Aug 8, 2017

The Toy Tamer & The Playroom Plan

We have a problem that I've been hesitant to share because it's grown so overwhelming... Our playroom is drowning in toys. It looks nothing like that photo above from our house tour anymore. I know this is a common problem for parents, especially ones like us in a small house with kids. I don't think we have an unreasonable number of toys in our home (we do edit, rotate, donate) - it's just that they playroom is small, the bedrooms are small, we don't have a closet on the first floor. We don't have one of those finished basements where the boys can go and be wild. In a larger space the collection would probably even look small, but in a tiny room it feels overwhelming. In a small house we have to be smarter and more efficient with storage to make things work. It's not easy.

Back in May, I finally called in a professional who specializes in toy organization. I met her at a designer's showcase and was really impressed. She calls herself the toy tamer and made some amazing recommendations for the playroom, Matthew’s nursery and Oliver’s room. All using existing furniture and a shopping list for IKEA. The woman is a genius.  One thing I really liked about her was that she didn’t recommend further purging the boy’s toy collection to fit our space, her goal was to maximize our storage and use the space in the most efficient way so that the kids would have room to play and I wouldn't lose my mind with the clutter.

The toy tamer’s plan (which she provided and I redrew with a few modifications) is to use our space as efficiently with lots of good storage and leaving room to play. Here’s the diagram:

The first recommendation was to replace the IKEA Trofast toy storage system we have in here. When we first bought it, the concept sounded so great in theory when we were converting this room from a sun room to a playroom (tubs that slide out! In different sizes! It’s so versatile and can be rearranged!), but in reality the system is awful. We bought the catalog sales pitch hook, line and sinker without doing our research - we were exhausted new parents in a rush to just GET.IT.DONE. The system was livable when we had just one kid, even if half the toys didn’t fit in the bins and the lids never stayed on and they wouldn’t slide if any toys stuck out even ¼” from the top (seriously it’s so frustrating). With two kids and two sets of toys though? Impossible. Now toys are just piled up everywhere all the time with nowhere to go. The toy tamer came in, pointed to the Trofast shelves and said, “don’t you hate those things? I love IKEA but that toy storage system is the absolute worst.” It made me feel a lot better - at least it wasn’t just us!

The Trofast system will be replaced with Kallax cube shelves, like the one we use in Oliver’s bedroom. The room is wide enough to fit two units across. We’ll fill the cubes with bins and boxes of different sizes and shapes for small toys and put larger toys directly inside the cubes. Down the road we might get a few door and/or drawer inserts as their toys and needs change (one thing I like about this system is how flexible it is). In addition to the cube-sized bins, we will also pick up a few other larger basket/bins/buckets to corral larger toys, stuffed animals, etc. For art supplies we are going to repurpose two wall-hanging shoe bins on the wall (they are the perfect size for this - I saw it at the toy tamer’s exhibit at a designer’s showcase and was so impressed!).

Here's a visual version of my shopping list:

The only big decision we have to make is how tall we want the Kallax shelves to be along this wall. We don’t want to do the 4x4 system because it’s too tall and will block too much of the windows. The 2x4 will fit nicely under the windows, but might not be enough storage for the long term. The toy tamer recommended we buy two 1x4 units as well (they can attach with brackets you can buy at IKEA). We can use these to build our own 3x4 shelf and block part of the windows (which we keep closed most of the time anyway to avoid the view directly into the neighbor’s driveway) or we can put one of them in front of the radiator (since they are open backed) and then use the other in Oliver’s bedroom to give his bedroom more toy storage. Either way, we will have 8 additional cubes of storage in the house.

Here’s the alternate floorplan:

The second big recommendation from the toy tamer (which I'm sure you noticed from the pictures) was to replace the big couch with a cozy armchair for reading. The couch takes up a lot of room and we really only use a chair’s worth of space on it - the bulk of the couch is used as a landing strip for blankets, pillows and stuffed animals. In theory the sleeper sofa worked as a place for overnight guests, but in reality the room is too small and crowded/cluttered for guests to actually stay. By replacing the couch with a chair we suddenly have a lot more room to work with.

I’m not sure what we are going to do for a rug yet in here. The toy tamer recommended carpet tiles because they are easy to clean and if that fails, replace. I’ve also seen some really fun inexpensive options at IKEA and on Amazon. No matter what we decide though, we are holding off until Georgia is no longer with us because we cannot put anything new down on the floors with her constant incontinence issues. So for now we will live with what we’ve got.

My change to the floorplan was to eliminate a dedicated dress up area (with a big basket, hooks and a mirror) and instead put a bookcase on that wall. I know it will fit nicely in that spot because it currently lives on the other side of that same wall in the living room. We need more book storage for the kids downstairs and a high-up storage spot to keep choking hazard toys like legos out of Matthew’s reach. It would also be a great place for storing games, puzzles, etc. I want to move the dress up hooks under the windows between the chair and the cube shelves and then put the rest of the stuff in a big cube shelf bin next to it.

So far, the only part of this plan we’ve implemented is removing the couch. It’s actually back in the living room, just like when we first moved in. The living room couch we bought was very pretty but it was not kid-friendly. At all. Unwashable and prone to stains. A frame that couldn’t handle boisterous boys - the cushion wrapping separated from the frame in front so that we couldn’t take sitting on it for very long. Plus it didn’t provide enough seating for a family of 4. So we gave it away to Matthew’s summer nanny who we adore and happened to be moving into her first apartment (and needed a couch!). The old couch might not be the ideal size or shape for this room, but it’s A LOT more comfortable and the beige slipcover is removable/washable when sticky jelly fingers attack. Long term I still really want to get a small sectional in here, but that’s a post for another day (especially since IKEA has finally created the sectional of my dreams - modular pieces to build a size/shape that fits our weird room, reasonably priced, and kid-friendly removable washable covers!).

Anyways, we have a great plan in place. But just so you know how bad things have gotten, here's the ugly truth about the playroom... this is what it looks like RIGHT NOW. Without the couch.

Without a good storage system in place, this room is still a disaster. All we've been able to do is make room for the tent in here. I have rearranged everything several times in hopes of finding a more livable solution until we go to IKEA, but it's an impossible task. We are hoping to implement the rest of the playroom changes and give it a full overhaul in early September - the Kallax system will be 15% the last week in August so it’s the perfect time to pick them up. Also Oliver will be in school full time after Labor Day which will *hopefully* give me a better chance at doing some real organization in here!

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