Living in a high-rise apartment building without a garage, I know a thing or two about keeping things organized in a small space with a family.
Since we were going to lose our attached garage with our move earlier this year, I spent two or so months prior going through every aspect of our life and throwing out, donating, and selling a whole lot of stuff that just had no use for the time being.
It was a lot of work, but I’m so happy I did it. And the move has done wonders for us — so much more light! And barely any carpet, yesss! And my kitchen is huge and gorgeous! And there’s a cool city view! And I have a walk-in closet?! I’m in love, if you can’t already tell.
Of course a single family home would be amazing one day, but this is where we’re at for now and I make the most of it.
I love that our home doesn’t feel like a kid took over entirely. You can definitely tell there’s a baby around, but adults live here too, you know.
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These are my tips for organizing your toddler’s toys in a small space without losing (too much) of your sanity:
1. Enclosed Bins & Boxes
Make use of storage solutions that keep all those bright colors out of sight and out of mind for a more peaceful home. I really, really prefer enclosed containers. Open baskets can be cute too, but the contents would have to be pretty and “on brand” with your decorating theme, in my opinion.
Vienna’s main toy storage is the IKEA Kallax (formerly Expedit) shelving unit, the one thing from IKEA that I’ve kept over the years. It’s served many a purpose in both of our apartments, from dining room/entryway dècor to baby storage.
I also bought four seagrass baskets to put into the shelving unit. Every few days or so I rotate out which basket sits in the living room for Vienna to play with, so she isn’t too bored with the same toys.
2. Vertical Space
Think about how you can use wall space to store or display your child’s things in a chic way. Vacuuming around a bunch of stuff on the floor sucks, let me tell ya.
One of my favorite vertical storage solutions is a wall ledge shelf for books. Only the prettiest books make it on there of course, since this becomes a part of your dècor. But it always looks so darn good! I keep meaning to do it for Vienna.
There’s also this tree book shelf that I really want one day, but I don’t have the wall to do it right now. Isn’t it adorable?
3. Underbed Storage
This one pains me, because I really believe in keeping things clear and breezy underneath furniture. Something about not having anything under a bed just feels right to me.
Confession time: I’ve started keeping a few of Vienna’s things under our bed over the last few months. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. However, this leads me to the next point (on my to-do list)…
4. Regular Purging
Kids grow up and regularly change their skill sets and interests. It’s a wonderful thing, of course! They inevitably outgrow their toys and books, though, in the process. I recommend looking through all their belongings ever 3-4 months.
Store some of the nicest and most valuable keepsakes for future babies, if you have a spot for it. Give stuff away to your mama friends! Donate the rest, or sell things in bundles on a mom-to-mom Facebook group. Consignment shops and apps for selling locally are other great ways to purge toys. Garage sales suck, in my opinion, but you do you, boo.
Amidst all the purging, think of every new purchase from the perspective of where it will be stored within your small space. That helps me stop quite a few unnecessary purchases, and only the best/most needed/most wanted things make it into the house.
5. Grandma’s House
If you’re lucky to have a grandma (or two) living nearby, send some of the toys her way. Kids seem to find new joy in old toys if they haven’t seen them in a while.
I secretly send toys to my mom’s house that I don’t like aesthetically but can’t bear to throw away (sentimental gifts that just aren’t my style, etc.). Keeps me a little more sane and her house a little more fun for her grandchild(ren).
6. Library Card
I put toys and books in the same category — something physical that teaches and/or entertains our one-and-a-half year old.
So when we moved into this new apartment and got somewhat settled, I signed up for a library card at my city library. Not for me, of course; I don’t remember the last time I read a book (years… so bad). But for Vienna, my library card has been amazing. I love that I can borrow books for her, and she can be excited about something new to look at and maybe even share a few germs from the last people that checked them out (hahaha, it’s all a part of growing up, isn’t it?). Then in about two weeks’ time we give them back and come home with a new set. Greatest invention ever.
Now if only there was a library for toys! Like, clean ones!
This entire topic involves a pretty high level of ingenuity and resourcefulness. This can be my “miscellaneous” bullet point.
As an honorable mention, Vienna’s tepee in the living room sometimes serves as spillover storage for her toys and books. I love that you can’t really see what’s inside with the “doors” closed.
I keep a couple of things in my car and stroller for her too.
Sometimes I have her play with non-toys. Honestly, her cup and plate drawer in the kitchen, my closet, the TV stand contents, and my bathroom cabinets (not happy about it) are some of her favorite daily pastimes.
Trying to do something fun outside is also in a way tied in with toys. If you consider playgrounds and parks and the world in general as your child’s oyster, you don’t really need an entire play room in your house. I think we’re pretty lucky to live in Southern California, though, where the weather is great for outdoor play most days of the year, and I take full advantage of it.
So that’s the long and short of how I organize my toddler’s toys and books in a small space. Share how you do it too! I’m always open for improvement, and we can all benefit from new ideas.
If you’re into this kind of article, also check out 10 Tips for a Cleaner Home.