This post was originally written in April 2011, when Anne’s children were aged 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 3, and 1.
I got a catalog in the mail this week from the Container Store. I love anything that helps me get better organized, but the picture above really jumped out at me. We’ve been organizing and decluttering anyway, in preparation for Passover. I tore this page from the catalog and hung it up on the fridge. I’ve been staring and staring at it. I even took it into the bathroom with me one morning, with a piece of paper to write down any ideas that might come to me in the shower. 🙂
Here are some things I noticed:
- Clear plastic totes are nice because we can see what’s inside. When I’m doing school work with my older children, my 3-year-old and 1-year-old have 30-45 minutes of independent playtime. My 3yo sits on a special “playtime” rug not far from our school table, and my 1yo sits in a playpen with toys of his own. I give my 3yo daughter a plastic bin filled with toys that I want her to play with during that time. Now, if I had to come up with things for each morning, I’d probably be boring and give her the same thing every day. But our toys are in totes like these, and I can see all of them at a glance in their spots on our shelves. I can easily rotate toys so that she has a different bin of toys to play with each morning.
- Classic toys are the best toys. Surely a designer picked out some toys and staged this whole picture. I think the designer did a good job of picking classic toys, though — don’t you? Blocks, Duplos, interlocking foamie things, little cars, a big truck, stuffed animals, and various games. All of these toys encourage imaginative play. When my little ones play with these toys for a short time each day, they learn to focus and increase their attention skills. (I’m not sure what I think of a bin filled with balls. I’d probably stick that one out in the garage!)
- Educational things also make great toys. I see an ABC puzzle, musical instruments, playdough, books, paints and paper, and even an abacus. We bought an abacus just like this one for $1.99 at our local Salvation Army, and everyone loves playing with it, even our youngest little guy.
- Don’t be silly… the paints and craft paper should be up high, and the stuffed animals and balls should be down low. I’d also use bins that have lids, so that my younger children would be forced to ask my permission before getting toys out.
- Bright yellow walls are nice. My husband and I have been noticing that some colors are calming, but yellows and reds seem to give us energy and help us think creatively. Maybe it’s because we have a lot of gray days here in Minnesota, but I can use all the energy-giving color and brightness I can get! I don’t have yellow walls like this in our school room, but maybe someday!
So now let me show you what my much-more-realistic toy shelves look like.
- Many of our bins are clear, plastic containers, but others are just cardboard boxes.
- Our “classic toys” consist of blocks, wedgits, Duplos, kitchen toys and dishes, blocks, cars and army men, Lincoln Logs, and more.
- Our “educational” toys include tangrams, board games, and yup, there’s that abacus! We have all our board games over on the left, puzzles up on top.
- What you can’t see in this picture is a big dresser filled with craft supplies, plus some cabinets. We also have bookshelves filled with our homeschooling books and supplies (see picture below). To the right of these shelves, we have some large totes filled with “dress-up” costumes and props, plus a big tote filled with little playhouses and plastic people.
- No bright yellow walls here. This is in our basement, but we do have a nice window that faces to the west, so we have sunshine in the afternoon. Our shelves aren’t as pretty as the ones from the Container Store either, but we spent less! Up high you can see some curtain rods that my husband hung, for the times when we want to just hide all this visual clutter with a beige-colored curtain.
- The kids each have a few special toys in their bedrooms, but the majority of our toys and books are here. It’s just easier to keep things neat and tidy if everything is in one place. Our youngest little guy also has some “baby toys” in a lovely ottoman that my husband’s sister made to match our living room furniture. This allows us to keep some toys out of sight but within playing reach upstairs. I also keep a small basket of reading books in the living room, for “snuggling.”
It’s all rather ugly, isn’t it? (No, the kids are cute…) You can see why I’m organizing down here… and you can probably figure out why I’m dreaming of clean, yellow walls, and perfectly organized bins. I doubt it will ever be a reality, especially since this designer probably doesn’t have seven children whom she’s homeschooling.
But it never hurts to try to improve, right? What ideas do you use to organize your toys?