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A few weeks ago, I asked my newsletter subscribers what their biggest challenge was in cleaning their home. The overwhelming top response had to do with "kid clutter" - toys, books, playrooms, etc. And I totally understand that - as a matter of fact, it's something I've been battling myself lately!
Our playroom definitely isn't lacking in space. It's actually one of the bigger rooms in our home. Many older homes are set up like this; right off of our foyer we have a large room that's meant to be both a dining room and a formal living room. Well, we're never, ever going to use a formal living room, and we really don't need a dining room at the current time. However, from the first time we walked through this home, I knew this area would be absolutely perfect for a playroom. It's right off the kitchen (so I can look in on Emmie while I'm cooking or cleaning up) and it's super accessible from really anywhere in the house. It's also a huge room!
We have it set up to be both a TV room and a playroom. Half of the area is dedicated to toys and "kids stuff;" half hold some of our old furniture that really has nowhere else for right now. My beloved Best Glider is here since there really isn't room for it in Jackson's room (it's actually where I do all of his monthly pictures), and our old couch is in here as well.
So, in the spirit of full disclosure...this was the state of my playroom part just a couple of months ago. Yikes, I know. I was constantly trying to clean it and it was a constant uphill battle. I had had enough of the mess, so we implemented a few playroom rules that have really helped so much in containing the chaos!
1. The great purge. If you're anything like us, you just have too much stuff. No matter what you do, you'll need to get rid of some of it. I'd be willing to bet your child will never miss a lot of the items in your playroom right now! The way I figure it, we can get rid of things we don't need and allow somebody else to have things they do need. Win/win!
Here's how we did it: For each container we have in the playroom, I looked through and set a number of items that Emmie had to choose to either give to charity or throw away (it usually equaled about half of the items in that container). It was a great lesson in determining what others could use vs. what was broken/old/used up. I'll look through and see if anything is worth selling in a garage sale after the fact, I just didn't think Emmie was quite ready for the sell vs. donate decision yet. Since Emmie had a part in the process, there were no tantrums later when a toy was missing.
We were able to get rid of two huge boxes of toys by doing this! More importantly, we got the items in the playroom down to things that she actually values and uses. Doing this allowed us to inventory everything and really focus on things she would use. Plus, we discovered a few things that we had honestly forgotten she even had!
2. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Absolutely everything in our playroom has a place now. We're all aware of where everything goes. If it's out of place, we put it back by the end of the day (see #6 below).
3. One in, two out. I don't know about y'all, but toys seem to multiply in our playroom. It just seems like boxes and bins are exploding every time I turn around, no matter how many times I try to clean them out. So, this one has been huge for us: for every toy that comes into the playroom, two go out. We let Emmie decide which two toys she wants to donate or throw away each time she gets something new. And they have to be comparable toys; if she gets a Happy Meal toy, she gets rid of two small toys. If she gets a huge toy, she gets rid of two big toys. We will eventually go to a "one in, one out" policy, but while we're still trying to purge things, this works so well!
4. Divide your playroom into sections. We have designated sections in the playroom for each kind of play.
This is our art section. We have boxes (from the Dollar Store) for stickers, coloring books, and random art supplies. The crayons and markers are out on the art table and the chalk/magnets for the chalkboard are out in the baskets hanging on the wall. Emmie uses these items often, so it makes sense to have them out and accessible.
When we moved into this house, I make this chalkboard out of an auto oil drip pan and homemade chalk paint (just one cup of black paint to 2 tbsp of unsanded grout, available at home improvement stores). We love it because it was super cheap, easy to clean (I just use a Magic Eraser every few weeks) and it's magnetic!
These baskets came from the Dollar Store...we use them to organize chalk and magnets for the chalkboard (we have this letter and number set and absolutely love them...so cute and inexpensive!). They're also easy to take off the wall if needed. Because we're renting this home, I use Command Hooks a lot. I will probably use something a little more permanent in our next home, but I hate to put a ton of holes in a home that we aren't going to be in for a long time. These are the Command Hooks I used to hang the baskets...they work perfectly because they allow us to take baskets off the wall and re-hang if needed!
This calendar is one of the few things I saved when I retired from teaching. I used this every single day as a teacher, and now Emmie loves updating it!
Emmie actually requested this little book corner. We have her Anywhere Chair set up right next to her bookshelf...she will sit here and read for the longest time.
Just off the kitchen, we have her dollhouse and dolls. One of the drawers in the storage bin is dedicated to dolls that she can easily access (and clean up) when she's playing with her dollhouse.
And this is affectionally called her "Home Living Section"...that's what they call it at her school, and it just kind of stuck at home too. We have her kitchen, baby accessories, and cleaning toys here.
5. Containers, containers, containers! Having storage containers is absolutely crucial for our playroom! I like to have everything in some kind of container (remember #1 above?), but some of the bigger toys are still out. If it's so big that it doesn't make sense to put it in a container, or if we use it often enough that containers don't make sense, it gets to stay out in the playroom.
Ive had the white drawer storage on the left since college...it's held many different things over the years. One of the best investments ever! The clear storage next to it is fairly new. We like to keep things in there that Emmie plays with a lot and she can easily find. The multi-colored basket storage has been with us since Emmie was very small and is probably my favorite storage item in the playroom! It's so easy to put the little trinkets that are used a lot in these baskets.
In that multi-colored storage, I try to separate different kinds of items. There's a section for dress-up, one for "planes, trains, & automobiles," one for blocks & balls, one for figurines, etc...you get the idea. It makes finding different items so much easier.
And don't underestimate the power of storage bins from The Dollar Tree! I use lots of the shoebox-sized ones to organize art supplies, coloring books, and stickers.
6. Set aside 10 minutes of every single day to tidy up. Before Emmie goes to bed each night, she has to spend a few minutes tidying up in her playroom; no exceptions. We've found that by tackling the mess each day, it kind of stays in check (and we don't have to have marathon cleaning sessions in the playroom anymore).
7. When in doubt, label. I am a huge fan of labeling bins in the playroom! It kind of gives you a focus when you're trying to clean the room, and they are super helpful once your child can start reading (that way, you don't hear "where does this go?" a billion times during cleaning sessions).
I made these labels to go on a few bins in the room. They're simply print-outs that go in clear adhesive business card holders. That way, we can change out the label if needed without having to remove the adhesive.
Here are the printables I used! Click here and here to download your copy.
8. Don't pile; display.
Especially for art projects, I have a tendency to pile and forget about it. Not good. If Emmie's putting the effort into making it, I want her to know I appreciate it. Plus, those piles make an absolute mess around the house!
This art display is one of the newest additions to the playroom. It's simply picture hanging wire wrapped around a couple of nails that are secured into the wall. I use binder clips to hang the artwork and change it out every once in awhile. Emmie is so proud to have her artwork displayed and I'm very glad to not have piles around the playroom anymore! :)
9. Rotate. If your child has more toys than he/she can use, rotate them out! I have lots of toys packed away and, periodically, I'll rotate toys out of storage for Emmie to use. This is a win/win...your child will feel like they're getting something new and you don't have to keep lots of toys out at any given time.
10. Make it fun! More than anything, I want this to be a fun room for Jackson and Emmie. By setting it up into sections and making all of their toys easily accessible, I think it allows for more play and more fun! I like to have it as a space where they can independently learn and entertain themselves when needed, and the current set-up is perfect for that.
I can't tell you how much happier this space makes all of us now. Before, it seemed like it was just a storage place for toys. Emmie would often just grab a few toys to bring into the living room. Now, we actually play in the playroom! After putting a little effort into organizing the place, we all truly love spending time in here.