Before and After: An Empty Mechanical Room Becomes an Amazing Toy Storage Closet

published Mar 2, 2023
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Before: an empty white closet
Credit: Bobbye West

Organizing children’s toys is one of the most challenging organizing tasks. The items get taken out and put away multiple times a day — and by people who may not care about or understand organizing at all!

Because of this, a toy organization system needs to be extremely easy to maintain or you run the risk of spending hours organizing only to find yourself in the same messy situation a week or two later. Additionally, toys are in perpetual rotation as children grow and develop. The system needs to be adaptable, too. 

On top of all of this, the space where children’s toys are stored can also be thought of as the palette for the art of children’s play. It’s almost a sacred undertaking to present toys in such a way that children are inspired and motivated to create and engage with the world around them. 

Bobbye West’s kid’s toy closet, which was made possible in part by a whole home remodel, is a stunning example of a space that invites children to step into the world of imagination and play. 

Credit: Bobbye West

When Bobbye undertook her home remodel, one of her biggest priorities was to “maximize every available inch of storage in our home.” The new toy closet used to be a mechanical room that housed the heating and air conditioning unit, which were relocated upstairs because she knew this “would be the perfect location for toys.” 

“Like many parents, toys have long been both our biggest source of clutter and frustration. Despite my best efforts to keep them neatly stowed away in baskets and bins, I’d inadvertently created a scattered debris field of cute yet impossible-to-maintain toy containers in almost every room of our home,” shares Bobbye. “This newly created closet was centrally located in our home and the perfect opportunity to create a space that prioritized play, fostered creativity, and gave our daughter the tools to keep up with it all so I no longer had to.”

With a budget of $2,000, Bobbye set out to create a toy storage space that solved all of these immensely relatable toy organization issues. 

Overall, she wanted to encourage open-ended, unplugged, and independent play. “My first goal was to ensure the way her toys were grouped made sense to her. My next goal was to honor her creativity by allowing room for her artwork to be displayed. Following that, I wanted it to be a space where she could make memories even if it was a closet! Most importantly, I wanted a system of organization she would be proud of and fully capable of maintaining herself.”

Credit: Bree Perez

Since this project started as an empty space, Bobbye needed to start from scratch. First, she ordered The Container Store’s Elfa system, maximizing space with a design expert and tweaking options digitally, which included a combination of the classic basic shelving system in white,storage tracks with accessory hooks, and a behind-the-door wall rack.

Once shelving was installed, Bobbye went through all of the family’s toys, deciding which to pack away, which to keep in rotation, and which to donate. Next, the toys were sorted into categories, including blocks, marble runs, play dough, wooden animals, etc.

Credit: Bree Perez

Finally, each type of toy was placed in baskets from The Container Store, including The Home Edit Wooden All-Purpose Bins in Sand and Water Hyacinth Bin Natural with labels that have internal organizing elements too. For instance, some have smaller containers inside, such as The Container Store Shoe Boxes and Accessory Boxes. For the wall rack organization, there are The Home Edit Large Canisters and Large Bin Organizers.

Bobbye says that sorting all of the toys was the easiest part. The hardest part of the project was “seeing the space from my daughter’s height and capabilities. I had to imagine the space as she’d see it and think of the toys she’d most want to reach for.” Bobbye’s favorite parts of the toy closet are the gallery spaces and bulletin boards. “The little dry-erase marker board brings us both such joy,” she shares. 

Credit: Bree Perez

In the end, Bobbye achieved her goals for the project. “I am not exaggerating when I say this toy closet is the biggest sanity saver in our home,” says Bobbye of the impact it has had on her family’s daily life. “It’s remarkably easy for our daughter to maintain on her own and has eliminated the single greatest cause of clutter in every room of the home.” 

To anyone looking to achieve similar goals, Bobbye offers this advice: “I’d encourage anyone frustrated by the clutter toys create to find a space in their home where toys can be stored and to commit to not accumulating more toys than will fit in that space.” 

She adds that “before starting your project, realize you’ll need to commit to investing both time and financial resources but the dividends on both of those investments pay off substantially.” 

This post was originally published on Apartment Therapy. Read it there: Before and After: See How a Bare Mechanical Room Becomes a Playful Toy Closet