You Don’t Need to Clean the Playroom — You Need to Move It

published Mar 28, 2023
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The playroom is one of the most necessary rooms for parents with young children, but also the eyesore, the most chaotic spot in the house, and ultimately a stressor as well. Parents might recognize the refrain they say multiple times per week, even per day: “Go clean up the playroom.” They also might find themselves organizing and sorting, throwing toys into bins, and starting over again on repeat. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As a parent to soon-to-be five kids, I found a solution to the playroom disorganization and chaos. A few years ago, we moved our children’s playroom from a main thoroughfare near the front door to the basement, well out of the way of any visitors, and even our own line of sight. Now ages 8,6,4, and 2, the kids tromp downstairs to enjoy messy toys like construction sets with many tools, dress-up boxes of costumes, and now larger toys like trikes and even a small “roller coaster” they can glide down.

Now, the upstairs playroom is simply a few small toys for our youngest child, a changing station, and an art table, along with a drop zone for school backpacks and papers. Separating the bulk of the toys from these less offensive and less chaotic items has made all the difference.

Here’s what experts recommend, if you are considering rethinking your playroom location and strategy. You won’t regret it.

When is it time to rethink the playroom’s location?

A small, clean playroom in a main area might work for one very young child. But as you have more children, and their toys seem to expand, it might be time to think outside the box on playroom locations. Sisters and professional organizers Briana and Erica Spruille, of Just Be, LLC, in New Orleans, Louisiana, explain how to know. 

“A family should reconsider the playroom location when the family room starts to look like a daycare facility, when the kids outgrow the items used or are no longer interested in the space, when you become embarrassed to invite company over, or when they are ready for a space refresh/reset,” Briana says. 

In addition, whenever you are stressed about the playroom, more often than not it might be time to look for a better location.

What spaces are best for your new playroom location?

First, don’t think you have to find a whole room (few of us have entire extra rooms hanging out with no purpose in our homes). “Do you have a walk-in closet or even under the stairs closet? In my personal opinions, they are perfect for a designated play space, because they have a door to them so you’re able to let them feel like they have their own space to play within the home without it taking over too much space, or a designated section in a bigger room would work perfect to create the kids’ playroom,” says Shantae Duckworth, professional organizer at Shantaeize Your Space in Seattle. “Even if you set up a small or designated play room in a certain area of the home, and then have their bedroom be more of the main source for their toys and games, it really helps a lot of families separate the play space, and still have their common areas.”

For us, the basement allowed for our larger number of children to have more space, and the hard floor meant they could use more active toys like wheeled products and balls in the nasty winter months to burn energy. Any low-traffic area would be better than a main space. 

“I would not set up an elaborate space in high-traffic common areas of the home, such as in the mud room, laundry room, or the living room (unless there is a small designated space). These places already have a lot of busyness in the home,” Duckworth adds.

Credit: Murphy Waldron Interiors

How can I rethink “mess” versus “use” when it comes to playrooms?

Kids using a room effectively might mean it doesn’t look as put together as other rooms. Instead, rethink what it might mean to have organization and purpose in your new playroom space. 

“The photos you often see of labeled, color-coded bins with everything in its place are rarely the actual scene. We may strive for that, but life doesn’t always work that way. Kids can be taught to set aside ‘put away’ time,” Briana says. She adds that one of her client’s sons learned by example, after watching his mom work with her on a project. 

But to keep the number of items in check, she recommends removing toys seasonally that your children don’t use often, and store or donate them. “Ask your child if they want to donate to another who is less fortunate,” Briana says. 

In addition, keep an eye out for true mess, which means items strewn around the room that can become dangerous, including broken toys or small items young children could swallow or slip on. “Have a shallow basket handy to toss the “mess” to be used during the next playtime,” Briana recommends.

How can I reorganize during the playroom move?

Switching rooms is an excellent time to rethink your strategy on how to organize a playroom, although just having it out of the main area will help. Try these tips from Marcia Sloman, professional organizer in New York at Under Control Organizing.

  • Integrate soft flooring, and a seating area for crafts with storage systems for materials.
  • Use shelving for games.
  • Choose floor and/or wall space storage for sorted toys such as construction, dolls, toy animals, and balls.
  • Opt for bins for quick pick-up.
  • Facilitate reading habits with a library/reading area.
  • Display artwork on empty wall space.
  • Build a space for grown-up supervision (nanny, sitter, parent, older sibling) to occupy and entertain them with outlets and charging stations.

Finally, determine if your new space is working better by analyzing your own stress level surrounding playroom cleaning. Maybe you feel like you have to clean it less often, or it doesn’t matter as much if it’s perfect. Maybe, it’s just an “out of sight, out of mind” relief. Either way, if it works better for your kids, and you can do less and focus on more important parts of parenting, it’s a win.

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