Put Away Helpers: Storage in the Play Room

Put Away Helpers: Storage in the Play Room

We’ve had questions about what products we might suggest to help store toys so that they fit well in the play room, in response to last week’s blog.

In general, look for furniture that takes advantage of vertical space–not just low-to-the ground storage; make sure there are varied depths of bins or shelves to harbor everything from the miniscule to the absurdly large; and use child-friendly labels to help ensure that your kids know what to do when it comes time for put away.

Here are a few products we like which vary storage sizes and have enough height to be versatile:

(First 2 images are KidKraft.  Third image Pottery Barn for Kids)
Whether you are dealing with small toy figurines, Legos, or building blocks, you need bins! We like bin storage units such as the ones from IKEA to keep the pieces categorized and together:

Toy Organization

In addition, puzzle pieces, Legos, art supplies, etc. stack nicely in these clear “brief case” bins from The Container Store that can fit on any shelf:

Organized Supply Case

In our own product line, we like to use closet space as much as possible for bins. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be designed to be placed at kid Height:

Toy Storage

And for additional storage at floor height where kids can play, you can’t beat floor tables with bin storage built-in underneath (from IKEA and Pottery Barn):

These are especially great for toy cars and trains, crafts, and Barbies or action figures with accessories.

Sometimes handling toy clutter means using all the available square footage to your advantage! We can help you get organized and stay organized!

Happy play and put-away!

Space Takers: Play Room Edition

Space Takers: Play Room Edition

Frequently I hear my clients say that the play room always looks like an explosion. Kids toys often are stored at kid height along the perimeter of rooms nearly encasing the entire space with what can feel like continuous clutter. So many toys these days require their own floor space like doll houses, and play mats, and lego sets. So much so, that it really is important to understand square footage and choose the items carefully to get the right fi. Even the neatest room will look cluttered if it is over filled.

The truth is, full rooms do not necessarily mean fully engaged kids. You especially want to eliminate space takers that don’t get used or simply have been outgrown. Here is a short list of things we frequently see that eat up square footage with low frequency of use:

  1. Painted furniture like wooden rocking chairs and rocking horses. These are things often purchased by adults who seek to make the room” look” child friendly. But in reality, kids hardly choose this hard surface sit in or use, even if their name is painted on it, or if it was a gift from their favorite grandparents.
  2. Riding toys. Carpeted rooms are not the best place to play with these items or to store them. Consider where these will be used, and remember that they can be hung with hooks on the vertical space of our basement and garage walls.
  3. Stuffed animals. Rarely are stuffed animal a “toy of choice” during active play time. A few may be useful for nap time and story time, but once they start filling up toy chests and shelves, and are strewn across the floor, these are stealing space.
  4. Large motorized toy vehicles. These need to be purchased with care–understanding where they can be stored so they can be played with instead of parked. If they are an outdoor toy, is there convenient outdoor storage? If they will be used in a basement, can they be kept in that area?
  5. Tented play houses. If these are something your kids love, then they should be given the space to enjoy. But you do not want these to end up in hallways or rooms intended for other things, or blocking beds or desks. Plan accordingly.
  6. Race Tracks and Doll Furniture require lots of horizontal space. Consider other areas besides the floor to place these.
  7. Desks. Desks are also useful, but flat horizontal tables with no storage may take up more room than it should without providing a home for crafts or school work. Make sure desks and play tables have plenty of storage designed for your child’s needs.

Having planned homes for toys is critical to achieve an uncluttered look. It also helps at put away time to know exactly where the items fit and belong. Overfilling a space will lead to the same cluttered results as never picking it up in the first place. So purchase with square footage in mind, and don’t be afraid to move things along that take more than they give.


Banning the MISCELLANEOUS Label

Banning the MISCELLANEOUS Label

If you look at what constitutes most piles of stuff or paper, you will likely find 90% of it is unnecessary or no longer useful and one or two things may be something of value. The lonely thing of value tends to be the glue that holds the rest of the useless items together–and useless items tend to proliferate. This is actually how most piles originate and grow. The pile then becomes a source of aggravation rather than a good place to return to find things.

Furthermore, if you tried to label this pile for longer-term keeping, it could not be described in one category or word. It would likely be called “Miscellaneous.” I seek to eliminate the Miscellaneous Label with clients as they generally represent a mishmash of things that aren’t valuable enough to be categorized. What might seem like a simple fix to store a few unrelated things over time becomes just another pile of unfound and unused items.

If you look inside your miscellaneous paper file for example, you might find a couple kept  business cards, a few papers about upcoming events that have passed, an old list of things to do, some receipts, an advertisement with a coupon to your favorite store, a recipe, and the vaccination card for your child’s school records. They have been in there for over eight months now, and you had to review them again to remember what was placed in this catch-all file. There is one item of value–the vaccination card that should be filed away in a specific place such as Vital Records for that person. The other items can be managed in other ways or discarded/recycled: the business cards can be entered in your Contacts list and tossed; the recipe can be found online or can be photographed and kept in your favorite digital program i.e.; Evernote, the coupon is likely expired because it was forgotten; the to-do list is no longer relevant; and the receipts should be reviewed to see whether any impact taxes or should be kept for proof of ownership–most likely the receipts will be eliminated too.

From this example, you can also discern real file categories that might be needed, instead of the MISC label: Contacts, Recipes, Coupons, Receipts, Vital Records, etc. If something is important enough to keep, then it really should be important enough to have a category that won’t create a bottomless, mismatched pile.

So give it a try–attack one of your miscellaneous stacks and see what you come up with! Start by eliminating what isn’t needed/expired. Then apply categories to the items that remain and assign a better labeled home. Let us know how it went!



Taking Us To Task

Taking Us To Task

Often times new clients will ask why we have a minimum session of 4 hours. Some may think it is about accruing business hours, but it is really about good time management, good task management, and being vigilant about reaching goals.

The question is: is it better to put a little time toward a task or none at all? In my organizational opinion, I believe that working toward completion is better use of time than pecking away at something without reaching your goal. For example, if you have paper piles that you want to get through, that means you need to review the papers, discard or shred unwanted papers, file or scan, and list any action items noted from this paperwork. If you have only an hour and a half to dedicate to this, you will likely barely get through the sorting, more paper will accumulate in the meantime, and you will soon be back to square one.

Large organization tasks are different than other household tasks. They require dedicated amounts of time and focus, whereas chores like laundry or cleaning floors are routine, short-term tasks that can be completed relatively quickly. In addition, household chores can also be done while multi-tasking. But many times with organizational sessions, focused attention is what is needed to complete the task. That 90 minutes you considered putting toward a larger organization task might have better been spent taking care of the routine areas of your home that need attention, finishing errands, or simply enjoying some deserved downtime.

When focus and time management are a challenge, longer organization sessions with a professional are especially beneficial. Because many of our clients have attention challenges or time management issues, we seek to help you discover what productive task management looks like to meet your personal goals and to FINISH what was started.

So to tackle your larger organization tasks, we recommend:

  1. Giving yourself several dedicated hours of time
  2. Breaking down the goal into efficient tasks
  3. Creating an environment that helps you focus. This could mean turning off the phone, putting on the stereo, having grandma watch the kids, etc.
  4. Having needed supplies ready, especially garbage bags or boxes for donation, etc.
  5. Making sure to take breaks and reward yourself for each portion of the task completed

We’d love to know what tasks you may have conquered recently! Keep us posted on your progress!

The link between shopping habits and disorganization

The link between shopping habits and disorganization

We focus a lot on discarding and decluttering when it comes to organizing. The truth is there are three main components of organization: consumption patterns, keeping habits, efficient storage.  Once a purge is complete, we need to look toward the primary source of clutter to avoid disorganization: our shopping habits.

A closer look at our consumption patterns reveals these behaviors that contribute to disorganization:

  1. buying things not needed or used
  2. making repeat purchases of the same type of goods
  3. buying trendy or low-quality goods that don’t stand the test of time
  4. buying in bulk or large quantities that don’t get consumed
  5. purchases related to stock piling or collecting

We don’t have to be a victim of mindless habits. There are some key strategies to reducing overall consumption–and in effect, preventing disorganization.

First, take stock. Make lists of things that are running low or depleted, and be deliberate about purchasing only what is on your list.

Second, limit the amount of time spent in stores. For example, if you like to shop a lot for clothes, challenge yourself to go to your favorite clothing store no more than one time a month. Understand what influences you to make “feel good” purchases, and try to avoid those shopping atmospheres or go only on special occasions.

Some shopping is necessary such as running errands. But frequently running errands is not a good way to manage time or reduce purchases. Plan your errand exercises and dedicate only one time a week to errand shopping. Recognize that the time it takes to commute to a store, shop, and stand in line takes away precious time from our personal lives. Make the connection that less shopping equals more personal time and fewer mindless purchases.

And finally, if shopping is considered a fun pastime, consider branching out and trying other activities for entertainment. It is a new year after all, a great time to explore new likes!

When it comes to having less stuff to organize, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of things discarded!