Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tackling Kid Clutter with Custom Storage

*image courtesy of meddygarnet

The progression of toy accumulation is slow at first when you become a parent. You may register for a few toys that Parents magazine tells you will make your child brilliant and some books that you loved as a child. The toys are cute. They are neat. They fit into a tidy basket in your living room that is the perfect accessory that says, "Hello, we're parents now! And we have it all under control!"

Then slowly, slowly the toys get bigger. Your child approaches one and the toys are plastic and almost bigger than he is. They require "C" and "D" batteries. They make noise when you trip over them and sometimes on their own (We had to "dispose" of a psychotic and possessed Elmo book that would laugh at us maniacally in the late hours of the night). As your kiddo hits toddler-hood, the toys are at the breaking point of large. Long gone is that cute little basket. Instead, your house is a toy palace. You may even consider building an addition to hold mini-kitchens, train tables, playhouses, tents, etc.

And then, at last, around age 4 or 5, the toys shrink again. Gone, for the most part, are the massive plastic monstrosities that take up half of your basement or living room. And the tiny toys return. They hurt more to step on, though, and get spread everywhere, like germs in a preschool classroom.

My Little Men recently acquired a crazy amount of GI Joes from their grandma via garage sale. Some mom was unloading all of her boys' GI Joes at a sale. I hope they didn't find out or I'm sure they'd be peeved.

The GI Joes were wildly popular, but a terrible problem in the mess department. They. were. EVERYWHERE. I devised a clever little solution to tame the spread of the mess. Not to say that I don't find a stray army dude by the laptop or in the drawer of the bathroom! But the mess is easily cleaned up and organized by, yes, the Little Men.

This organizational project would work great for any small toys---Thomas trains, Polly Pockets, maybe even Barbies. 

Here is what I did:

I purchased two sets of storage drawers kind of like these. I figured out what the Little Men would put in each of the drawers and came up with category names, such as Guns, Ammo, Shoes, Accessories, etc.

Then, I took a few samples from each category over to our copier/printer. Using a color copy setting, I made copies of the items grouped together.

Using both markers and my Sizzix machine, I made labels for each drawer. I mounted the photos and title on a piece of cardstock and attached it to each drawer front.

I also purchased a large plastic file bin for the GI Joe clothes. I bought a crate to hold the big GI Joes (which are, in fact, glorified Ken dolls. Don't tell my Little Men!) and labeled both, as well. I designated "parking" for the various and sundry tanks, helicopters, etc.

They know exactly where each little part goes and they think it's cool. And now, the Little Men can put away the massive GI Joe mess in an organized and simple way. With lots of encouragement (and a bit of begging some days, of course)! It took a bit of time to sort all the toys out, but now that it's done, I love it! They do, too. Everyone is happier when things are neat and organized. Mostly Mom!

If your toys are always neat and orderly, ignore this post! Or maybe your kids are still little and you're still under the myth that they'll always be neat! If either of those are the case, embrace it! If yours are more like my kiddos, tackle an organizing project soon. You'll be glad you did.

PS Little Miss Pink loves to get into the GI Joes, too. She's too little to sort them. But she's super at emptying the drawers!

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