Before having a kid, we swore we'd never have a house teeming with toys all over the living space. Toys would be minimal, and neatly confined to our future offspring's bedroom, or a small toy box in the living room. Our house would look just like it did before we had kids.
HAHAHAHA. As anyone who actually has real kids knows, this is a fantasy. The toddlers I know don't really want to play in their bedrooms or fancy playrooms by themselves - they want to "be with mama in kitchen!" Hence the bottom half of our fridge and our dishwasher have been given over to a plethora of letter and number magnets, and the adjoining living room has essentially become T's playroom.
Which isn't all bad, really. We love this living room, but almost never *lived* in it before we had a baby. It has no TV, so we only used it for parties or visitors. I'm glad we spend so much time in there now, because the high ceilings and wall-o-windows makes it pretty nice, even with our ridiculous 9 months of grey each year.
The tiny baby toys were no problem - we had just enough to fit in a medium sized Rubbermaid box, and would just rotate a few out to entertain BabyT for the 30 minutes she was awake between naps. And we had a small box for board books so we could read to her. We thought smugly that we had this toy thing under control.
And then BabyT became a toddler. Well, let me rephrase - she turned 1, and didn't exactly toddle, but started crawling and became interested in getting her own toys. At first, it was fine. We had the box for books. My interior decorating-talented and smart mama friend Lisa suggested this cheap but nice looking storage ottoman from Target:
walker wagon showed up, and you can't really put it away anywhere.
And then our not-toddling-toddler became more adventurous in her crawling, and eventually walking. And that's when toy hell broke loose. We'd leave her in the securely-gated living room to go take a shower and return to find all the books dumped out, and every toy in the ottoman removed. Duplos were everywhere. Pieces to the much loved tea set rolled under the couches regularly.
And when she became more interested in toys, so did we. I bought her a play kitchen, intended for her 2nd birthday, but was so excited about it that I had to give it to her 5 months early. And she was thrilled - it's one of her favorite items. But so big! And you can't put it away.
And of course, with play kitchen, comes play dishes, and play food, presents for her 2nd birthday. It was not unusual to sit down on the couch and find a lovely wooden mushroom in the cushion. Or underfoot. Or being sniffed suspiciously by Spike, in case it was For Eating.
Now let's pause here for a chat about philosophy. I'm definitely not a minimalist, but I am an unsentimental de-clutterer. I read a book called Simplicity Parenting about simplifying kids' lives, and it resonated with me. They addressed things like overexposure to media, too many scheduled activities, as well as toy clutter. I've been using a lot of their practices, which is why T is only scheduled for one "class" per week, she doesn't really watch much TV, we're anal retentive about her naptimes and bedtime, and we've only got about 8-10 books out for her at any given time, which I rotate through her collection. Honestly, she just does better when we work to avoid overstimulation. She's always been this way, so I guess she takes after both of her introvert parents.
As she gets older, we have more toys with pieces - Little People, alphabet puzzles, cool wooden stacking/sorting/arranging toys. And there's the not-so-small matter of my love affair with Montessori materials. I bought some trays to create structured activities for her to choose. But I didn't really have a good place for these, so they all lived in my craft room and didn't come out as often as I'd like.
We corralled some of the clutter with small bins from IKEA, but then we had bins lying around on the floor or on our side tables. The homeschooling blogs I've come across, the home organization blogs I drool over, *and* the crafting blogs I read sing the praises of IKEA's Expedit shelving. You've seen it - it looks like a giant grid, and is open at the back.
We bought a small 4-shelf one for T's room, and it helped the clutter in there significantly. But we couldn't decide what we needed for the living room so didn't buy anything on that trip. This weekend, with several days at home to stew over our clutter issue, I decided we *had* to do something, and the answer was the Expedit 4x2 shelf:
The bottom row of cubbies is more traditional toy and book storage. I filled one of the IKEA Skubb storage boxes with some board books from her collection. I'll rotate those out weekly as well. The other cubbies have one of the Kusiner bins, plus maybe one other larger toy or a small bin. I wanted her to be able to take out one bin at a time, and not have to take out multiple things to get to something in the back.
Now I feel so much better. Everything has a place. She is in that super-helpful toddler stage where she LOVES cleaning up, so I can tell her where everything goes now, and it actually looks nice when she's done!
I'd love to hear about what you guys are doing with toy clutter, especially as the toys come with more and more pieces. Plus, I'm kind of freaky and I love home organization.