A few months after my first son was born, I discovered that his toys ended up in a large basket off to the side of my rocking chair in our living room. I knew I wanted the majority of toys in our living room so not only would he play close to most of my every day chores and activities but also he would feel that he was and is an integral part of our home and family. The large basket, however, was not sufficient for the number of toys he had nor was it an effective system for enabling him to see and play with his full variety of toys. After seeing an orderly toy system in a friend’s living room, I was inspired to do a little organizing of my own.
My plan was to buy a three-shelf bookshelf and enough bins to divide up my sons toys by categories. This took some careful planning and a small chunk of money (I used a $75 check I had received as Christmas money) to get the shelf exactly the way I envisioned. My process was as follows:
- Group the toys into categories (By doing this, I was able to see which groups of toys would require approximately which size bins, as well as how many bins I would need to purchase)
- Measure the shelf you intend to purchase (height, width, and length of each shelf)
- Measure the various plastic bins in the home storage section of your local all-purpose store (height, width, and length of each bin)
- Decide which bins will meet your needs and fit on your shelf (I suggest drawing out which bins you will put on which shelf and double-checking your measurements to make sure that they will actually fit. This step will probably be your longest as you figure out what you will actually be able to make happen.)
- Purchase the shelf and the bins all at once (save your receipt in case something doesn’t work out the way you plan)
- Assemble your shelf
- Sort your toys into the appropriate bins
- Place the bins on your shelf according to the drawing you designed while measuring the bins
- Optional: Make picture and/or word labels for your bins so that you (and your children) remember which toys go in which bins
This toy shelf and bin system has proven to be very effective for our home! What I discovered by using this system was that I could easily rotate the types of toys my son played with in the day. I also discovered that the mess in our living room was limited to a few bins at a time. Although our son is currently in a stage where he wants about half of the bins out at the same time, he has gone through previous stages where two bins at a time would do just fine. As soon as he can understand number concepts, I will most likely encourage him to only have a certain number of bins out at a certain time. It is also easier for me to know which toys he plays with and which toys he does not, since he now chooses certain bins more often than others. By having a fixed number of bins, I am able to store away toys he has outgrown in order to introduce new ones to him. This helps keep our small living space from being overrun by toys!
I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband and son (and another son on the way). We are purposefully living in this cost-effective home to make it possible for me to stay home with our sons while we also designate a large portion of my husband’s income for paying off his medical school loans. A simpler, more peaceful (and one day debt-free) life is more important to us than trying to keep up with what a typical doctor’s lifestyle “should” look like.