Tackle The Toys: Investing In storage + Planning strategically

In my “Tackle The Crap” series, I have set out on a mission to simplify my home, and make commonly used areas more functional and beautiful. To catch up, read here (where it started), and here (Tackle The Paperwork: My Kitchen Command Center). 

Do you ever feel like toys are creeping up in your life and destroying everything you were ever made of? Like they are truly out to get you, ruin your day, and make you feel like you suck at life. When we were kids, toys were great. But then, we became adults, and the toys are mad at us for becoming older, so they set out on a mission to ruin our lives. Or something. Psycho conspiracy theory? Sorry guys. I have toy issues because I’m pretty sure I played with stuffed animals like way longer than the average child. I was way too old when I found out they weren’t real, and even then, I was in denial. Let’s move along.

There are so many days that I sit on my couch and stare at all the toys. How did they get there? Why does Ari need them ALL out at ALL times? Why do I have baby toys even available for him, when he is not even baby? How does our silverware make it’s way into his toy bins, and why won’t I pick it up and put it back in the silverware drawer? Why does he need fifty cars and not just five?

Then my mind goes elsewhere..like..why do I not clean up yogurt stains off my sofa? When will things be clean again?  Can I burn some of these toys? Can I have a million dollars? Whose making dinner?

But I guess I’ll save those last few questions for another day..



bar half wall

This wall above was an unused opportunity that I turned into the ultimate toy storage wall,  while also adding a few small aesthetic changes to brighten the mood. It took some obsessive thinking, and some strategic planning. But one day it just clicked, and I knew I needed to use this space for opportune toy storage.


full view vertical

No matter how big or small your home is, it’s always important to be mindful of “missed opportunities”, and making goals to maximize your existing space. It’s a puzzle, waiting to be solved. Remember, unless your trying to sell your home soon, you should be designing and planning for the needs of your family, and no one else. If that means storing diapers and breast pumps in a basket under the coffee table, then do it. If it means replacing an amazing entry table with a dresser to add additional storage, then you have to do it. If it means installing a cat playground on the ceiling, go for it. Whatever works for you, is what you need to be considering.

For me, the original wall had some strange bothersome design elements going on. The tan paint color was not my cup of tea and made my mood feel blah. The bar hanging off of the wall made for a weird unfinished look when we never added bar stools. The Tetris shaped cut out peeking into our kitchen bothered me on the daily. I truly wish the entire upper half wall was removed, and not just that weird cut out. Then, on the right side of the weird cut out, was unused yet valuable wall space, which made me feel unbalanced and incomplete. Lastly, the wall itself was a very unusual size, meaning nothing I could have bought in a store would have fit exactly on that wall. And I like things to fit exactly. Again, like a puzzle.

side view

I invested in a custom built storage unit + containers for inside the cabinet doors, and I am so glad that I did. I was able to customize the look, size, and details to meet the needs of our home and specific toy sizes. I actually rarely invest in toys or clothes for Ari, I just kind of buy a bunch of used clothes, and let him play with toys he’s received as gifts. With the exception of Louisville Football gear, because I do tend to buy that new. Whatever though, my baby needs to look fresh on game day.  Anyways, this is the first big “Ari” investment I’ve made. (Aside from that huge hospital giving birth bill..)

Yard sales and consignments are my motto the majority of the time. So in summary, I feel no guilt for investing in a custom unit, and it has only made my daily life easier.

john deer truck detail cubby

In the past, our toys were stored in big baskets, which were great for a very long time. I will still use the “big basket” approach for some of his toys , like the stuffed animals, and big blankets. The problem with the “big basket” approach, is that eventually it just turns to chaos. It’s like, every single day the entire baskets are dumped on the floor, just so Ari can find some tiny little man to sit on his tractor. Ridiculous. When planning the look of the storage unit, I made sure to consider the width and depth of some of his major toys. I know that over the years these toys will change, but the space that’s left will generally allow most toys to fit.

right side detail

I combined open shelving, with closed storage bins. A few people have asked a very legitimate question. “Why would a toy storage unit suddenly make the mess and chaos disappear?” I hear you. But here’s how:

  1. I’m creating a “home” for each and every toy. Ari, Mike, and myself are aware of where all toys should be stored each day. No longer are toys just tossed into a basket uncategorized, giving free range to dump out all the baskets in order to find some small little car, or a piece of toy bread, or whatever.
  1. Plastic bins and closed cabinets provide new methods of playing with toys. Originally when planning this storage unit, I had the idea that Ari wouldn’t be allowed to meander through closed doors on the storage unit, only the outside areas. This idea didn’t work as well as I thought. He DOES open the doors and he DOES apparently know how to snap open the containers. BUT, he also is learning exactly where toys go. Clean up is a breeze these days, and he actually get’s excited to categorize his toys at the end of the night.
  1. Toys that were once an eye sore, are now suddenly an accepted element of the living room design. This always helps with the desire to keep things tidy ( I promise), and it helps bridge the needs of all family members.

left side detail

I love that we decided to include a diaper container as part of the open storage. Our home has two floors, and Ari’s changing area happens to be in his room on the second floor. There is no way ever that I would carry him up and down the stairs each time he needs a diaper change. He’s lucky I change him at all. Oh my gosh, kidding. But really, I need things to be extra convenient, which means diapers need to be in the same room I hang out in.

diaper box

I labeled all storage bins located inside the cabinets. Labels are great. I came up with lots of toy categories, and bought bins according to the amount of categories, plus some extras. “Alphabet”, “Sandbox”, “Animals & People”, “Leggo’s”, “Blocks”, “Food#1”, “Food #2”, “Baby Toys” (I decided to keep some baby toys, since baby is on the way), “Small Cars”, “Crayons”, and “Doll House”. I’m sure these will evolve over time. Like, crayons. Some people don’t know that crayons are for paper, and not walls. We are all learning along the way.

inside grid shot

side inside detail

small cars detail

toys laid out categories

styling detail cropped

The top of the shelf is so pleasing. I love the addition of Ari’s artwork, and that fresh foliage. Plants make everything feel clean and fresh. It has been my goal to incorporate them more. In fact, if you missed my blog post on all my living room life goals, you can read it here.

detail 2

I work pretty slowly these days. I try to tackle small things as I can. Budget and time are the biggest factors when working on a project. The rest of my living room is far from looking this complete. Like, not all walls are even painted. Ah. It’s the truth. I’m slowly painting small sections at a time. Slow is better than not at all right? Ideally I would have all walls painted by Halloween. So, that means thanksgiving.

Storage Unit Full View Horiztonal



Storage Unit : Custom built by David Sullivan (email me for his contact info), dimensions/layout designed by me.   |   Storage Unit Paint Color: “Spring Valley” by Behr (Semi Gloss)   |   Wall Color: “Drifting Snow” by Behr (Satin Finish)   |   Square Containers: Sterilite Brand (intended for storing CD’s), $3.50 each at Walmart.   |   Thin Containers: Sterilite Brand, $2.50 each at Target.  |  Cabinet Knobs: Anthropologie   |   Big baskets with chalkboard label: Target  |  Artwork : Ari Dahl (read here)   |  Plant: Peperomia Scandens From Home Depot (Medium Light Needed)


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