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My house is about 1,200 square feet, and within that footprint, we have a kitchen, living room, dining room, three bedrooms, and one and a half baths, which means our cozy house is perfect for our family of four, but no room is very big. This has posed some challenges over the years as we try to accommodate our tiny humans and the loads of stuff they seem to require.
When they were babies…
We had to say no to highchairs and used booster seats and hook on chairs instead. I selected an activity mat that could fold up compactly, we opted for a portable swing instead of one of those fancy gigantic ones, and my bouncer was collapsible. Toys and books were easiest to manage, stashed in a few cute baskets. Minimizing baby gear became even more important after we had our second child and had to accommodate both the baby and toddler stuff in our small space.
As they got older…
The baby gear is gone, but the toys have multiplied. With space at a premium and two young children to keep entertained, we’ve learned to balance our desire for a neat, uncluttered home with the need to store a bunch of toys.
And I think we’ve done a pretty good job because I’ve had many guests ask me, “But where are all the toys?”
Believe me; they are here. Exactly where? Let me show you.
Hangable pockets are easy, temporary, and are the perfect place to stash my daughter’s lightweight purses and accessories.
We use an ottoman with interior storage in place of a coffee table and our end table is technically a filing cabinet that has two drawers which are filled with toys. When space is limited, all furniture must serve two purposes.
In my daughter’s small room, one wall is taken up by two large windows, which is great for natural light but not so good when you’re in need of more storage. I repurposed an old entertainment unit that we’d had in our first apartment to fit under the windows to hold more toys.
We chose a couch with 6″ legs so that we could store items underneath. Look below deck and you’ll find toys in plastic bins, my workout equipment, and a soft-sided storage bag full of blankets. You may be able to swap your sofa’s existing legs for higher ones if a new coach isn’t in the budget.
Similarly, we store dress-up clothes and other items under the kids’ beds in more soft-sided storage bags because they are easy to smoosh underneath and move around as needed. Consider risers to gain more space under beds (they are not safe to use on cribs and toddler beds).
One day our living room will be picture perfect, but for now, we have to accommodate our children’s toys. We only have one end table next to our couch. On the other side is a little workbench that, when not in use, works just fine as a surface to place a drink.
The closet is an obvious place to store toys, but maximizing the space is crucial. We invested in Elfa closet organizing systems from the Container Store because they allow me to leverage more vertical space to shelve toys. (Elfa is a great solution if you rent because it requires minimum drilling into walls and you can reuse the materials in your next apartment.)
Clear plastic bins on shelves in my son’s room hold a ton of toys, and labeling each container makes clean-up for babysitters (and my husband) much easier since my children can’t read yet, and I haven’t gotten around to adding pictures to the bins.
My daughter’s closet is smaller and a different configuration than my son’s, so her shoe rack does double duty as a toy shelf. It’s the perfect size for clear storage bins that house small collections and figurines. Her closet is also home to our art cart that she can wheel out when she’s in the mood to create.
Out of reach
The shelving in my son’s closet is easily accessible, but it’s high up in my daughter’s room. That’s okay. I still use it for toys—the items they like to play with every once in a while. We also have storage in our garage which I use to rotate toys. This limits the clutter on the main level and makes old toys new again whenever I bring them out.
My children are not deprived, but we are careful about what and how many toys they have. My daughter said she wants a Barbie Dream House for Christmas. Guess what? She’s not getting it. And even though I would LOVE for her to have one because I always wanted one too, that thing is huge, and we simply don’t have a place for it.
Ensuring you have a place for everything (even if items aren’t in that place at the moment) is the only way to keep toys organized. Sometimes that means just saying no, getting rid of the stuff your children have outgrown, or borrowing items rather than purchasing them outright. Leverage local resources like the Buy Nothing (SF Families) Facebook group to trade toys and other children’s items.
I’ve toyed with the idea (pun intended) of moving my kids into one room and using the other bedroom as an official playroom, and I’m thankful to have that option. Even if I do that or if it wasn’t an option at all the principles behind my toy storage would remain the same:
- Store similar items together to keep items organized.
- Use small, clear containers so toys are easy for kids to access.
- Label bins when possible to make cleanup easier.
- Designate a place for every, even if it’s not in that space at the moment.
- Be ruthless in determining what toys come into the house and what goes out.
Check out this Facebook Live we did a while ago for more toy organizing tips (you’ll notice I commented during the Live with my end table trick). And if you’re wondering what toys are truly worth the money and space, check out this list of 50 tried and true toys I put together for our sister site Mid-Peninsula Moms Blog.
Do you have any other toy storage tricks? Share them in the comments!