your every word. But like all organizing, editing is the key to control. As we near the holidays, it is a great time to weed out the old toys that your kids no longer use. After all, they are probably all making mile-long lists of new toys they want.
1. Tackle the toys
It is probably a good idea for you to do an initial clean-out without your kids. Chances are they will swear they still play with the “shape sorter,” even if they are now too old. But involve them in some of the process, because getting rid of (or donating) things you don't need is a good exercise/lesson for them to learn.
2. Get it off the floor
The main thing you want in a playroom is obvious — room to play — and that usually means getting things off the floor. Remove the old sofa that no one uses and that's taking up play space, and add bean bags for each child. They gave them a place to sit, but provide much more space to play. Beanbag chair: $35 for slipcover, $70 for beanbag insert at pbkids.com
Most toys seem to end up around the periphery of a room with large boxes and bins that serve as a general dumping ground for Barbie bits, Hot Wheel tires and missing Monopoly pieces. To get it up off the floor, invest in shelving that maximizes wall space and buy bins or boxes that are sturdy but smaller for little ones to handle. If your walls are too weak to hold shelving, Metro Shelving is a great solution because it's freestanding, yet sturdy. Another advantage about using several smaller-sized bins is that you can actually see what's in them and organize them according to type of toy vs. searching through a large bin for that one small piece at the bottom. Metro toy storage, $99.92; Toy barrel, $19.99; woven nylon bins, $19.99-29.99 for 2; Calypso round box, $14.99; folding mesh cubes from $7.99-9.99 at containerstore.com; toy chest at Ikea
If wall space it tight, try attaching canvas shoe bags to the walls or over doors; they are soft and provide lots of pockets for little toys (you can rotate toys from top to bottom to keep young minds stimulated). Canvas shoe bag, $24.99 at stacksandstacks.com
3. Sort and labelIt's never too early for kids to learn that things should be returned from whence they came. Check out your kids classrooms next time you visit their school; almost all of the toys and supplies are labeled both with a word and an icon for quick recognition. It makes it easy for your kids to find things and learn to put them away on their own. If a sticker label doesn't adhere to your container, then attach a luggage tag to the handle. Luggage tags, $7 at theoriginallug.com; large Sabrina baskets, $39 for 2 at pbkids.com; Sabrina chalkboard labels, $8 for 2 at pbkids.com
4. Get hooked
Hooks hung so that kids can reach them make an easy way for them to hang up costumes, hats and backpacks (again think classroom). You can also use canvas bags to store toys which can easily hang from hooks. 7-peg wood rack, $14.99; large canvas tote, $22 at landsend.com
5. Create play centers
Try to group all like toys together and designate certain areas of play. For example, keep all of the play food next to the play kitchen and all of the trains near the train tracks. Art supplies should also be kept together in one place. An art table gives them a space where they have permission to get messy and everything they need is right at their fingertips. Elfa art table, $250 at containerstore.com