Smart and Simple Space Savers

Whether you're expecting a baby or you already have a child, chances are that you're feeling crunched for space. It should come as no surprise that major life changes are often followed by de-cluttering campaigns, says space organizer Colleen Warmingham, owner of Space Inventors. Putting in some time and investing in a few key products can help you cut the chaos.

Toys

The biggest issue for many parents, no matter what their child's age, is what to do with all the toys. Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet (clutterdiet.com), helps parents "lose clutter, gain time, and reduce stress." Here's what she recommends.

  • Organize toys by category in small bins. "When children can't find what they want, they tend to dump things out, making a big mess. So avoid a big toy box that jumbles everything together," Marrero says.
  • Label bins for toys with a picture and a word. When toddlers see the picture of a toy car along with the word car, the connection will help their reading skills.
  • Put toys at the kids' level. "I've learned a lot from the way Montessori schools set up their classrooms," Marrero says. "The materials are placed in baskets, bins, and trays on open shelving. That way, it's easy for kids to help themselves to things and then put them away."
  • Periodically go through your children's toys. Separate out what they no longer play with, and give these items to less fortunate children. A good time to do this is before holidays and birthdays, when you can tell your kids they'll be getting new things. The practice helps them develop a habit of giving, and at the same time de-clutters your home.
  • Rotate toys. When it comes to playthings, less is more. Put away some toys where your child can't see them. If space is limited, she'll be more aware of what she has, and she won't be overwhelmed with too many choices. And when those toys seem like old news, you can refresh her collection with some new selections!
  • In your living room, put your feet up on a hinged ottoman with toys stored inside. You can find storage ottomans at stores such as Target and Wal-Mart.
  • Think outside the box. Stephanie Wagle, of Brooklyn, New York, mother of 2-1/2-year-old Jack, says that at first, she stored Jack's toys in the deep drawers of their coffee table for easy access. "When his collection grew, we bought some canvas bins and stowed them under a chair in the living room -- a total clutter disaster," she continues. "When his collection grew even more, I decided to convert the casual buffet in our living room that had been used to store our wedding china into a toy storage unit. It's working!" The buffet has shelves for things like puzzles and coloring books and deep drawers for stuffed animals and Jack's toy bus. Where's the china? "In the basement," Wagle says. "We never used it, so that's not a problem."

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