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Friday, March 15, 2013

Organize a Playroom

Toys, toys, everywhere: sometimes, that's how a playroom feels. But don't let yours be that way! With a few easy tips, you can have an organized playroom perfect for fun and entertaining.

Be realistic about space. For most families, space is a finite thing. Because you only have so much, you have to be realistic and firm about how you use it. If you find you don't have space for everything, it generally means you have too many toys. First, throw out everything that's missing pieces, doesn't work, or is broken. Then, work with your kids to identify toys that are in good working order but don't get played with anymore; tag those to donate to charity.
Follow the 80/20 rule. The more your kids have (and have at the ready), the less they play with, it seems. So, set the stage so that they will actually play with more. We've learned that there's an 80/20 rule for kids' toys: If they aren't organized well, kids end up spending 80 percent of their time playing with 20 percent of their toys while the other 80 percent go unused. To help combat this, we organize playrooms with a focus on access. Our goal is to keep an environment that kids can enjoy and keep neat.

Keep it simple
. When it comes to toy room organization, simplicity rules. It's calming and easy to maintain. If the toy room stresses you out, then it will stress the kids out, so keep it simple and decluttered. Go through the toy room every change of season to get rid of old, broken items that they no longer play with. Getting in the habit of regularly decluttering will save you time, space and a lot of headaches.

Label with pictures.
Labelling storage containers is always a good idea, but what if your kids are too young to read? Just use what they can identify: Pictures. If you have really young kids, use clip art to include a picture in addition to the word. You can print the labels on address label stickers or on plain paper that you stick to the container using clear packing tape, or scrapbook your labels if you're creative. Try Staples Martha Stewart Avery line of labels for amazing selection!

Create zones or centres in your playroom
, just as they do in daycare centres. Create a toy zone, arts & crafts zone, a schoolwork/reading zone and a TV/electronic zone. Ages and interests will determine the zones and how much space to provide for each area.

Skip the toy box.
Sure, that toy box might sound like a good idea, but in reality, toy boxes are a guaranteed way for kids not to play with all their toys. Worse yet, they'll make a huge mess to play with one specific toy. They are just a dumping ground, usually full of broken bits and lost pieces, and the child will dump out the whole collection to find something.

Go see-through
. Instead of the typical toy box, invest in some clear bins to sort toys. Sort toys into see-through bins and place on shelves that the child can reach. The see-through bins let the child find what he's looking for, so the Legos, or the Barbies, or the plastic farm animals can come out without him rooting through everything else.

Organize from a kid's eye view.
Just because things look good from your vantage point doesn't mean that things will look good to your kids. So, find out how they are seeing your efforts. Get down on your child's eye level and put his favourite toys within sight. Anything on a high shelf tends to be ignored or forgotten, although this is a
handy tactic for seasonal or special-occasion toys.

Net the stuffed animals.
Stuffed animals pile up so fast, and keeping them organized seems impossible. The trick? Give them a home from which they can't fall. Place all the stuffed animals in a net and hang them up, or make a chain from shower curtain rings, then stuff arms or legs through each ring and hang them from a ceiling hook. One of our 'tween' clients struggled with letting her plush toys go, even though she felt she was 'too old' to have them displayed in her room. The solution? She photographed each one, placed them in an album, and journalled her memories of each of them.

Rotate toys.
Remember that 80/20 rule? Use it to weed out toys, too, or to at least create a cycle of toys so that kids don't get bored. To make toys and books new again, store some away. Then, in a few months, rotate the ones from storage.

Clean ~ with the kids.
Finally, have your kids pitch in with playroom cleaning so they understand the importance of tidiness and how to achieve it. Now that you're organized, get your kids engaged in staying that way. Help them recognize how fun it is to be able to see and find all of their toys. As they're playing through the day, remind them to put away one toy before starting with the next. At the end of the day, make cleaning up a game.

You've probably resigned yourself to the fact that you will never be able to eliminate 'kid clutter' completely. But you can control it, with a little creativity, patience, and our proven techniques and systems, above. The key to minimizing the mess in kids' spaces is to create a home for everything and to design storage spaces that make it easy for kids to put things away. Getting your kids involved in the process of decluttering and organizing from an early age, following your example, of course, and allowing them input in the process as they get older will also help to ensure that they will stay organized.