A few months ago, we moved all of Isabel's toys onto the lower shelves of a bookcase we've had for almost forever. The space worked pretty perfectly at the time. Everything fit and was mostly in her reach. She would stand up, leaning on the shelves for support and pull down her books one after another, until she found one she wanted to flip through. She would dig out her stacking toys and scatter the pieces across the house. There was always a place to put them back at the end of the night. This is our setup at its messiest, on a Saturday laundry day, when most of the toys were elsewhere.
Over time, we were also getting thoroughly frustrated as the bookcase became a place to shove stuff. It was already filled to overflowing with books, but it also became the place we would tuck spare soothers as we found them around the house. The pile of board games on top became higher and more precarious. I shoved random notes and papers from school into any little space I could find. The bookcase quickly moved past bookworm cluttered to messy cluttered. It drove us nuts.
So, a couple weekends back, we emptied it. We washed it down. And we moved it. We stacked up most of the books and moved them upstairs, where they live with 100 of my other books that never did fit. We pulled out our favourites to display. And then we reorganized a bit. We moved the bookcase out of the dining area, and into the living room area, finding the perfect space for it beside our TV stand.
Of course, that left the wee one's mess of toys lined up in a mish mash row along the dining room wall.
For a couple weeks, I thought we could remedy this situation with a sideboard or something similar. I wanted something we could hide all the toys away in, but something that she could open on her own in order to take her toys out. We wanted it to be long, something to fill the whole wall, or almost the whole wall, and planned to hang shelves above it at some point in the future, in order to bring some of those stacked-away books back down into our space. We searched, taking our time to find the perfect piece. We are in no rush, so there's no need to jump on something that works, but might not cover all of our desires.
Today though, I admitted that the sideboard idea might really not be that great of an idea. There's not a lot of space between the wall and the table. There's enough, but very little play space remains for the wee one to spread her toys out. Depending on the depth of the sideboard we find, we might have even less. So, back to the drawing board we went, and I think we've come up with an even better solution.
We squished our living room a little and opened up a space between our sofa and the kitchen counter. Honestly, I don't know why we didn't think of this earlier.
This setup creates almost a room for the wee one. At least, to her, I'm sure it feels like a room, three walls around her. Eventually, I hope to find some shelves, or maybe bins, to fit under the breakfast bar and help me keep her toys sorted in some kind of order. For now, the baskets and cloth bin we've been using will be sufficient. One of the best parts of this arrangement? Once we settle down into the living room in the evening, we can't even see all the toys.
(Poor baby has a little bump on her head. This learning to walk and climb thing is painful. Also, I need to make some clothes for that baby doll we were handed down.)
I'm still contemplating a sideboard for the dining area, especially now that she has a different place to play, but now there's even less rush than before.
Anything else we should think about for toy storage? What kind of toy storage did you have as a kid? Parents, how do you organize and store your kids' toys? How do we prevent this mess from totally taking over our lives forever?