Thursday, July 23, 2015

23 UHeart Organizing: Playing With Toy Storage

When it comes to organizing, playrooms are like the Disney Land of the home.  And I am not talking about just for the kids.  They are about the most fun and magical spaces to work on, it really doesn't even feel like a chore!  Fun graphic labels, playful colors and a variety of storage solutions, always equates to a fun task ahead.  Megan, of The Homes I Have Made, recently moved with her family into a new home.  The first area she tackled was her playroom because not only is it a fun space to create and use, it was also helpful to give the kids a comfortable place to enjoy during their new transition.

Today, she is sharing with us a glimpse into her new play area, including all of the specific details behind the solutions she selected for the variety of toys and crafts she stores within the space.  And if you are a fellow renter, I highly recommend following her journey to making her new house a home over the next year.  She is already on a roll creating a beautiful selection of renter-friendly projects, big and small.

Happy Summer, iHeart Readers! My family and I have been spending the summer packing, traveling and moving into our “new” house in Kansas! We’ve been busy settling in and organizing each space, and I am so excited to be dropping by today to show you the very first glimpse of our new playroom and the various ways we organize all things toy!

The playroom was one of the very first spaces we set up as the moving boxes came off the truck. Not only is organizing toys one of my more favorite tasks (truly!), but it really helped to get our 4 year old’s play zone up and running so he could stay busy while we focused on the rest of the house. This is our very first time having a dedicated and separate playroom in our home, and what a treat it is. We had lots of good storage systems in place in our last home, and I loved building off of them for our new space.

These last few weeks, I’ve been busy purging, sorting, and consolidating ALL of our toys into this single space and finding just the right way to store and contain each and every one, from the itty bitty to the large and loud! My goal is to employ systems that are fun, simple to access, easy for both me and my child to maintain, and space savvy. While I like a picked-up space, it’s important that my child can see what all we have so that it will actually get pulled out and played with. Finding solutions that meet all of these criteria is the fun part of organizing a play space for me!

The star of our toy storage solution is the all-mighty IKEA Kallax (the new version of the beloved Expedit). We have used these sturdy, cube shelves to organize a variety of things around the house, but I find they really are ideal for toys. The cubbies are large enough to hold a majority of big, clunky toys; the toys that don’t fit can be placed on the top ledge; and the coordinating bins and baskets hold SO much!

Our basement features a wide focal wall, perfect for a long stretch of cubbies to hold all the playtime goodness. Putting them up on feet helps the units look more like furniture and allows for extra storage underneath (for games!) should we need it down the road!

We started using picture-labeled toy bins a while back, and now my 4-year-old is great at cleaning up! He knows just which toys go in which bins at the end of the day, and it really helps to keep control of the toys by giving everything a dedicated home. (And boy do they help when he’s trying to find something. I can simply say “Look in the school bus box!” and he can find exactly what he wants right away!)

I used my e-cutter and simple white contact paper to make the labels and stuck them right to the cloth baskets. They stick wonderfully, but aren’t too hard to peel away when I need to swap them out. Once or twice a year (usually after birthdays and Christmas), I go through all the bins and re-categorize/organize based on what we’ve accumulated, gotten rid of and are/aren’t playing with anymore. Not only do I love the graphic punch of the images on the boxes, but the pictures are ideal for little ones who can’t yet read!

The IKEA bins are a great size, and I am always amazed what can fit in them. Sometimes, however, they can hold too much, and little bits and pieces get lost in their depths. As such, I’m always on the hunt for small toys storage solutions. I recently stumbled upon these handled, metal tins from IKEA, and they are perfect for corralling our Play Dough supplies and play food. The lids fit snug, they are spacious, and have a handy handle, making them ideal for little hands. More vinyl labels help my kiddo know just what’s inside when he’s rummaging through the larger blue bins.

Magnetic letters, card games, puzzle pieces, and flash cards were other items that were constantly floating around the bottoms of the large bins. For a quick and easy solution, I turned to my fabric stash and made a set of these Velcro-topped see-through pouches. The Velcro keeps everything contained inside yet is easy to open, and the clear window allows for quick and easy identification of the contents. I can think of so many great uses for these pouches and am hankering to make some more!

DIY clear puzzle pouches are a similar solution for keeping puzzle pieces with their boards! These made-to-fit, envelope-style holders were a simple sewing project and great scrap-buster. Again, the clear window helps little ones see just what’s inside, and a simple snap closure makes the puzzles easy to get out and put back.

I also discovered that the clear packaging sheets/bedding/duvets come in are the perfect size for holding puzzles! If you’re not able to store your puzzles flat, these are a great solution for upright storage. If you pack them full/tight, the pieces don’t fall out!

I hoarded a ton of these flip-top plastic boxes while living overseas years ago, and they are great for grouping collections of items (below left). A party bucket (intended for drinks) fits the cubbie shelf perfectly and is a great catch-all for our blocks (below right).

I snagged these wooden lidded boxes from the clearance section at Target and discovered they were great for holding Little People, Little People Animals, and all those random and very precious little toys from machines, the dentist office, and Happy Meals!

The boxes are perfectly sized for the shelves and are labeled with simple black contact paper and a chalk marker. This is one of the only things in our playroom not labeled with a picture, but my little guy has pretty much figured out what’s in each one!

Anything can be used for storage if it’s the right shape, holds something just right and fits on your shelving system! A plastic tote corrals racecar track; a simple gift box keeps all of Mr. Potato Head’s parts together; and a metal bread box has become the perfect “garage” for our die-cast cars collection!

Our playroom doubles as our downstairs family room, so adding in furniture that works double duty not only allowed us to save space but also visually reduced toy clutter. I recently transformed an old ugly trunk into a show-stopper by covering it in grasscloth wallpaper. Not only is it perfect as a decorative coffee table, but we discovered the hidden storage was ideal for holding our extensive train and track collection. Since our kiddo prefers to build tracks on the floor now, we were able to get rid of our dedicated train table so the room feels less full and a bit more adult-friendly!

As our son gets older, our playing together has transitioned more into coloring, games, puzzles, and Lego building as a family. As we arranged the furniture in this new house, we realized we had just enough space behind our sectional couch for a small antique table that had been living un-used in our garage. Paired with some stools, we now have an (expandable!) table we can sit at as a family. I love that the table is in view of the television and playroom and is large enough for us all to sit at together. No more crowding around a tiny kid table!

To encourage art time as much as possible, I wanted to keep supplies easily accessible. Using only things I had on hand, I transformed an old wooden toolbox from a thrift store into the quintessential coloring caddie that can sit right on the table!

One of my quickest and easiest tricks for making dividers of any sorts is to use thick form core. If cut snug to your dimensions, the dividers will stand up right and not budge. To make this art caddie, I simply cut down foam core to fit the inside dimensions of the toolbox. I then used Mod Podge to wrap the dividers in leftover wallpaper from the trunk. Once slid into place, we had a quick and easy way to keep our art supplies sorted!

I am loving having all of our Play Doh, art supplies, papers and stickers easily accessible, and a place to sit and craft as a family!

Now that the function of this room is fully sorted out and set, I am hankering to move on with some other (more decorative) elements in this space! I’ve got a lot of fun things planned in here, including a no-paint, renter-friendly wall treatment for that blank space up there above the television. I’d love for you to follow along over at The Homes I Have Made as I update this space and the rest of our house as we live here for just a year! Happy Summer and see you next time!

Hello! I am Megan, an exercise and nutrition professional turned stay-at-home mom and DIY blogger. I am married to a U.S. Marine and currently reside in Eastern North Carolina, my 5th home in 9 years! My focus is renter-friendly, movable décor and organizational projects that are high on style and function yet low on complexity and budget. Armed with creativity, ingenuity, a can-do attitude, and a strong Type A personality, I have become a pro at making each and every temporary living space an organized, functional, and well-styled home for my family! You can get all of my DIY, organizational and crafting ideas on my blog The Homes I Have Made.


  1. Any ideas for Lego storage, completed Legos sets, non-completed sets, figures etc.

    1. Hello! I shared our Lego storage a few years ago here:

      We keep many of their builds displayed on shelves in the playroom... and on the table and floor and media cabinet.... :)

  2. This looks great! I think I struggle most with keeping toys organized. I need a system like this. :)

  3. I LOVE the white vinyl symbols to organize. I will have to incorporate that into my playroom!

    My Bright Blue House

  4. Very cute! I love this idea!

  5. It looks fantastic Megan! So many great organising options - I especially loved the clear puzzle pouches and the storage options for the 'little things'. Those it's drive me nuts! Great work :)
    Jo {}

  6. Beautiful and organized! I just got a new kallax for our basement so this is perfect timing!

  7. It is beautiful in every way! I am amazed at what you can pull together in such a short time!Totally jealous!

  8. I love this!!! I've been wanting to revamp my toy storage think I just found my next project!!! Thank you for sharing!!!!

  9. Perfect! I love the labels, especially Mr Potato head. Really love the organisation, right down to the jigsaws and Ikea fruit. I'll be bearing this in mind when we renovate next year.

  10. I'm wondering if this blogger who made the white picture labels for the bins would be willing to make and sell this and mail it??? If so please contact me at

    I'd love for you to create these for me and I'll pay you. This is out of my range!

  11. Very useful post. And very do-able.

  12. LOVE!!!

    Where the legs for the Kallax also purchased from Ikea?

  13. I think maybe a Kallax is in my future to update our play room a little bit. And I LOVE LOVE the marker/crayon box, that's fantastic.

  14. How did you put it up on feet?

  15. Thanks for sharing this. Are some great ideas on here, especially for corralling of the art supplies, which is the current "bane" of my life!

  16. OMG! You have totally inspired me! I have used a similar cabinet in my daughter's bedroom not sure why I didn't think of it on legs for her corner of the family room - I am seeing a hinge on the top to flip down and be a table she can sit at to build her lego and lego bricks/magformers and princess dolls in the bins.... Eeeeeeeee! Off to Ikea!

  17. Woww... Thanks Megan for the idea. Btw any ideas for big toys like trucks, cars with and without remote, tractor ans excavators, etc? Thanks

  18. I can organize the toys...but keeping the 5yo on board with continuing to put like toys together in their specific storage space is HARD! Any tips??

    1. Hi Gabrielle,

      A few things that worked for us:

      1. Finding ways to make a game out of the picking up process and matching specific toys to their proper bins
      2. Celebrating good/hard work
      3. Letting my boy help with the initial organization process and reminding them of their efforts at pick-up time
      4. Checking in with them frequently to inquire about what would make the process better/easier for them?
      5. Removing half of the toy options reduced the number that could be dumped and mixed
      6. We encouraged the kids to pick up after specific activities before moving on to the next vs. picking everything up at once
      7. Staying consistent with our expectations and solutions

      I hope some of those can help in some way!


  19. Fabulous kids room and what great organization idas! That caddie made out of a tool box, genious!

    Lauren Baxter | LB Designs

  20. This is an awesome post by Megan! I'm also curious about the feet? The IKEA CAPITA legs look similar but hard to tell? Was it difficult to drill the hole to install the feet? Thanks!

  21. How do you find the icons for the labels? Is it a font or some sort of graphic? I love how simple and clean they are, and the Mr. Potato Head is awesome!


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