Dear Kathi,

I am a work-at-home mom, not to be confused with a stay-at-home mom with no job besides her kids! I work 30 to 40 hours as an occupational counselor and, quite honestly, systems are not my forte.

I am at a loss about how to organize my kids. Issues constantly arise over where they should put their toys. I’ll admit that this is because there is no real method created to store their toys.

Another problem is where to put the oversize clothes that my youngest is waiting to grow into. We don’t have much extra space and storage is at a premium. Any solutions you might offer would be great!

Emily, Coronado


Even full time moms experience the same difficulties, so don’t feel too alone. Toys can easily get out of control. As your children grow, systems need to be constantly updated to accommodate their different types of toys.

One proven method is to use stacking crates for toys. Place these along one wall or in a closet. Use the lowest bins for the smaller children and the top crates for the older (and taller). Use cartons to separate items within these crates. Small clear food storage containers can contain loose marbles, Legos, and other toys with many small pieces. Clear plastic shoe boxes work miracles for loose toys and they stack exceptionally well within crates. Puzzle pieces and rock collections can be stored and dispense easily in recycled milk cartons.

Labels are an effective way for your kids to remember where to store their toys. This can be a fun family activity if you use a little creativity. Take magazine clippings, drawings and photographs to mark where each item should live when it is not in use.

Sling a length of line or colored ribbon between two hooks on a wall, and use clothespins to suspend stuffed animals and beanbag toys. Personalize this area by also clipping up favorite pictures and drawings.

As an aside, I always instruct my clients to teach their children that each toy and game has a “home” where it lives most of the time. Stress the “home” concept. Don’t ask your kids to put their toys “away.” Instead, request that they take their toys to their individual “homes.” This exercise alleviates the problem of kids stuffing their toys to an out-of-sight, off-the-radar region, with the idea that they have lived up to your request and put their things “away.”

If you can’t find any extra shelf space up and out of the way for the oversize or off-season clothes, install slide out drawers under each child’s bed. There are also low rolling bins that slide under beds for storage. Oversized clothes are great stored in plastic bins, grouped by size. Label each bin. Rectangular bins stack neatly. You might also consider using space bags. These bags compress to hold up to three times the amount of clothes in the same space. The drawback to these bags is that they hold so much that you will probably store multiple sizes together. To keep organized and combat this problem, separate by size within each bag before compressing, or simply use smaller bags, one for each size pending.

When you make storage decisions, follow this guideline: the more often an item is used, the lower it’s shelf or drawer. Squirrel away lesser used items higher up and you will be asked to help retrieve toys less frequently.

Thanks for writing and don’t hesitate to write with any other specific questions.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected] San Diego Professional Organizer