by Kit Davey
If you have young children, you probably struggle to keep your home looking orderly. How can you keep your kid's playthings accessible, but still have an attractive house? Try using some of these storage ideas to make your home kid-friendly and visually peaceful.
Do they need all those toys?
Start by helping your kids pare down their toys to the ones they actually play with. Children lose interest in toys and often have more than they need.
• Ask your child if s/he would be willing to give a few toys to the less fortunate. Together, fill a bag with castoffs and take your child with you to your chosen charity.
• Let your child set up a table at your next garage sale and keep the money s/he makes selling old toys.
• Give toys that have been outgrown to a younger neighbor child, or store in your attic until your youngest is old enough.
• If your child resists giving up any toys, set up a "resting toys" box. With his/her help, fill it with toys that will take a long nap. Store the box in your garage and mark your calendar three months in advance for the "toy wake up." When your child opens the box the toys will seem brand new. Then start another box immediately!
• To cut down on future toy purchases hold a toy-trading party. Each guest brings a sealed box of treasures. Kids trade boxes, but don't get to open them until they get home.
• My nephew prefers Tupperware and rocks to store-bought toys. Can you interest your child in non-standard play objects?
Once you've cut down on the volume of toys, determine where your kids like to play and what they typically play with in that area. This will help you determine your storage needs.
In your child's bedroom:
• Standard closets are not child friendly, but you can use them better if you fill the lower portion with cube-shaped containers, such as the interlocking, plastic-coated wire. You can insert a basket or cardboard box, decorated by your child, in each opening. If you'd like to invest a little more money, spring for a custom-designed closet system.
• Many stores and catalog companies offer lightweight, under-the-bed boxes. Store out-of-season clothes here to free up closet space for toys.
• Sit an antique trunk or a plastic storage chest at the end of your child's bed.
• Encircle the room with a shelf 1 foot below the ceiling line, displaying stuffed animals and already-read books.
• Stack milk crates on their sides and have your child arrange vignettes or dioramas with their action toys.
• Install small ledges or display sconces at regular intervals across the wall. You child can show off his/her doll, trophy or hat collection.
• Make your own mini-hammock from a sheet that matches your child's bedding and suspend it across the corner, above your child's bed. Stuffed animals and favorite blankets can be nestled here.
In the bath:
• Store tub toys in a plastic caddie under the sink. To keep water from collecting in the caddie, drill a few holes through the bottom. A small plastic bucket or sand pail kept sitting on the tub floor works well, too.
In the family room:
• Slip an under-the-bed storage box under the couch.
• Place a chest or open-topped basket under the sofa table.
• Reserve the lower drawers of a dresser or credenza for toys.
• Take advantage of the lower shelves of your bookcase. The catalog company Hold Everything offers attractive, wicker baskets designed to fit standard bookcase depths.
• Use a hope chest or big wooden box as a coffee table. Toys can be stashed in it nightly.
• An armoire can hold and hide many toys. Keep the doors open during play time and store toys in plastic bins behind the doors when you want a clutter-free look.
• A multi-leveled rolling cart is durable, lightweight and easy to stash out of sight, or rolled into your child's room.
• Have each child decorate a lidded file box. Let your child know that only toys that can fit in the box can be kept in the room. Store the boxes side-by-side behind the couch or stacked in a corner.