A playroom makeover before and after: This isn’t that story. No, this is about what happens after the after, once the professional organizer you’ve hired has swooped in, come to your rescue, and departed. How does a made-over playroom stand up in the months and years that follow? I’m here to tell.
Two years ago, I caved and hired a professional organizer for our playroom. It was your basic disaster area—toys all over the place, a kajillion Polly Pockets pieces floating around and no good place to put it all. My basic organizing principal consisted of shutting the door so I couldn’t see the mess. The organizer, who’d come recommended by friends, was having a special: Two hours for $75. I wanted her. Bad.
When she arrived at our appointed time, we sat down and discussed what my goals were. I had but one: For our playroom to look neater, and stay that way. I’d been hoping she’d let me sit in the kitchen and drink coffee while she figured out everything, but that fantasy was shattered when she handed me a garbage bag and told me to start tossing stuff that was broken. She set out another large trash bag for items that could be given away. She brought in some bins she’d purchased. Then together, we started sorting.
Two hours later, my playroom looked like it had stepped out of the pages of Real Simple. I wanted to adopt the organizer, but she was a fortysomething mom of two so that wasn’t going to work out.
So, how has our playroom stood the test of time (and my kids)? While it’s never returned to its previous disaster state, some clutter has crept back in. That’s partly my fault, because I didn’t follow up on some of the organizer’s advice, and also because my kids’ resistance to picking up toys did not get a makeover.
Here, the organizing tips that have held up, and one thing I really should have done sooner:
• Rotate the toys. Store about 60 to 70 percent of them in a closet or basement. Every few months, bring out some new ones and sock away old ones. This is totally do-able, and my kids genuinely get psyched when I bring out the new toys.
• Keep similar stuff in clear plastic bins. A no-brainer! The Polly Pockets stuff all went into one bin; beading craft stuff, into another. And it’s mostly stayed there.
• Enlist the kids to make donations. Before the holidays, my kids go through toys and give away gently used ones in good condition to kids in need. Less clutter? Check! Teaching children to do good? Check!
• Have one dumping zone, if you must. The bottom of our storage unit (Home Depot has a similar stackable cubby cabinet) is a toy car free-for-all; there’s a bin for the little ones, and the larger ones are piled up on the left. Storage couldn’t be easier: toss!
• Help stuffed animals find caring new homes. My kids were never into stuffed animals and yet, we managed to amass a massive plush, stuffed menagerie. As cute as they were, those animals were space hogs. We installed a shelf in my daughter’s room for a few, and gave away the rest. If you have a child who loves stuffed animals, consider tacking up netting in a corner of a room to make a “hammock” to hold them.
• Do a little maintenance every week. I’m not always good on following this one, but a glass of wine first sure does help! Sometimes, I’ll challenge the kid to a contest to see who can neaten up fastest.
• Make it easy for kids to DIY (Declutter It Yourself). And this is the part where I slacked off. The organizer had suggested I get fabric boxes for our storage cubbies. Didn’t do it. See?
My last straw was when my daughter tried to get a game off the top shelf and almost got clobbered by an avalanche. So I hit Home Depot, my Home away from home, and snagged some Martha Stewart Fabric Drawers, along with a couple of clear latched boxes. Cheap! Easy! Voila!
The kids have been pretty good about keeping stuff in the boxes. Some clutter still creeps into the room, and I’m fine with that. Because the only way to have a space that perpetually looks like it belongs in Real Simple would be to donate my children to the Salvation Army—and they’re definitely worth the mess.
Photo source: Flickr/ThrasherDave