Pollyanna Has Bin There, Organized That

Lyda here. On Friday, I completed my first professional organization job for my client. Woo-hoo!  The nine-year-old girl’s room is now organized, clean, and decorated. 

The mom has an assignment to purchase more storage bins for the room. I gave her the size that will work for the existing shelves, and the minimum number needed.

This was fun! I had a blast working with my young client, and she had a good time too. Over the course of the week, I was able to see her actually start to use the system we created together – so I know it will work for her.

Tip: I put temporary labels on the desk and dresser drawers listing the contents. I used Post-Its, but plain paper and tape would work too. The labels will jog her memory for the first week or two, until she memorizes where everything is. For labels for toddlers, see the tips here. I also wrote a list detailing where things are, at her mom’s request.

And now – per Anna-Liza’s semi-request – our latest installment of Organization R Us.

Today: Supplies and Shopping Tips

Although I’m talking specifically about kid’s rooms here, these tips work for adults too.

Kids of any age can learn to put toys away, but they need an easy system. Bins on shelves is a great answer. Not only are the toys accessible, the bins make the room look tidy. They are worth it for the declutter-factor.

The trick is to organize the toys logically. All the dinosaurs in one bin. All the cars and trucks in another. Make sure the bin is not overflowing. It is better to have two bins of trucks than have the trucks fall out.


Hence the post title. “Bin there” – get it? I think I’m funny.

Plastic bins are great for storage in kids’ rooms. The bins need to be sturdy and have built-in handles. Hold a bin by the handles and try to twist it (pull one handle up and one down). If it flexes, it isn’t sturdy enough for young kids (but might be okay for other storage and older kids).

You can use sturdy woven baskets with metal frames, which look nicer if you are storing toys in the living room. They look good forever but can scratch shelves when children pull them out (see “shelving” below, for how to protect the shelf).

Fabric bins are another option, and work well in closets. There are fabric options useful for storing stuffed animals. I think stuffed animals are spontaneously created at night in every kid’s bedroom. Possibly by fusion. Possibly by the brainwave patterns of sleeping children. Scientists are working on solving this problem, but in the meantime, all we can do is manage the fuzzy population explosion.  The fabric gets dingy, so be sure you can wash it. Fabric doesn’t work well for art supplies or heavy toys, of course. For kids, plastic is easier to clean, and cheaper.

The bins need to be the right size. Gallon size is good for most things, and a smaller size is good for smaller toys and art supplies. Bins get heavy filled with toys, so anything bigger than a gallon needs to have wheels. But save the wheeled bins for big sets (building blocks, train sets, etc.) or big toys.

I’m not a big fan of toy chests, except for storing large items like basketballs. Small things fall to the bottom, the kid has to take everything out to find them – and the toys are all over the floor again! If you do get a toy chest, be sure it is safe. The lid should stay open until the child closes it – we don’t want it to slam on fingers or heads. Make sure that there is ventilation and that the lid is lightweight and can be opened from inside. Children like to play hide and seek.

Make sure not to overload the bins. Your child needs to be able to pick them up and carry them. It’s better to divide items into two bins rather than overload them. Dropping a bin onto one’s foot hurts.

Get bins with lids if you can. Without lids, you have to dust/wash both the toys and the bins. Yes, dusting. I know. The mind reels.  With lids, you just wipe off the lid. This isn’t as important if the bins are on shelves in the closet.

Measure the shelves first so you get bins that fit.

Shoe racks and other closet organizing items can work for storing some things. Well, shoes and purses, obviously. A hanging shoe rack can also work for video game storage. Make sure to hang these items securely, and at the child’s level.

Fishing tackle boxes make excellent storage for jewelry, art supplies, and makeup. I keep my thread and sewing supplies in one.  Tackle boxes are usually less expensive and often sturdier than the boxes sold specifically for these things. Plus, children actually like to organize things in tackle boxes.


I prefer shelves with a back – so things do not disappear behind them. This also keeps the walls from being banged as the child slides bins back in place.

Laminated particle board shelves are easy to clean and inexpensive. Metal shelving can be inexpensive and sturdy. Both of these types stand up well to the abuse kids dish out. Plastic shelving is usually too flimsy – toys and books are heavy – but could work for art supplies and stuffed animals.

If you use wood shelving or bookcases, protect the top of the shelves by lining them with shelf liners (designed to protect plates in the kitchen). The bins won’t slide on it, but they won’t scratch the shelf either. Another option: Cut plastic placemats to fit the shelves.

The shelves need to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the full bins. Make sure all shelving units are properly secure the unit to the wall so they won’t topple over. And don’t put anything enticing above your child’s eye level – kids will climb shelves to reach toys. You can use higher shelves for out-of-season clothes (in boxes) or photo albums. You can also store those toys your child is not ready for yet on the upper shelves – but concealed in boxes or bins so they aren’t enticing. You know those toys – the ones that your aunt sent that will be great for your child two years from now, or the ones that a sibling or cousin has outgrown.

You can use cabinets, which are great for a cleaner, less cluttered look and work especially well in family rooms. Make sure there is enough room to open the doors wide – and again, secure the cabinet to the wall. You can add foam bumpers to the front of the cabinet (between the cabinet and the door) so the doors won’t pinch little fingers. Like these bumpers. You’ll also need to teach your child not to put their weight on the doors.

While chests of drawers and stackable drawer units are great for clothing, they don’t work as well for toys. It’s hard to get things in and out, and the drawers tend to get jammed. You can buy drawer dividers or small bins to keep things neater. Or use cardboard boxes (like shoe boxes) that fit into the drawer.


You can find these things at every price range and color, and to fit any decor. Go for more neutral choices that will still work as your child gets older. Strong dark colors – red, blue, green – will work for years and hide fingerprints. Pastels look dirty much faster. Remember, most girls go through a pink phase, and then a few years later renounce everything pink.

You can often find baskets and shelving units at Goodwill and other charity stores. Garage sales are another good inexpensive source.

Try your local Big Lots, Ross, or other discount store. And then look at Target, Ikea, container stores, and department stores.

Look for garage or kitchen shelving units but avoid the flimsy versions. Check the tool department – there are some sturdy solutions designed for storing tools that are excellent for toys and art supplies.

Of course, there’s always the off the street option.

On the other end of the scale, you can have custom shelves and cabinets built for the closet or the whole room. Just be sure that the system can be adjusted as your child’s tastes and needs change over the years.


4 thoughts on “Pollyanna Has Bin There, Organized That

  1. annaliza

    Excellent! Thanks! I’ll have to print this one out to refer to when we’re planning the next stage of the kids’ room.

  2. Marin

    Now I’m developing a pseudo-Freudian theory of how people arrested at the plushie-mongering stage of life grow up to spontaneously create yarn stashes while they sleep.

  3. lyda Post author

    Bwahahaha. Seems like a logical progression to me. Will your theory address spontaneous fabric hoarding at all?


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