If I could sum up this project in one word it would be REAL. This is a real family with 6 kids (yes, really), with real toys, real spaces, and real fun.
I loved that before I visited for the first time Sarah didn't attempt to tidy up for me – instead she showed me their real life. This is so important to see because it helped me understand how they use the space every day, which allowed me to create systems that would work for them over the long haul.
The goal was to create beautiful systems in their under-stair play storage area and their general kids area. Because even though it was key to make practical, long-lasting solutions, it was also important to make them nice to look at. After all, Sarah loves some good aesthetic cohesion – just take a peek at her cute kids photos!
So – six kids + limited space + lots of fun toys = the need for some organizing creativity. I knew maximizing vertical space would be important, but first and foremost, a good edit would be key. Luckily, Sarah and even her sweet kiddos were totally game to help me load up some donate bags!
First, we went to work taking everything out and sorting through it all. Anything damaged, rarely used or in multiples was donated or recycled. Big credit to the Lit crew – this is HARD work. This is the stage where people give up. We all have in mind the glorious ROYGBIV outcome, but so many of us lose steam during the editing process. Nope, it can't be skipped. REALLY understanding what you have (down to all the Barbie shoes) is essential for 2 reasons:
You understand what you have so you can plan out for the systems you need
It's a good reality check of how much you actually have. This right here can help change your buying patterns moving forward, simply because you know what's in your home.
Second, I sorted it all. Yes, each lego block, LOL doll tiara, and Polly Pocket set. Sorting helps you see the amount of each category so you know what kind of storage you need
Tip: Clear containers not only help you visually see what you have, which makes it easier for kids to find what they want without dumping out the entire bin. But it also makes cleanup easier for everyone.
Next, I gave it all a good clean out. If you have even one kid, you have marks on the wall, smudges on shelves, and who knows what type of chewy snack stuck to the bottom of bins. Now times that by 6!
Tip: Mr Clean Magic Erasers will be your best friend. They really do clean up any mark.
Now for the products! Here were my priorities when designing the space:
Maximizing vertical space = stacking bins
Eliminating bulk = removing big game and puzzle boxes; swapping them out for vinyl pouches
Accessibility for kids = clear bins and labels to know where everything goes
Easy clean up for everyone = no lids! Really, lids prevent kids (and sometimes mom) from cleaning up in the moment
Visual cohesion = pick a color theme and limit yourself to 3 materials (such as natural fiber + clear acrylic + white metal)
Tip: know your kids. If you have a sorter who likes to organize legos, create a system that fosters that. If you have "tossers" (my daughter), make life easier on yourself and go with open bins where all the legos/doll pieces can intermingle ;) Even knowing your own "mom organizing threshold" will help you create systems that work for you!
For crafts, which are usually in most playrooms, we used a large cart that could be easily rolled out of the closet and used next to a table.
Accessories helped create sections for all the various crafts: paper, stickers, origami paper, paints, etc. And kids love this!
Tip: for organizing crafts, use products that can easily be removed and wiped down.
We all have big toys... and I get asked about them a lot. For huge trucks or dollhouses, there's no easy answer, unless you have a closet you can put just big toys. Otherwise, it's good to remember that these gigantic toys are part of a sweet time – and soon enough our kids will only want small gadgets.