Nesting is a real thing. While I was expecting my third child, I realized I needed to get more organized at home. However, I wasn’t nesting in all the ways you may think.  I didn’t sort through my daughter’s clothes and wash it all. I didn’t prep the nursery or dust off the baby toys. I knew that with three kids, what I needed most was to get a grip of the toy situation. The situation was that I had toys in every room of the house. Upstairs, downstairs, on the actual stairs. In the playroom (which was in fact the 4th bedroom that we now needed for baby). In the kitchen. In the living room. Even in the car.

We decided to finish the basement of our home and dedicate that space to ALL of these toys and to have a place for my kids to play productively. Once the project was complete, I was excited but also extremely overwhelmed with where to even start and how to actually organize the space.

So, I hired Lisa Dooley. Lisa, of Your Organized Life, is a local organizing coach. More importantly, she is a mom, who raised two boys and just gets it.

Hear a little bit about our project and process:

Lisa:  I was really excited when Dani asked me to work on this project.  Starting with new space and creating adaptive systems for her new playroom isn’t something I get to do all the time so it was fun watching it all come together.  We started by purging toys from the former play space so we knew everything coming in would need a “home”.

There was a lot of purging to do. I had more stuffed animals for my kids than I could count. None of which they played with. I also had so many incomplete toys, games, sets. Lisa was great in helping evaluate what was worth keeping and what I needed to let go of. She also was super helpful in sharing ideas of how to actually store toys so that my kids could freely play and easily tidy up. Here is how we started:

Lisa:  In any organizing project, it helps to be flexible and think creatively.  We moved storage and furniture around the new space until it worked best.  We reused as much of the existing storage as we could – organizing doesn’t have to be purchasing a lot of new storage. Again, be flexible and “shop at home” first.

A common challenge in organizing is not having the “right” storage.  I had a variety of bins and baskets but ultimately needed even more, and some plastic bins (thanks, Target)  as well.  Storage can be an extra large bin or basket for balls and dolls & stuffed animals or a plastic bin for crayons.

{Tip from Lisa: Be sure the container is large enough to hold the item and your little ones can access it.  Too small bins overflowing with toys not only looks cluttered but will make it harder for your child to find and play with her toys.  Think accessibility and clean up – not cutesy Pinterest suggestions… I like plastic bins with covers because they hold all the pieces together and they are stackable, doubling and tripling the storage space}

I also have a new love for label makers. For the little ones, you can always add an image / icon. Lisa reminded me that kids needs organized space for it to be functional, so we created “corners” and made each inch of the playroom purposeful.

Lisa:  In setting up the playroom, we used “the kindergarten” method to set up the space.  We created floor play space by using a play mat, puzzle and game space, arts & craft table, and kitchen area.  We stored the toys as close to where they will be used as possible, i.e. putting the paints and pencils next to the easel and the coloring books next to the table.  Not only will it be easier to find and use the toys, it makes putting away and cleaning up easier.

My kids now spend hours in the playroom. With or without me. They know where to find everything and my daughter knows where to put it away. Of course, there are times when it gets messy. Playdates, busy weeks, etc.

Lisa:  Resign yourself to the fact that there will be things on the floor!  That is the nature of having little ones….we planned for wall space to organize large bins and baskets and standing room for large toys.

I’ve paid close attention to what the kids play with and also try to rotate the toys out if I notice they aren’t being used. There is also a shelf (out of reach) that is full of toys (mostly art) that is to be done only with a grown up. We are slowly all learning what works and what they actually play with.

Lisa:  Rome was not built in a day and the playroom was not organized in a day either!  Dani will tweak her systems as the kids get older and toys change from stuffed animals to more electronics.  Enjoy the journey!

HUGE Thanks to Lisa. Not only was she super helpful, insightful and patient, she was also amazing with my kids (who managed to interrupt our organizing sessions and play with the toys while we organized). She managed to turn it into a way for them to help and be involved in the planning of the space. The toys in our house have a home and our kids play independently and productively. Exactly what I needed as I tackled this next phase of our life. Life with three.

Overwhelmed with toys? closets? office? kitchen pantry? mudroom? anything?

Call her. Thank me later! Check out Lisa’s website for more information.

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