By Jen Hinesman
I’m overrun by toys. I love the chaos of family life and the squeals from the Family Room when the kids are at play — but the toy storage question plagues me. We purge toys regularly and donate what we aren’t using and I am continually faced with the issue of how to keep toys in their place — and still have a little “adult living space” as well. This is what I have found: Go vertical After a full day of play, toys litter the floor with no actual floor to be seen. Unfortunately, after clean up time, toys still seem to be taking over. Toys have a way of multiplying and when floor space is limited, it’s time to think vertically. Use your vertical space, with storage shelving, to clear up floor space. We’ve all seen the cute cubby storage units — employ the largest one and organize your toys accordingly. One to two toys per shelf lets the cubbies feel like they are not stuffed to capacity and allow the space to breathe a bit. Mount shelves to the wall and using stackable toy storage boxes to maximize storage and minimize clutter are other ways to maximize your vertical plane. Baskets & bins Twist the time honored tradition of using bins to consolidate “like items” by hanging the bins on the wall. Use wire bins (in any color) so you are able to see the contents in each bin and keep them organized. Labeling the bins by type, of course, is a simple way to sort and ensure that toys make it back into the correct bin. Re-purpose kitchen items for toys Small toys (think Legos) get under my skin — and under foot — easily. Use the same drawer organizers that you would use for silverware to help keep small items in place. Magnetic knife strips are simple and keep matchbox cars in their place. They also look fun and colorful on the wall. Magnetic spice containers also keep small items visible and contained on the same magnetic strip. Use the kitchen rails with hooks (found at IKEA) to hang painting smocks or buckets for crayons / art supplies. Lego-mania Keep your little Lego hound happy by consolidating all instruction manuals in the same place. Just use a standard 3-ring binder with plastic sleeves to keep all instructions together. It’s so much easier to rebuild a Lego masterpiece when you can lay your hands on the manual. Density Maximize your space by reducing the space each object takes up. This is similar to thinking vertically in that you want to consolidate your toy storage and avoid “toy creep.” For example, use an inexpensive side table from IKEA with a storage box under. You gain a great play surface with dense storage below. Double-dip Try to think of ways to use your space in multiple scenarios. For example, paint a pantry door or swatch on your wall for chalkboard fun — super creative kids love to get messy with chalk. This eliminates the need for a separate easel for chalkboard play. I also love a good chalkboard for keep the family schedule visible.