Keeping the toy chaos at bay

I dreaded the toy situation before I ever became a mama. I knew from years of nannying that toys could easily (and often!) get out of control, taking up living rooms, playrooms, bedrooms and basements. We don't have a playroom, or a basement, and it's important to me to have a home that reflects my personal style and feels like mine, instead of a daycare center. How on earth was I going to achieve this?!

I will say, it hasn't been easy. It takes near-constant and mindful editing of our toys, hard conversations with well-meaning friends and family members and being super intentional about the toys we add to our collection.

But, it's totally worth it. Our toy situation is, in my eyes, pretty minimal. Xavier plays with ALL of his toys. They are toys that allow open-ended play, space for his imagination to run wild. Hardly any of them beep or flash or make incessant noise. Very few of them require batteries. Most of them are pretty to look at. I'm actually pretty proud of our toy situation, and wanted to share it with you since I know so many mamas are overwhelmed with toys!

Xavier and Zelie share a bedroom, and it's right off the living room. The vast majority of their toys are stored in their room. I know that totally wouldn't work for some kids, but it's working well for us, right now. Xavier is still in a crib, so it's not like he can get up and play with all his toys when he should be napping or sleeping. We spend the bulk of our day playing in their room and the living room, so it's a perfect set-up. Here's the main toy storage area in their room (with an empty gallery wall above because I haven't gotten around to filling it since moving their room around!)

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The storage units are from Target, super similar to the KALLAX unit from IKEA. I get asked all the time about the differently sized shelves - those are just shelf inserts that Target sells separately. I originally didn't get them, but quickly realized that it would make the unit way more functional to have a few smaller-sized shelves.

All the baskets and bins are collected from various places...thrifted, IKEA, Target, At Home. I really love the eclectic look of mismatched but coordinating, but you could totally make it super uniform and get all matching bins/baskets, too!

Also, is the fact that garbage truck is backwards bothering anyone else?! I obviously took these on the fly when everything was miraculously in its place without bothering to "style." Real life, folks.

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We also have a few toys in our living room, mostly bigger items that don't fit in the kids' room and also books. Our dresser/shelf unit holds a big basket of legos, a big basket of puzzles, and a few toys for Zelie.

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We have a big basket of board books, a basket for all our library books, and the bottom shelf of one of the cabinets holds all of our picture books. Xavier loves to "be cozy" on the couch to read, so having all the books easily accessible in the living room works great.

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WHAT TOYS TO BUY/KEEP?

Like I mentioned, I love open-ended toys that encourage imaginative play. We have a Montessori-esque approach to toys as far as that goes. Xavier has a LOT of trucks/cars/construction machines, because that's what he's into and he plays with them for hours (in 10-minute blocks of time, of course!) I love all the ones from Melissa + Doug, and the Green Toys brand have held up really well, too. We have a wooden train set. Lots of instruments - I am all for encouraging music and we have a dance party with instruments pretty much daily. Legos, wooden blocks, toy animals. We also have a few vintage items from Matt's childhood, like that Fisher Price record player and an original Disney Poppin Pals (which Zelie is OBSESSED with!) A wooden tool set, some cardboard stacking blocks. Of course, we have some things I wouldn't normally choose or keep, but that Xavier loves, like a police car that lights up and makes noise, a super annoying racecar my aunt got him, an electronic drill, and a few other random items. I'm learning that I don't need to control every last thing and that the season of loud + annoying toys is a short one, all things considered.

We do have a few items that stay in the closet unless we're using them, like Xavier's balance bike, a walker wagon, and a cool ramp race that I found secondhand. I also have a couple sensory bins, and an "activity box" full of random things like solo cups (great for making "castles!), pipe cleaners (for "fences" for his animals!), paper towel tubes for rolling balls through, etc. And we have the usual art supplies, stickers, a bin of play-doh, yada yada.

HOW TO MAINTAIN TOY MINIMALISM

I'm committed to only keeping things that fit within my current system. If a basket is overflowing, we don't need to add anything else. Xavier needs no more trucks or cars or anything like that. We also don't buy toys on a whim. So far, the kids have gotten new toys for Christmas and their birthdays. Instead of Easter baskets, they're getting a beautiful wooden rainbow (so perfect for Easter, right?) and a gorgeous wooden barn (springtime and all that jazz). And then they won't get anything new until birthdays or Christmas.

I will admit, sometimes I second guess my quest for minimalism, especially when it comes to my kids. Am I depriving them? Are they missing out? But when I really sit back and watch how Xavier's imagination runs wild, how he's able to turn anything into something for play, how long he will play independently, I know that it's totally worth it. Kids are great at playing - so often we just need to get our ideas and our clutter out of their way!

P.S. if you're curious about minimalism + kids, you might also like this post about keeping kids clothes minimal.

 

THE SKINNY ON KIDS' CLOTHES

I get asked a lot about kid clothes. How many clothes do our kids have? How do I store outgrown or out-of-season things? How do I organize their dressers? How much is too much (or too little?) Listen, I am NOT an expert on kids' clothes, minimalism or organization (or anything, for that matter!) But I DO think we keep things pretty simple when it comes to our kids' wardrobes, and I thought I'd just go ahead and write a post about it to refer people back to :)

Our house is, by the average American standard, small. We have two bedrooms and one teeny bathroom. Just two (very small) closets in the whole house. I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating our storage systems to make sure we're being as efficient as possible. When it comes to kid clothes, we've gotten it down to a pretty good system. We try to do one load of laundry every day - wash, fold, put away - to stay on top of it. This allows us to keep the amount of clothing to a minimum.

Each kid has one dresser for all of their stuff. For Xavier, that includes diapers and wipes, miscellaneous things, and all the crib sheets (we have four sheets and four mattress pads since we have two cribs - the sheets are the same for both kids so it's easy to swap them out!) Zelie's dresser also includes her diapers and wipes, blankets, swaddles and sleep sacks and basically everything that belongs to her. In fact, each kid has just one drawer that holds most of their clothes! I HIGHLY recommend drawer organizers for keeping things neat and tidy. I love the SKUBB boxes from IKEA, and expandable drawer dividers like these. Cardboard boxes will also do in a pinch (and you'll see some in these photos!)

Here's what Xavier's drawer looks like (his pajamas and socks live in a second drawer below). On the left, short sleeve and long sleeve tees. On the right, all his pants (sweatpants, jeans, dress pants).

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And here are Zelie's two drawers. I added notes so you can see how I organize everything.

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Xavier also has a few things hanging in his closet - a nice sweater and collared shirt, his football jersey and warmer jackets. They each have a few coats/warm layers hanging on a peg rack in Xavier's room, and Xavier's shoes and hats/gloves/outside gear lives in a separate spot (along with the rest of our hats/gloves/warm gear).

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The key is keeping the amount of clothing to as few things as possible. Xavier has about 12 shirts (a mix of short and long sleeve) and 10 or so pairs of pants. He also has four pair of pajamas, a handful of socks, house slippers, tennis shoes, rain boots and winter boots. I do need to get him a nice pair of dress shoes, but the times I need him to wear anything nicer than tennis shoes are few and far between. He has a winter coat and a couple of sweatshirts/fleece for playing outside.

Zelie has around 20 onesies (a mix of short and long sleeve and sleeveless) and 12 pair of pants. She also has a couple of t-shirts, a couple dresses/rompers, and 6-8 zipper jammies. She also has a warm "wookie suit" for walks and going outside, and a couple of sweaters/jackets for layering.

As much as I'm tempted by all the cute baby and toddler clothes, I'm doing my best to keep it super simple. I love little boys dressed like tiny little men in skinny jeans and cardigans, and swoon over all the sweet baby bloomers, bonnets and adorable baby dresses, but that's just not realistic for our budget OR our life. I don't have time to think that much about my own outfits, much less my kids'.

I use the capsule wardrobe mentality for the kids just like I do for myself. You'll notice that all of Xavier's stuff sticks to a pretty generic color palette. It's super easy to mix and match tops and bottoms. I plan to keep up this system so that as he gets older, it's really easy for him to pick out his own outfits.

Zelie's wardrobe is similar - lots of solid onesies and solid or cute floral pants. To be honest, she hangs out in zipper jammies most days, because it's super easy for diaper changes and I don't have to change her clothes before she naps. I stick a bow on her head and that makes it feel like more of an outfit. I don't keep any sleepers that snap all the way up, because I hate snaps. And I also don't buy or keep anything that requires ironing or steaming after washing. I bought an ADORABLE Janie + Jack romper for Zelie at a consignment shop - it had this big white bow on the front and was so cute. But one laundry cycle later, I realized the bow would need to be ironed to look presentable, and that's an automatic no-go. Into the donation bin it went. Ease and convenience is the name of the game here, people!

I have to constantly remind myself that I'm not trying to win any style awards when it comes to my kids, and that a happy and sane mama is much better than picture-perfect outfits.

For storing clothes, I throw everything in clear, labeled bins and store them in our attic. I put several sizes in each bin - like newborn - 6 mo in one, 6-9 mo through 18mo in another, etc. I separate boy, girl and gender neutral things, that way I don't have to dig through EVERYthing to find the right stuff for the next babe. And I don't mess around with sorting out seasonal stuff. If a bathing suit is 6 mo size, it goes in the 6 mo bin. If my next baby is in 6 mo clothes in the middle of winter, so be it. The bathing suit goes back in the attic. There IS such a thing as over-organizing, and ain't nobody got time for that. But a good thing to mention here is to buy baby clothes that can easily be used for all seasons. Zelie wears a sleeveless onesie under thinner sleepers for an extra layer. Onesies + pants can easily be layered up to be warmer, or babies can go pants-less to be cool in the summer. I generally stay away from super seasonal pieces, because we hope to have a few more kids and I want to get the MOST bang for my buck and have the clothes be able to be used again and again, regardless of what season baby is born in.

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And in general, I don't "stock up" on clothes during end-of-season sales. I think if your kids are older, this is easier, but babies grow so fast (and so irregularly, thanks to growth spurts) that it's hard to tell if a 12mo coat or an 18mo coat will fit them the following winter. In general, we just buy when the kids need things, buy secondhand as much as possible, and then try our best with our budget to buy ethically from there. Colored Organics, Primary.com, Tea Collection and Wildy Co. are great ethical options!

So tell me, do you have any more kid clothes hacks? Any favorite ways to store them or tips for keeping things simple and streamlined? I'd love to hear, and hope this was helpful for any of you mamas buried under kid clothes. This time of year is perfect for simplifying and paring down - cheering you on as we all try to live simpler, more joyful lives! XO!