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My husband and I spent the better part of our busy, child rearing years functioning out of a charming little 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch house before hauling our family to Carmel Valley a few years ago. We did a ton of entertaining as well, so containing 4 kiddies and all their stuff in a 1500 sq. foot space with enough neatness so as not to be embarrassed when visitors came presented us with plenty of challenges. Staying sane was an optimal outcome. Kid-friendly storage to keep toys organized; it’s all about storage! (And in our case, a workable bathroom schedule.)
It’s a fight to keep an orderly house under the best of circumstances; certainly even more so once an influx of primary-colored, bleeping toys and fields of sprawling Lego projects arrive to disrupt your tidy floors. Promoting peace and ease of living in family settings is what I’m all about, so when people ask me to help them figure out storage systems for their kids’ rooms, I’m always happy to lend a hand.
Ikea has great, versatile cube shelving which offers the bonus of a variety of storage options per section. My friend Keri chose to run several units long and low to the ground so her three young children could easily access their favorite playthings. We used some open fabric boxes along with a few installed doors and drawers, and Keri affixed laminated labels on each cube with an office clip. (For non-readers, printing out a photo of what’s in each box as well as the word gives them a head start in associating letters with objects.) I employed the same system for another client who had an older child, but stood the unit up vertically to conserve floor space. Their son chose clear red plastic bins for the cubbies so he could see what was in each box. Now, “Clean up your room” to keep toys organized isn’t the dreaded project as before, because everything has an obvious place to go!
I also like to suggest to clients the idea of “toy-rotation”. If you’ve got limited space in your playroom or in the kids’ rooms, why not take 1/4 of the toys out of circulation, put them out of sight and swap them on a regular basis? We had an attic in our little house, and I’d rotate things seasonally, which kept things fresh and fun, as well as manageable in terms of clean-up. Favorites stayed out all the time, of course!
Hmmmm, but we all know getting kids to actually PUT their things away without moaning about it is the hardest part. I like what Andy Stanley says, “Your irresponsibility becomes someone else’s responsibility.” (In other words, if you don’t pick “x” up, someone else will have to do it for you and they will be grumpy with you.) Even little ones can grasp that truth, and we give them a leg-up in developing responsible habits if we help them with it early on. As little tots, we’d take our kids by the hand and move with them to help them clean things up before we shifted from one activity to the next, and most particularly at the end of the day, before dinner time. We also lived by the rule of putting things away as soon as we were done with them (grown ups too!) so that no one ever had an overwhelming clean up session to face. Of course there were always exceptions, like when bunches of friends came to play, but overall, these are the kinds of things that can help alleviate frustration for everyone and will keep your floors from becoming dangerous obstacle courses.
I’m happy to say that our kids got to spread out for a few years when we moved to Carmel Valley. (FOUR bathrooms; GLORIOUS.) Three of them are recently married, and those early years of learning to stay tidy in a tight space are coming in handy as they set up housekeeping in smaller square footage. Come to think of it, my husband and I and our remaining son are going to have to revisit those skills ourselves as we downsize……..Happy organizing to all of you!
Candy Stokes is a Carmel Valley San Diego community resident and local business-owner. She is an Interior Design Specialist with a passion for giving back to her community. There are few things that energize Candy Stokes more than facing a room full of tumbled furniture and art with the challenge of transforming it into a buyer’s delight for resale, or a happy place for a family to live and flourish in. She recently took her passion and opened up her own staging and redesign company, Studio C Home Design. Four years ago, Candy and her husband Clay shifted their belongings and four children from the SF Bay Area to Carmel Valley, where Clay is co-pastor of Wave Church. In their spare time, the Stokes’ love to explore San Diego, find good places to eat, and hang out with their family and friends.