The Revolving Door of Play & Put Away

The Revolving Door of Play & Put Away

If you have children under age 10, you can understand the struggle between keeping kids engaged and keeping your home in order. In today’s homes, play is no longer limited to the playroom or bedroom–toys are generally available throughout the home. And this can make the appearance of untidy chaos.

Data from Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century (Arnold, et. al) suggests that each new child leads to a 30 percent increase in family possessions during just the preschool years. Purchases from parents, grandparents, and multiple sets of relatives from blended families, mean large amounts of incoming objects. Paired together with children’s art and schoolwork, it becomes hard to find an open countertop in the house.

One of the best strategies for dealing with toys is to create zones where certain types of toys and certain types of play are allowed. These zones allow for only one category of toy to avoid the piles of plastic that tend to spread from room to room. For example, in the Family Room you might declare this space a Media Zone. In this room it is okay to have books, board games, puzzles, and video games. The storage in this room would reflect the category allowed.

Another zone can be for toys with small pieces or figures, such as Legos or GI Joes, where either the bedroom or playroom would be optimal so that they do not get under the feet of your guests or other house members. Homework is best zoned where there is access to a desk and supplies. Toys for the outdoors can be stored away in a specific zone close to the outside such as a garage, basement, or mudroom.

And for the bedroom, this is a great place for kids to keep favorite toys or valuable possessions. This zone helps teach our kids how to give special care and attention to items they deem valuable. For certain valuables, shelves that are higher than normal might be best for storage. And don’t forget the arts and crafts zone. This might be a place where only supervised play is allowed and items needs to be stored away out of reach and behind closed cabinets.

Involving your children in planning and maintaining the zones in your home is an important behavior to model for even the youngest ages. Where to keep toys and how to store them shows concern for care and reinforces the idea that play has a time and place.

And most importantly, it is important to recognize that our children can be easily overwhelmed with copious amounts of toys of every kind laying everywhere. If it is difficult for adults to manage, it is surely difficult for kids to sort through and understand. A simplified toy strategy is just the ticket for shutting the door on continuous clutter.

Inadequate Storage–A Standard Home Feature?

Inadequate Storage–A Standard Home Feature?

We hear a lot about overconsumption and having too many things to store in our homes. But an argument can be made that storage deficits are standard features in our homes that have persisted for decades. The demand for open floor plans may be one contributing factor, but so too is a lack of creative use of space in places where there is proven to be a lot of activity and contents. These deficits are one of the main reasons why we search for products and furnishings to compensate. And the same storage issues exist for a four bedroom home that exist for a one bedroom apartment.

Here are the top areas lacking storage that suits our daily habits–do you recognize any of these?

In the entryway. We need to take off our shoes here. We need to remove our coats here. We have keys and bags to set down. There are umbrellas to carry and mail to drop off. Having a baron entryway with one coat closet for hanging coats is not sufficient. Yet this is the design that persists.

In the kitchen. The hollow space of our lower cabinets under the sink is a wasteland. It is shame that so much space is wasted when we need a place for cleaning supplies, dish soap, dishwasher soap, dish racks, floor cleaner, granite cleaner, silver cleaner, sponges, rubber gloves, scrub brushes, SOS pads, scrapers, and so on and so on—–none of which fits well here.

In the living room. Few living rooms have closets, shelves, or built ins. Yet this is where people read, watch movies, listen to music, keep photo albums and play board games, etc. Instead, we resort relying on t.v. cabinets and or put-together shelving that easily becomes overwhelmed.

In the bathroom. Bathrooms built with only one mirror vanity and one lower cabinet for storage are laughable. There is NO bathroom where this works. We need to store towels, soaps, cleaners, toilet paper, personal products, corded personal care items, brushes, medicines, just to name a few needs. The vanity and shelves behind the mirror simply aren’t going to cut it.

The garage. Most are just a concrete floor and remote-control door. Yet many people like to store tools here, auto supplies, yard applications, garbage and recycling receptacles. Shelving is most certainly a given in this space.

It seems to me it is time to rethink design from the perspective of common inventory, and what we refer to in the digital world as a better user-experience. The above behaviors are standard in most homes…so why not make solutions that are standard? We need more than bare walls and stock cabinetry and featureless closets. It is time to integrate good design with ample storage solutions, and make storage an integrated feature of the home rather than an upgrade or an amenity. Until then, we understand the frustration, and we strive to help you design more functional spaces. Visit us at:

The Architecture of a Pile

The Architecture of a Pile

I’ve noticed over the years of working with clients, those with both large and small jobs to tackle, that the architecture of our piles is constructed in similar ways. A pile’s foundation is designed by our reasons for keeping; growth of the pile is perpetuated by our repeated reasoning; and the pile becomes a burden once we become disconnected with its contents.

We can deconstruct the burden layer by layer, as we recognize the beliefs and reasoning that most of us employ to build our piles.

At the top layer is what I like to call, the Physical To-Do List. This layer is composed of things we hold on to that remind us we need to take action. This is especially true of paper items that harbor dates, reminder notices,  and phone numbers of people who we need to contact and follow-ups we need to pursue. But it also includes, mail and invitations that need to sent and items that need to be returned to the store, etc. The to-do pile may also take digital form via stored emails, stored voicemails, stored photos, saved documents–anything that jogs our memory and helps us “maintain” a to-do list. The good news is, this is the easiest pile to address. Physical items make lousy to-do lists as they take a short-term need and translate it into a long-term problem. A little investigation into the right type of calendar/contact list/and action planner that meets your needs will release you from holding on to physical relics as reminders.

The second layer, is quite potentially the most contentious layer of the pile-the I Might Need That Later Layer. It’s the most difficult reasoning pattern because it is hard to argue with what one might potentially do one day when one actually gets around to doing it. Bottom Line: this reasoning is based purely on hypotheticals. To combat these fanciful ideas, we need to be realistic. Have you participated in said activity recently? When will you be able to get to it? If you determine that it will be used one day, then we need to remove it from the pile and assign it a home for longer term storage and easy access.

The third layer is–the Layer of Unfound Objects. As in, If I find the mate/or part to this, I will have the set–or something will actually work. Give the object one last round of seeking. Then cut your losses, reclaim your space, and move on.

The fourth layer is the Layer of Perceived Value. As in, this item seems useful, but I don’t know what to do with it. Or, maybe someone I know will want it. Usually we tend to overestimate how much our own things are worth to others. I have clients take a photo of the object and text it to that individual right on the spot. If interest isn’t reciprocated, we can donate, discard or sell the item.

Strewn in between these layers are items we actually do need or use–the scissors, our reading glasses, the book we were looking for–things that just need put away. The useful items seem to be the glue that binds and supports the layers of unnecessary things, and certainly creates a mental block to eliminating the pile all together. Let’s eliminate the glue and return these items to their rightful homes.

So go ahead and take a look at one of your more daunting piles. Maybe it is on your desk, in a junk drawer, sitting just outside of your closet. Can you see any of these reasoning patterns have contributed? Now can you begin to challenge the architecture of your piles. Happy sorting!

Have a Spring Fling with Your Closet

Have a Spring Fling with Your Closet

This time of year the birds are louder, the sun is teasing us…..and our mail boxes are full of the spring collection catalogs! I don’t know about you, but I enjoy them as a welcome reminder that we have made it through the worst part of the cold season, and there are warmer days to plan for!

But wait, not so fast! Because our spring clothes are put away and we haven’t seen them in a while, we likely feel a little disconnected to what we already own. After all, we are still wearing heavy socks and our sweater drawer is full and unruly. Before buying clothes under the heady sense of fresh looks and bright colors, let’s have a strategy to keep our closets neat and make every purchase count!

Look at Winter first while the season is still fresh in our minds. This is the BEST time to ask yourself,  “What didn’t I wear?”  What doesn’t fit?  What simply needs to be retired due to style or age? Also, look at color; do you have too much of one shade?
Take stock of your shoes and boots too. What is the condition? Do any need repairs? Realistically, will they get repaired? Were any uncomfortable or not warm enough?
This should help you determine items that can be purged for discard or donation BEFORE they are sent into hibernation for another year. Keep in mind that most local consignments accept only upcoming season, so it is likely too late to try to sell these to brick and mortar resale vendors. And when donating, please consider condition; stained or torn items can just be tossed.

Next step–Spring Review: Even if you aren’t ready to switch out your closet, preview your spring things. As in the above, you can eliminate anything that doesn’t fit, is no longer in style, is no longer wanted. I highly recommend taking the time to try on everything. Now let’s take stock: how many items do you have for each category of clothing? For example, how many are there of jean shorts, capris, maxi dresses, sleeveless tops, skirts, t-shirts? It’s a good strategy to write it down or use a wardrobe app and have this list available for referral when you are shopping. You may even take photos as a reminder. Now, let’s make some outfits! Take notice of which items don’t seem to have a partner. Also, take note of colors that you trend toward for spring, and review whether you have shoes that compliment these colors and outfits. Keep heel height in mind: flats, flip-flops and wedges…what do you own more of and is it what you want to wear for this year? It is also good to look at undergarments and make sure you have enough neutrals and light colors, and also bras with the right configuration for those fun tops!

Now you should be ready to make well-informed purchases that either replace, replenish, or introduce new items to your wardrobe. This exercise will also help cut down on unwanted bulk in your closets.

So enjoy the fresh air, take in the new colors of season, dive into those catalogs, and be inspired. You are officially ready for that spring thing!! Visit us for more closet ideas: