Did you trip on a toy today or lose a library book? Do you wish your child would put away their own clothes and clean up their room? Are you tired of everyone asking you where things are stored?
Today’s post will provide you with some guidelines for storing your child’s items. Say “There you go!” to their clothes, books, and toys in a way that supports your child’s growing independence and need for play. Let’s begin!
In your child’s current size
Hangers and heights are difficult for young children. Avoid using them! Instead, try this:
- Store most of your child’s clothing folded in drawers. Either install drawers in the bottom of the child’s bedroom closet or use the lower drawers of a dresser in their room. They need to be able to reach them and look down at them. Within the drawer, arrange clothing by type. Use shoe boxes to group socks and underwear. If you have a lot of drawers or a lot of kids, add labels. Then when your child or spouse asks you where something is stored, you can just say, “The drawers are labeled.”
- Hang frequently used items (jackets, hoodies, backpacks, robes, etc.) on wall-hooks mounted 3 or 4 feet off the floor. (You can store out-of-season outerwear elsewhere to keep the hooks from becoming too crowded.)
This is an efficient use of space that’s also easier for your child to use. Feel free to ask them to fold and put away their own laundry now!
Clothes they will grow into
Place clothing that is too big for your child in out of the way storage until needed. Group clothing (clean and folded) by size and place in stackable boxes. If you are storing these boxes where they might get wet, spring for plastic boxes. Otherwise, cardboard boxes will do. Clearly label each box including the size(s) it contains.
Children grow at different rates, but before the age of 2, plan to access these boxes every 2 – 3 months. After age 2, it will be every year on average. After age 6, maybe even every two years.
Note: If you feel like you’re drowning in children’s clothing, check out my Base-10 Wardrobe post. It might help you pare down your child’s clothes without coming up short between laundry days.
Store most of your child’s books in one room on designated shelves they can reach. This makes it easy for them to find and put away books. It doesn’t matter where the shelves are in your home – their room, the living room, a hallway, etc.
Arrange books by format on adjustable shelves to maximize your vertical storage space. Allow 8.5″ for board books, 10.5″ for chapter books, and 13.5″ for picture books.
Storing books in rainbow order is intuitive for many children and adults. Another option is to divide by non-fiction and fiction. Group non-fiction books by subject and fiction books by author.
I also recommend keeping a few curated stacks around your home:
- Designate a place for library books either in their room or by the couch.
- Place a few high-interest books by the television.
- Keep some favorite books near their bed or by the couch (or both).
- Store their magazine subscriptions with yours.
These mini-collections will help you grow a reader! The goal is to catch your child’s eye and interest throughout the day. Keep each mini-collection on a designated surface, in a wall-mounted book rack, or in a floor basket.
In their bedroom/playroom
Store as many toys as you can in the closet! You may need to install additional hardware or find storage furniture that fits. The goal is to make this closet look more like a kitchen pantry with lots of shelves and bins. Make sure you can use the space floor to ceiling, wall to wall.
Keep favorite toys around the perimeter of the room. Use low-shelves, toy cubbies, floor baskets, or low-mounted wall hooks.
Place large toys directly on shelves or the floor. Group small toys in bins, baskets, and bags. (Hang the bags on wall hooks.) For toys stored no more than 3 feet off the ground, opaque containers are fine. It will be easy enough for your child to peek inside.
If you are storing toys above your child’s head, consider using clear containers so that your child can see what’s in the bin from the floor. Feel free to stack lidded bins on a single shelf, as long as none of the bins are too heavy and the stack isn’t too tall.
Label bins so that your child and any other caregivers can learn where things are stored. These labels don’t have to be fancy, just legible. I often write on notecards or sticky notes and affix them with double-sided tape or clips. Keeping this low-key means I’m not frustrated when toys come and go or when labels fall off.
Bonus Tip: Designate one container as the “treasure chest”. This is where you toss all the random knick-knacks your child picks up at school and at parties.
In family spaces
Do you have a very young child who needs minute-to-minute adult supervision? If so, try play corners throughout your home. (Otherwise, you’re going to spend all your time in their room!) Here are some examples:
- On the deck or porch: An underbed storage container with play sand and a few toys. (If you’re on a high-floor, put a large towel or blanket under the box to preserve your downstairs neighbor’s goodwill.)
- In the kitchen/dining room: A kitchen set or a tea set. A child-size table with some playdoh, markers, and paper.
- In the living room: Puzzles, board games, and/or toy sets you also enjoy.
An elementary-age child will play in their room, so feel free to centralize their toys at this point if you don’t like having them all over the home. Even so, some parents prefer to keep messy craft materials near the kitchen table and continue to store board games in a family space.
What if your living room remains your child’s primary play area? You can still store most of their toys in their bedroom closet. They will get them out when they want them. Just keep their absolute favorites in the living room. Hidden storage will be harder for kids to use and maintain. It might be easier to just let it look like a play room with a couch until your kids are older. Consider getting rid of your coffee table to make more room for play.
Final tip: If your child likes Legos, give them a tray or sheet pan to use when building. It will allow them to spread out without leaving tons of Legos underfoot. It makes clean-up a snap too.
It can be challenging to share a small home with small kids! I hope this post provided you with some helpful new ideas. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Kaloumi Small Home Organizing is based in Chicago. If you live in Chicago and would like help organizing your small home, please contact me.