Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hiding Toys

In response to my last post about reorganizing my bathroom closet, I was asked how I organize the chaos of toys. My first reaction was that I had nothing to share on that subject. I too often wonder where to put it all. But on second thought, I realized I have made decent use of the practically no storage we have in our little house. (Although my #1 solution is to go on a purging spree a few times a year.)

So that I wouldn't forget, that same afternoon I started taking pictures around the house of all the various places I store "kid crap." We don't have the luxury of a designated playroom so we have toys and books tucked away throughout the house.

I'll start in my living room. When we added this on to the house a few years ago, hubby was adamant that this was adult territory - no toys allowed. However, when its the room the family hangs out in, its impossible to keep toys out. So I chose to use pieces of furniture where I could not just store toys, but literally hide them.

I swear, in real life, that shelf is level.

The wood chest above is something that belonged to my Nana and I "claimed" after she passed away. It was originally a strange speckled gray and when I refinished it about 10 years ago I painted it a cream color and distressed it. Over the years this has functioned as plant stand in our old dining room bay window, coffee table in our old living room, and toybox in our dining room but now it is used as a bench that hides toys.

One great feature is that it has a "slam-proof" hinge that locks in the upright position when it is opened so it does crush little fingers. Inside this we have mostly puzzles and a Dora dollhouse and accessories.
And just so you don't think my living room always looks as neat and tidy as the first picture, here is what the room looked like about an hour before I took the first picture - a more typical daytime state of affairs.

Notice the clear plastic bin to the right of the bench/toy box - this belongs under the girls' bed. I limit the Barbies/Ponies and all accessories to that box. If I can't shut that lid, something has to go.

The entertainment center on the other side, a hand-me-down from my sister over 5 years ago, is supposed to store DVDs in the side cabinets (which do have solid doors that shut and hide the contents, as seen in the first picture). However, since we have way more books than movies, we use the whole thing to store kids books and then just stack up our movies beside it. Here it is again with the doors swung open.

No, I don't put the baby inside - that's a reflection. :)

In the middle of the room I use two rattan cubes that multi-function as coffee "tables" / ottomans / toy storage.  I got these up at Marshall's or T.J.Maxx for $25 a piece a few years back. Even though kids are not supposed to play on them, they have taken quite a beating.

That's my daughter proudly showing off her new snapping skills
 and the other two couch potatoes flanking either side of the couch.

These cubes are light enough to be moved around easily and the kids can lift off the covers for access to toys. One cube has some random toys and the other one has more puzzles.

Under the end table to the right of the couch is a little bird-inspired trunk that a friend gave me for my birthday last year. Once I found a spot for it, I then found a use for it.

I'm itching for a new lamp, and definitely a new shade. And by new, I just mean new to me. :) 

I figured I might as well hide some toys in this little trunk as well! So the Little People campers are at home there.

Next I move on to the baby's room. Some of the toy storage in there has already been shown in a previous post about my love for decorating my kids' rooms with vintage stuff. First is another old chest I got at a yard sale for $5 AGES ago. This is a picture of it (and my kids) a year and a half ago, right before I gave it a  makeover. Caution...horrible quality photo alert...

It was in rough shape (so was my camera).
I painted the entire thing a light creamy yellow. I also changed out the hardware to this lovely piece from Anthropologie and added some vintage decals I'd bought on eBay forever and a day ago. Because the decals were so old, they didn't go on very smoothly, but I was still happy with the finished result.

I had also covered the interior with fabric that came on a roll with an adhesive backing, basically like contact paper but fabric. It was the same yellow with little pink roses. I think I'd bought this for a few bucks at Ocean State Job lot years ago, knowing that at some point I'd find a good use for it. Here is the inside, showing the removable sliding tray, right after I completed the makeover.

Now, a year and a half later, this is once again full of baby toys - mostly scored at yard sales last summer (because I was so sure we were done and gave all my baby stuff away).

This next piece is in the baby's room but it actually holds the older girls' stuff. It doesn't really hide what it corrals but it did set the inspirational theme for the toy box above. I got this little vintage metal "Doll-E-Crib" shortly after my oldest was born. It has a built-in turn-key music box. I found it for cheap at an antiques barn in Douglas that no longer exists.

This is overflowing much higher than I prefer with stuffed animals, dolls and puppets, along with a few baby blankets tossed in. I thought I made it abundantly clear to my family that we have no place to put any more stuffed animals or dolls but Christmas and birthdays came again and apparently they didn't hear me. :) Under the crib we sort of hide Mr. Potato head kits and the doctor kit.

Now onto the bedroom that my two oldest girls share.  Under the bed is where I hide several clear plastic lidded boxes that store all the Barbies and My Little Ponies, games and learning activities. I won't share a picture because...let's just say it's in desperate need of a good vac-out. There is no room under the bed for even one more little box. While its a great place to store stuff, so much of it is "out of sight-out of mind." This is great for Barbies/Ponies - they get pulled out and played with for a week, then tucked back and forgotten about for a month or so, then taken back out, etc. But at the same time there are educational and creative games and activities that I wish were more visible and easily accessible more often. Because I don't see them, I forget about them.

Their closet needs serious help. Like I can't believe I'm going to expose this clutter on the world wide web kind of help. My current storage solution in there, if you want to call it that, causes my chest to tighten up every time I open their closet door! Finding and implementing a better way is on my big list of projects.

Sitting right in the middle of the closet floor is an old unfinished end table with three drawers that I got for a few bucks at a yard sale a LONG time ago. When I first got it I had grand plans to paint it, but that never happend. I did use it as a night stand for a while in our apartment when we were first married but all I ever did to it was swap out the drawer pulls for new light green vintage glass ones. Now in the girls' closet it has some random crafty toys on top and I labeled the drawers below, all of which contain more craft/art supplies. You can tell from this photo all the clutter that is bursting out around it.

Their closet is tiny and, thanks to my mom's previous job at Sally's, the girls have way too many dress clothes. So their clothes and everything else in there are packed in like sardines. Brace yourself....

AAAAhhhhhh!!!! Quick! Shut the door!

You can barely see that to the left of the drawers hangs one of those shoe-storage solutions, which I did get at a yard sale. If the closet were wider I would use more of those for storing other toys too - they make nice little compartments. There are a couple of hidden built-in shelves in the bottom of the closet to the right of the door, but that area only extends about 10 inches behind the wall and is used to store all their extra linens (which are bursting out in the picture), including their bazillion hand-made baby/toddler blankets that loved-ones knit, crocheted, cross-stitched and quilted for them. They are all special so we take turns rotating them in and out for display, use or play.

The shelves in the top of the closet are pretty much full of books that either they are not quite old enough for yet, are part of a series we are in the middle of, or that I will use/reference for school. A previous owner installed a little wooden plaque with nails at the top of the inside of the closet door, making it a great place to hang backpacks that aren't in use.

The books that the kids are encouraged to access on a daily basis are in this shelf - which was actually a Christmas gift from my parents to my hubby one year. Of course my mom got it at The Salvation Army but it was originally from Pier 1. Ever since we moved to this house its been used in my daughter's room.

Hubby LOVES books so my mom collected enough at Sally's one year to fill all these shelves. Then she individually wrapped them all and put them on this shelf, surprising him with the shelves and books to open one by one on Christmas morning.
The top two shelves hold books and the bottom two hold baskets of toys. I got these baskets at Christmas Tree Shop almost six years ago. The top basket holds all those miscellaneous toys that don't go with anything else. When it starts to overflow, its time to chuck stuff until what's left fits. The bottom basket contains toy food and dishes or anything that can be used to pretend supermarket, restaurant or picnic.

We went though a phase where we cluttered the space on either side of these shelves with stuff like a Sit 'n Spin, doll carriages and shopping cart. But it drove me nuts that every inch of the wall had toys or furniture backe up against it so one day I just put it all in the basement. When someone asks about a toy they want to use that's down there, I get it and they use it for a few days, then back down it goes. Can't. stand. the. clutter. Which brings me to another problem area that I am hoping to change up sooner than later.

This is between the foot of the girls' bunkbeds and one of their windows. Right now there's a little secretary desk that was mine growing up. On top is a box of foam stickers and containers full of paper for art projects. This is my oldest daughter's sacred spot. At any given time she has multiple "crafty things" being worked on inside. I know better than to touch (and have learned my lesson not to toss) anything that's inside. Her younger sister also understands this. :)

Under the desk is a basket of dress up clothes. And to the left is a plastic trash bin that also holds dress up clothes. And on the wall is just my own little display of vintage toys (Raggedy Ann & Andy) and vintage kids books (Dick & Jane and other old readers). This ensemble is the worst use of this space. If the big shelving unit I recently got at Sally's fit here I would use it here and wait to find something else for the baby's room. But that furniture is 2 inches wider than this space. So I'm on the hunt for something else like it that will fit here. Even if the sentimental desk has to go into storage for a little while. 

The last thing to show in the girls' room is a recent addition that actually isn't holding anything yet. My best friend passed this along to me for free. Its four canvas pockets that hang on the back of the door. From Pottery Barn kids, its meant to hold diapers and what not in a nursery.

When she offered it to me I almost declined because I already have literally the exact same thing in my nursery. I use it to store burp clothes, extra crib sheets and mattress pads.  But then it occurred to me that I could make use of this on the older girls' door. I just put it up the other day and haven't decided what to use it for yet.

The only other place we have some toys is on our enclosed front porch, so those just don't get used in winter months. On one side we have a small toy kitchen that stores tons more toy food and dishes. On the other side of the porch, where we have our sitting area, we alsohave the big cardboard building blocks stacked against the wall. Unfortunately, there is just no where to hide these things.

So there you have it - how I manage the "kid crap" and some of the treasures they hide in. Nothing fancy. Nothing expensive. Nothing perfect. It never is here.

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