Design by Room Kids' Rooms

How I Created a Playroom Organization System I Can Actually Live With

It’s all about the right building blocks.
three book shelves on wall

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Meet our Organization Heroes, holy grail products and strategies for getting—and staying—tidy.

We’ve cracked the code on keeping playrooms neat. Or rather, Laura Fenton has: The former Parents magazine lifestyle director shares page after page of inspiration in her book The Little Book of Living Small, and we zeroed in on the section about tidying up a nursery. “I follow a two-part philosophy of ‘less is more’ and ‘let kids be kids,’” explains Fenton. “When my son’s deep passion for construction meant that a fleet of toy trucks began to fill up his room, I didn’t obsess about finding the perfect storage solution: We just decided we’re okay with some excess on the floor for the year that diggers and dumpers are his obsession.”

color-coordinated kids room bookcase

Right now she’s taking small measures to keep the routine: Creating Lego projects on a baking sheet so everything is contained, for example, or doing one big cleanup sweep at the end of the day. Of course, all this is possible because she already has an organization system in place, built on simple fixes that make the whole thing less of a chore. Here’s a peek into Fenton’s process, as seen in her book.

under bed storage

Pull Inspo From the Classroom

Take a look at your child’s preschool. I bet everything is in a labeled basket or clear box or sits directly on a shelf. Try this at home to prompt your child, the babysitter, and grandparents to put things back in their proper places. 

Ditch the Clichés

Avoid the classic toy box. I have never once seen one being used as an efficient way to store playthings. Instead, you open it up to find a wasteland of disorganized toys. 

Think Small

Catalogs are filled with all manner of cute storage bins, but beware: Most bins are too big! As with toy boxes, the problem with big bins is that it’s hard to find a toy within, and when they inevitably get dumped out, they create a huge mess. Choose a greater number of small bins

Adopt an “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” Mantra

Under-the-bed storage is a good way to store toys that are not played with every day. A bed with built-in drawers is great, but you can also use simple crates. Place felt furniture pads or small casters underneath to cut down on the scraping sound from pulling them across wood floors. 

Build Vertically

Wall-mounted toy and book storage is a space saver. Because kids’ items are usually colorful and graphic, they can double as wall art if you style the display (and keep the PAW Patrol figurines out of sight). I usually group by type, since that makes it easier for both children and parents to put things away, but I’ll try to find a visually pleasing arrangement. 

Shop Fenton’s Go-To Picks:

Stripes Away Storage Bin by Pehr

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Flisat Wall Storage

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Elly Leavitt

Writer and Editor

Elly enjoys covering anything from travel to funky design (tubular furniture, anyone?) to the latest cultural trend. Her dream apartment would exist on the Upper West Side and include a plethora of mismatched antique chairs, ceramic vessels, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases—essential to her goal of becoming a poor man’s Nora Ephron. You can probably find her in line at Trader Joe’s. You will never find her at SoulCycle.