Kids Toy Organization

*** If you found me from Organizing with Sandy, WELCOME! I love new visitors.  I hope you find something that helps in your quest to live more organized.  And if there’s a specific topic you don’t see covered that you’d like to learn about, let me know! ***

You may not know that I am the mom of 3 little ones.  And for about one more week they are 3 under the age of 4.  Yes, our life is a lot like barely controlled chaos.  All of you moms out there know how frustrating kids toys can be.  Our house is no exception to that.  With just one child the toys were manageable.  When number two came along the collection exploded.  And my kids don’t even have that many toys compared to some of their peers.  We don’t have a playroom in our house and since the bedrooms are upstairs I like having the kids play right in the family room where I can see them.  But this means that our family room is in a constant state of toy upheaval.

A few years ago I got the idea to replace the little bench I had under our large window with a large storage shelf.  I was lucky enough to have a dad that was willing to build me a custom shelf.  He did all he building, I did the painting and the kids do the playing.  This is what we came up with:

The shelving is open making it easy for the kids to get things out and put them away.  And it fits right up under the molding on the window ledge.  I get lots of questions from neighbors about where to buy it. I think if you reasonably good at building it’s a simple design.  But you could likely find similar, pre-made options to fit the same purpose.

To keep it fun for the kids I painted the inside of each cubby a different color – red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple from the Disney collection at The Home Depot. In fact, we got all of our supplies there.  And since we don’t own a table saw and my dad was visiting from out of state The Home Depot actually cut all the wood for us.  If you take in your measurements they will make the cuts for you (on wood you purchase there) for free!

How do we use the shelves to store their toys:
On the right we have two shelves dedicated to books.  Well, really one plus an overflow shelf.  You can see that we cut out an opening for our heat register and I bought a deflector to make sure our heating and cooling efforts were not thwarted.

The middle section is the most frequently used.  The bottom row has baskets ($2.50 each from the Target Dollar Spot) that hold a tea set, cars and trains. The top shelf has three baskets (also from Target DS) that hold stuffed animals and other small toys that don’t fit as part of a collection.  Also on top is the big box of blocks.  I love that those Trio blocks have their own storage case and the lid is a play space – makes keeping them together much easier for my 2 year old.
On the left side we keep a few bigger/awkward sized toys – the “laptops” and drawing pads.  And another basket for dolls.  Those pails on the end are actually EMPTY!  They get used occasionally and I keep them here for those times when we need them.

Things you might notice about this setup.

1. I do not have labels on my baskets.  This is on purpose.  My kids are still young enough that their interests change quickly.  So a basket may hold trains today but in 6 months it may be bouncy balls.  And I don’t really have time to be making new labels all the time.  It also makes cleanup fast.  If everything is out on the floor (yes, that does happen!) then we can just grab any basket for trains and any other for cars, etc.  Finally, the kids can’t read yet.  Any labels would be just for me at this point.

2. I have lots of small baskets instead of fewer larger ones.  Yep… my kids (especially the 2 year old) like to grab a basket and dump.  Less stuff in each basket means less stuff dumped at a time.  Trust me, I tried it with larger containers and it just meant larger mess.

3. Some things are missing (crayons, play-doh, etc).  We actually have a different home for these (I’ll show you on a different day.)  The kids actually have several places they can play throughout the house.  This makes it easier for me to get things done and still have them near me, it keeps any one room from becoming too crazy with toys, and it gives them options for changing up the scenery a bit.

4. There aren’t TONS of toys.  We actually have a fair amount of toys in the basement.  I try to rotate them every few months and take away things that aren’t getting much love and bring back old favorites and new things.

5. My baskets don’t match.  So?  The kids like it that way and I kind of like the color myself!

How do you store your kids toys?  What are the challenges you face?


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Pardon The Dust

I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog for a few days now.  But I haven’t forgotten about you!  I have been busy getting some of my projects in order so I can share them with you soon.

Here’s a sneak peak of some of what’s taking up my time:

I hope you are having a fun and productive week!  For more frequent updates this week, stop by my Facebook page where I’m posting more real-time information.

Jewelry Organization

You may remember my confessions post about my jewelry drawer. 

My necklaces and bracelets were in a variety of boxes and containers.  And I couldn’t easily see what was where (although I basically knew out of routine).
I’ve been tossing around ideas for what to do with this for a few weeks.  I knew I wanted something that would divide the space and make things easily visible.  But none of the regular drawer organizers were really speaking to me.

Imagine my delight last weekend when I came across these adorable little organizers at the Target Dollar Spot!  They were just $1.  I wasn’t totally sure all my jewelry would fit in the small spots but I felt pretty confident and figured that if they didn’t the $6 would be well spent as I could find another location for them.

This is what I came up with:

Don’t you just LOVE the brightly colored interiors?  They make me smile.  Six was the perfect number.  I still have a little space for a few things that need to stay separate. 

The organizers are holding my everyday jewelry.  The little silver heart jewelry box in the back was a gift from my best friend in high school.  It houses a few sentimental pieces that I don’t wear day-to-day.  As do the other boxes.  Do not be fooled by the little blue Tiffany bag.  It is not an item from Tiffany!  The bag is from Tiffany.  It came with the 5-year anniversary clock my husband got from work.  What’s in it now is the tiara I wore for our wedding.  Actual retail price – somewhere around $30.

To my great joy, all my items fit.  The larger bracelets and necklaces are in the big slots.  Everything else is in the smaller ones.  In general, I grouped things by like color.  So the silver pieces are together, those with blue, with brown… you get the idea.  That’s how I think about getting dressed – by color so that made sense for me.  If you think by length or some other criteria you might want to organize them differently.

Isn’t it pretty?  Don’t you just want to look at it one more time.

Quick Tip Thursday: Never Be Empty Handed

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to keep some semblance of order in my home (and with 3 kids that’s not always easy) is to never leave a room empty handed.

Now, sometimes my hands are full of kids. 

But if I’m leaving any room, for any reason, and I don’t have a child or two in my arms then I’m carrying something else that needs to be re-homed.  Maybe it’s a dirty glass that gets put in the dishwasher, some forlorn stickers that need to make their way to the trash, a child’s coat that needs to be hung up, or a basket of clean, folded laundry that needs to make its way to the bedroom.

It can be large or small.  But this small simple act of moving one (or more!) item out of it’s misplaced position to the right spot will do wonders for keeping things a little less cluttered on a day-to-day basis.

Still looking for a New Year’s Resolution – Never Leave A Room Empty Handed just might be it.

DO Holidays – Prepare for Guests

Are you expecting guests this holiday season?  Today’s the day to start getting ready for their visits.  If you will only be having non-overnight guests your to-do list is much shorter (but no less important).

Check your primary guest bathroom (a half-bath in many cases) and make sure you have the following:
* Hand soap (if your bottle is getting low, think about just replacing it with a new one, or refilling)
* Extra toilet paper that’s easily accessible.  If you have a vanity under your sink this is a great place.  If you have a pedestal sink you’ll need something more creative – like a pretty basket that sits on the back of the toilet or a nearby shelf.  Whatever you do, please don’t use one of these.  Please, for my peace of mind.
*Air freshener of some sort.  This can be whatever you prefer.  Some air freshener spray discreetly hidden under the sink, one of those little air fresheners that “puffs” when you press it, or a candle that you light before guests arrive.  Whichever you choose, please have something that guests can use to make themselves feel better if they need to use your restroom for something a little bit, well, stinky.

Now, if you are having overnight guests you have a bit more prep. 

The must-haves:
* clean sheets
* clean towels, hand towels & washcloths
* light-bulbs that work (I know this seems silly but it’s easy to not notice that a bulb is burned out in the guest room if you never go in there)
The really-should-haves
* space in the closet
* extra hangers in the closet
* extra blankets & pillows
* trash can in the bedroom & bathroom
* tissues (especially in winter with all those runny noses!)

The nice-to-haves
* easy-to use alarm clock (most people have cell phones with alarms so this isn’t top priority)
* night-light
* key to the house (or garage door code)
* list of important numbers (your cell phones, the home number, the address of your house)
* list of places they can easily walk or drive to, including nearby churches
* local area map
* hair dryer
* basket or medicine cabinet with essentials – toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner, lotion, floss, shaving cream, razor, over-the-counter medicines (antacid, ibuprofen)

There are of course a lot of other things you can add to these lists to make things that much more comfortable for your guests but these will suffice for most short visits. 

Take the time to check on these things now.  Change the sheets, add anything you need to buy to your shopping list and generally tidy up so the day guests arrive you aren’t feeling frantic and unprepared.

Quick Tip Thursday

Ann Landers Golden Rules for Living

If you open it, close it.
If you turn it on, turn it off.
If you unlock it, lock it up.
If you break it, admit it.
If you can’t fix it, call someone who can.
If you borrow it, return it.
If you value it, take care of it.
If you make a mess, clean it up.
If you move it, put it back.
If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.

If only we could remember to follow these ourselves each day (and perhaps convince our family members to do the same) I imagine we would all have a life more organized.

Taking Cues From The Workplace

When trying to run a household or home office we often try to find others who have done so successfully and copy from them. But there are so many other areas we can learn from. Managing a home and family shares a lot of similarities to running a business. Why not try to glean some tips and tricks and good principles from those who manage spaces as part of their job?

Here are some basic good housekeeping principles for an office or manufacturing environment.

  1. Clean, organize & achieve as you go.
  2. Stack materials neatly – place heavy of bulky items on the bottom and do not stack items too high.
  3. Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed.
  4. Return chemicals, equipment and tools to their proper place after use.
  5. Keep floors free of clutter.
  6. Keep stairs, aisles & walkways clear.
  7. Follow proper cleaning & maintenance procedures.
  8. Utilize regular inspection check lists.
  9. Dispose of materials, trash and/or recyclables properly in appropriate containrs.
  10. Place service calls to get housekeeping issues repaired, replaced or removed.
  11. If you notice a housekeeping issue – take action to get it addressed.

Do you see any similarities from the housekeeping principles employed in a manufacturing environment and those we should be employing in our homes?

Quick Tip Thursday

Cleaning your toilets. Not fun, I know. But necessary.
Like most people, I use a toilet bowl cleaner to give the toilets a good cleaning once a week (usually). But I also like to keep the bowl fresh between cleanings. Most any store with a housewares department sells very pretty toilet brush sets for $19.99 and up.
A cheaper solution, and one that works better in my opinion, is to use a simple container ($10) that matches your decor and an inexpensive toilet brush ($3). Fill the container with water and a small amount of liquid soap – like a hand-wash dishwashing liquid. This mixture will keep your brush a bit cleaner and gets off the gunk on the toilet. Wipe the toilet daily for best results.
Here are my toilet brush containers.
This is a vase that I no longer had a use for.

A crock designed to hold kitchen utensils.

Don’t feel bound by those flimsy and expensive brush options at the local home-goods store. Find something unique that fits your home and make it work for you.


Home Keeping. Housework. Cleaning.

Cleanse. Tidy. Scrub. Sanitize. Sweep. Vacuum. Deodorize. Disinfect. Launder. Mop. Neaten. Pick Up. Rinse. Soak. Spruce Up. Wipe. Sterilize.

What do those words make you feel?
Guilt? feeling like your work can never measure up to some arbitrary standard set by your mother, mother-in-law, spouse, or yourself.
Dread? gotta do it. hate it but gotta do it.
Excited? only the rare few I’m guessing

We all want a clean home. Really, we do. And many of us have aspirations of keeping this model-home clean and tidy at all times. But we live in reality. If you have the cash, you have a cleaning person or team that comes in once every week or two and does some of the big stuff. If you really have the cash, you have a live-in maid who makes sure everything is just so. If that’s the case, you probably aren’t really interested in what I have to say about organizing because your home is already in great shape.

But for the rest of us cleaning – both surface cleaning and deep cleaning – falls squarely on our shoulders. I want to talk about how you can develop a system that works for you and your family.

First, understand that there is no one right way. That bears repeating. There is no one right way to clean your house.

Next, know that your cleaning needs to measure up to the standards of you, your spouse and your children – the people who live in your home. Your mother-in-law, mom, friends, siblings, and the moms from your playgroup don’t live in your home and don’t get a vote. Each person and each family has a different tolerance level for clutter and clean. That’s the level you need to meet – not the level of your Bestie who happens to be a little obsessed with scrubbing the back of the refrigerator.

The key to a clean and tidy home is having a routine. And the routine that works for you may not be the same as that of anyone else. That is okay.

So… how can you set up a routine that works for you?

1. Keep track for a week of everything you do to clean & tidy and when you do it. This isn’t the time to “step up your game” so it looks good on paper. No one is going to see this but you. Be honest and realistic about what you are currently doing to keep up your home.

2. Keep doing what you are doing. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by instituting a completely new plan. If you’re already doing something to maintain your home – keep doing it!

3. Make a list of all the other things you feel like you should be doing and how often (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). This can be things like making your bed daily, vacuuming the rug weekly and cleaning the baseboards quarterly (yes, quarterly. Maybe you “should” be doing it monthly or weekly based on some standard set in some book but listen, if you have NEVER done it before, saying that you need to do it weekly is just ridiculous. If you make that your goal you are setting yourself up for failure. Set a goal that’s slightly higher than what you are already doing and once you achieve it you can always add in more.)

4. Add one of the daily things off your list to your routine for the next month. That’s it. Just one. Try it when you think you’ll be able to fit it into your schedule. If after 7 days you find you only did it the first day and then never again then that wasn’t the right place in your schedule. Try it during a different time of the day. Or ask your spouse or a child if they might work it into their routine.

5. Once you’ve conquered one item, add another. Do this ad nauseam until you have a routine that leaves you with a home that is clean & tidy enough for you and your family.

It may take you a year or more to get your routine down to one that feels good. And of course, once you get into a groove, something in life will change. You’ll move, have a baby, adopt a dog, or send a child off to college. Something will upset the balance. And you’ll have to revamp your routine. That’s okay. This is life we are talking about. It changes constantly and we need to change with it. Just continue to make small adjustments to make your life and your home organized in such a way that it brings you delight and calmness enough to actually live.