The Best Kids Toy Storage and Room Organizers to Tame Kid Clutter
Trying to control kid clutter can break you. As Phyllis Diller famously said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” From those jagged Legos to the 875 markers Grandma so kindly got them, the explosion of books, stuffed animals, and lightsabers can make even the calmest parent come un-Elmer-glued.
But it doesn’t have to be this frustrating, insist the organizing pros. “Kids have an amazing knack for creating messes— it’s an art,” says San Francisco professional organizer Holly Blakey, founder of Breathing Spaces (and mom of three). “But while it’s actually impossible to have a perfectly tidy home if you have kids, anyone—no matter what their current organizational status is—can save time and love their space.” Cubby asked streamlining experts like Blakey to share their favorite kid-friendly storage products. Here’s the stuff the pros swear by, and their aha tips for how to use them effectively.
Kid Bedrooms and Nurseries
Toronto-based organizer Sarah Grant, founder of Be.neat Studio, loves that the IKEA KALLAX works for a nursery and a tween’s or teen’s space. “It can hold bins of baby supplies but then get filled with LEGO creations or books as kids grow,” says Grant, the mom of two boys. “I start it on its side but then turn it vertically to make room for a desk.” And bonus, its clean white design will work with whatever decor updates you make over the years.
Blakey is a fan of using simple open bins in children’s bedrooms. “Having no lid makes it easier for kiddos to access their things—and clean up,” she says, “Lids actually prevent kids from helping to put things back.”
So there is one exception to the no-lid rule: messy art supplies. “Make sure to store things you don’t want the kids accessing all the time—paint, slime, glitter (oh geez, glitter!)—in out-of reach-areas, in opaque bins with lids,” warns Blakey. “You want to prevent any shelf climbing to reach those mom-worst-enemies.”
Oh the joy (and clutter!) of raising a reader! Whether your kid has stacks of Mo Willems storybooks or Angie Thomas YA novels, LA-based professional organizer Tanisha Lyons-Porter, founder of Natural Born Organizers, has a storage suggestion for you: “the Billy Bookcase series at IKEA because of its flexibility and functionality,” she says. These inexpensive bookcases (most under $50) are true multitaskers, she notes, “great for clothes, shoes, wardrobe accessories, and toys.” She likes to style Billy with matching grab-and-go baskets or displays of trophies, unicorns, matchbox cars, whatever the littles are into! (As always with bookshelves, these must be anchored to the wall for safety.)
“I love bamboo drawer dividers because they can be used for so many purposes,” Blakey shares. “They look nice and are so functional.” With the help of these dividers, you can turn the underwear drawer into an underwear, socks, and belts drawer; separate accessories into headbands, barrettes, and scrunchies. These ones are spring-loaded so there’s nothing to screw in.
“We let kids dump out different sets of toys and games, and they become useless when they get all mixed together,” says Grant. Instead, group like items together and rotate them in and out. “These zippered pouches make sturdy containers for puzzles, crafts, and small toy sets,” she says. This strategy also helps ensure kids don’t get overwhelmed with too much stuff. And ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed either!
“Children’s clothes are obviously smaller than adult clothes so to maximize a long-hang closet in a kid’s room, I use this closet rod extender, which creates additional hanging space,” says Lyons-Porter.
“For families with limited space, I love a garment rack in the nursery,” says Blakey. This trick gives you more hanging space (you can stack bins below with socks, PJs, etc.), and it keeps your sweetie’s current size in clear view so you’re not digging through a closet with a wriggling baby in your arms. “I always tell my clients to rotate their baby’s items each month so they stay on top of the current size,” she adds.
Ask organizing coach Lisa Dooley, author of More Space. More Time. More Joy! Organizing Your Best Life, her favorite closet item and she doesn’t hesitate: An Over the Door Pocket Organizer. “They are ideal for all the little things—from small toys to hair ties and bows, to socks and tights, to arts & craft supplies,” says Dooley, who is also the founder of Boston area-based Your Organized Life. To make sure it hangs flat and doesn’t get caught in the door, she says to “actually screw the pockets into the door vs. using the hanging bar.”
Mudroom or Entryway
“Besides the kitchen, the entryway or mudroom is the busiest room for families. And the more kids you have, the more that gets dumped,” says Blakey. The problem is, “Once clutter starts building up it can feel overwhelming.” The good news: “Hooks and baskets work miracles.” Park a pretty basket by the door to make it easy to store shoes and cleats.
“Individual hooks make it super easy for kids to hang their own stuff up,” says Grant. Wet or snowy gear needs room to dry out, she says, so space hooks tk inches apart. She likes using a multi-colored set because (depending on family size), you can assign everyone their own hook.
Lyons-Porter echoes that sentiment: “A set of classic coat hooks are key in keeping order amongst the coats, backpacks, and umbrellas. So simple yet effective,” she says.
If you are tight on space, you can customize this Elfa back-of-door system based on what you need, Blakey notes. More shoe storage? Purse hooks? A place for hats, gloves, sunglasses? Done.
“Plastic bins keep bath toys grouped when not in use and are easy to wipe down,” says Grant. She likes the stackable versions for “making the most of awkward spaces like under sink storage—just keep the most frequently used items towards the top.”
For lotions, hair products, and brushes, “a great stackable drawer system for under the sink is a gamechanger,” says Lyons-Porter.
Toys? What toys? Use a cute opaque fabric box to stash books, electronics, card projects, trains, and games, suggests Dooley. “These are perfect for tucking under the coffee table or inside a bookcase,” she says. “The handles make them easy to maneuver.”
This post was originally published January 13, 2021