4 Moms: Storage Solutions

This week 4 Moms, 35 Kids are talking storage, how do you store what you own?  Feel free to link up at the bottom of this post.

My bottom line best storage solution is to get rid of things that don’t fit comfortably into your space.

You may think, “Easy for you to say, you have a large home.”  True, but we haven’t always lived in a large home.  We had our first (almost) 6 children in 900 square feet with no usable yard and closets that were not deep enough to hang a regular sized hanger.  We could do it again.  Whenever we visit historic Appalachian cabins where men and women raised really big families, I know that we could do it again.

Happiness isn’t found in all that stuff and sometimes less stuff will give us the freedom to better enjoy what we do have.

Another general tip especially useful for larger families is to label where things go so that anyone who is putting something away will be able to put it in the correct place.

The label maker is my friend.

Here are a couple problem areas, how we try to stay on top of them and how we manage what we store.

Children’s clothing

In season, in size clothing is limited to several outfits per child and stored in a drawer in their bedroom.  Out of season, out of size children’s clothing lives on these shelves in our garage.

We have a box for each size (or couple of sizes), gender and season of clothing for clothes that one of our children will be using within the next year – two years.  We do not keep more clothing than will fit into one box.  We keep shoes all together in one box because shoe sizes don’t seem to relate to clothing sizes and many shoes are gender neutral.

Since most of our children’s clothing is handed down to them from friends and acquaintances   (Reason # 217 for having a large family: EVERYONE thinks of you when they have a bag of clothes to hand down.) or purchased at yard sales,  we do not pass clothing down through all of our children but pass them on after they’ve been used by the children close to that size.

Our children have never lacked clothing.  God always provides and I am constantly passing things on because we receive more clothing that we can use.   One season our oldest daughter Amber had no clothing in her size.  Mark and I prayed and by the end of the week she had more clothes than the rest of us.  We ended up giving away 2 large garbage bags full of nice clothing in her size because God provided above and beyond what was needed.

Toys

We find that our children enjoy playing outside with sticks, rocks, plants and water and that with a little imagination anything can become a toy, so we try to limit the amount of toys that we own.  That said, I’m a sucker for educational toys and games and building toys, so it’s a bit of a struggle.

We keep semi-quiet toys  in baskets in our family/school room.  We have a small basket of miscellaneous baby toys in addition to several baskets of different types of blocks and building toys.  There are also a variety of quiet learning games and puzzles.

For toddler puzzles I put all of the pieces to each puzzle in a separate Ziploc bag.  The puzzle backs are stored in one of those baskets under the desk with the Ziploc bags beside them.  When a child wishes to play with a puzzle they pull out the back or frame of the puzzle and then find the appropriate  Ziploc with the pieces.  I use this same system for board games whose boxes have been destroyed.

The remainder of our toys are kept downstairs.  

Some ideas to keep toys under control:

  • Choose quality toys that encourage open-ended, imaginative play.  (We love dress ups and blocks.)
  • Limit the space where you store toys and get rid of things that don’t fit into that space.
  • Have your children regularly go through their toys and pick items to donate or giveaway.  Our children enjoy giving toys to friends who they believe will enjoy them.  (I always ask parents first.)  We always try to do this just before the holidays.
  • Pick a few ‘sets’ of toys that your children enjoy and stick with those, avoiding others.  For example we have a small collection of LEGOS, Playmobile, Brio compatible trains and GeoTrax.
  • Designate a box (or boxes) for each set and limit the toys in that set to those that will fit into that space.
  • Put a flexible limit on the number of  ‘lovey’ toys each child owns.
  • NEVER donate or get rid of your children’s things without their knowledge and approval.  I encourage our children to choose something to giveaway, but they always make the ultimate decision.
  • Encourage grandparents to give experiences as gifts.  Season passes, music lessons, cooking classes and camping trips all make wonderful gifts that our children love.
  • Give your children tools, not toys.

Books

We have book shelves in every room in our house except the bathroom.  (I’ve floated the idea of putting rain gutter bookshelves in our bathrooms, but Mark is highly resistant because we have  boys.)  So far we haven’t run into the problem of too many books, but I don’t have a good system for keeping track of what we have, so I’m asking you, how do you organize your books?  I’d like a way to keep track by time period and by topic/person, any ideas?

Did I miss a specific storage solution that you are wondering about?  Please ask in the comments and I’ll answer next week when the 4 moms answer your questions.

I’m thinking at least one of the other 4 Moms will have a good system for books, check out their storage solutions:

Feel free to add your storage solution post below.  Please link directly to your post (not to your homepage) and include a link back to at least one of the 4 moms so that your readers can read all of the storage solutions.

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Upcoming 4 Moms topics:

  • September 23: Questions for the Four Moms. Feel free to use the contact form and email questions you’d like me to answer.
  • September 30: How we find individual time with our husbands without spending money
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28 Responses to 4 Moms: Storage Solutions
  1. chantelle
    September 16, 2010 | 7:48 am

    Thanks for the great post!

    [Reply]

  2. Elizabeth
    September 16, 2010 | 8:11 am

    I love your organization! Other then us still in the process of getting close organized, we are so a like. I have learned that with the more kids you have the more you have to be extremely organized or the house will eat you! haha I love hearing new ways to sort and keep things in order. Love the post!

    [Reply]

  3. angela
    September 16, 2010 | 8:34 am

    We use this site to keep track of our books. http://www.librarything.com/
    You can have as many categories as needed. It is easy to mark a book into several categories as well!

    [Reply]

  4. Aron
    September 16, 2010 | 9:01 am

    you have great taste in toys. Those are the same ones that make our list, plus american girl dolls :D

    [Reply]

  5. Sarah
    September 16, 2010 | 9:43 am

    Thank you. I find storage and organisation very difficult. Some great, practical ideas especially the labels. I think I will need to reread this a few times.

    [Reply]

  6. Samantha
    September 16, 2010 | 9:53 am

    WE just put up the rain gutter shelves last week! I am going to blog about it next week. Thank you for the tutorial! Lowes thought I was crazy. Who comes in and asks for “pretty” gutters???

    [Reply]

  7. Meredith_in_Aus
    September 16, 2010 | 10:25 am

    Hi. I’m new here and thoroughly enjoying myself exploring! Thanks for a great blog.

    I only have 7 kidlets but we homeschool and we have a lot of books. I have two organising systems; one for general books and one for books specific to our Tapestry of Grace studies.

    For our regular books, I decided on categories (eg. history, science, biography, and novels – there’s a couple more, but that will do for illustration). Then I chose a shelf/shelves on our bookshelves according to how much space that category required. Then I chose a colour for each category. I put a coloured PVC sticker (blank ones from http://www.labelkingdom.com.au – I cut these to make them go further) on the spine of each book. Then I labeled the shelf where that colour belonged. Makes it easier for kids to put the books back where they belong.

    For our TOG books, I (eventually) dedicated a bookshelf to them. TOG is divided into 4 years, each colour coded. Year 1 is red; Year 2 is yellow; Year 3, green; Year 4, blue. Next I got a colour corresponding dot stickers and wrote the unit number (1 for Unit 1, M for multi-unit, etc) on the dot. I stuck that label on the spine and covered it with clear Contact to make it stay put. This system makes it easier for me to find the right books each week. I’m planning to use your rain gutter bookshelf idea for our “this week’s books.” Thanks for the great idea!

    Look forward to continuing to explore your site.

    In Him

    Meredith in Australia

    [Reply]

  8. Rachel K
    September 16, 2010 | 11:21 am

    I really appreciate the tip on toddler puzzles! I have just recently been brainstorming on how to manage these, so the information was timely. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  9. marybeth
    September 16, 2010 | 11:38 am

    Hi I just love your ideas. They make a lot of sense. I love coming to your online home,as you are always giving helpful information, like the homemade laundry soap, and I especially enjoy that you have given me so much inspiration (spiritually) I’m sure without your even knowing it. You help me in so many ways. Thank you
    I also wanted to thank you for stopping by my site and visiting me. I would love to know what you think.
    Thanks for all the time you spent on giving us a tour of your lovely home. I have enjoyed it so much.
    God Bless you and your family.

    [Reply]

  10. Jenn
    September 16, 2010 | 1:17 pm

    I love your labeled kitchen cabinets. They are so organized!

    [Reply]

  11. Jarnette @ Seasons of Life
    September 16, 2010 | 1:36 pm

    I, too, use my label maker…a great friend to organizing and bins and baskets. I agree with you, if you can’t reasonably store something it should go to make room for the things that are being used.

    Loved your tips at the bottom of your post, too…especially the “experience gifts”. With the holidays (birthdays throughout the year and Christmas) a great idea and reminder about giving gifts that will keep on giving vs. another item to find a “home” for. :-)

    Blessings ~

    [Reply]

  12. Storage « They Are All Ours
    September 16, 2010 | 2:48 pm

    […] Don’t forget  to check out what the other Mom’s have to share here and here. […]

  13. Kathi
    September 16, 2010 | 2:56 pm

    you are super organized, and so much nicer about the toys than I am.

    I dream of shelves and see-through boxes to put our out-of-season clothes in.

    very good tips.

    i may through a post together. on animal cracker boxes and baskets.

    [Reply]

  14. Becky
    September 16, 2010 | 5:59 pm

    I have no tips because everything is spread out all over, like one comment said the toys are eating up the house. Okay, I finished the clothes per your helpful tips… Now I guess I must attempt the toys… I am going to use these posts as a how to manual! Thanks for posting.

    [Reply]

  15. Mary
    September 16, 2010 | 6:13 pm

    I just linked up – great idea! I linked to a post about how I organized our schoolroom – it is working well, especially for me (because I am classically NOT very organized). I love all of your ideas!

    [Reply]

  16. Reesa
    September 16, 2010 | 6:37 pm

    My oldest two are 12 and 10. When they were 1 and 3, I started buying Scholastic books for them. I would buy a ton in September and the bonus points would last a couple years. Our kids got books for every holiday and we gave books to their friends when we were invited to a friend party until it was no longer cool to give out books :). I recorded every book into an excel spreadsheet as it came in. I did not enter anything other than name and title to begin with but at some point added a few columns for awards, AR level (when they were in school), subject, etc. Since I am homeschooling the toddler from day one, I am going to go back through and physically sorting the picture books by season/subject and just pull out what is needed at the time.

    Since paper back books don’t last as long (without the smell that I can’t stand), we don’t buy that many books for the older kids. They have their books for the school year and then can ask for books for holidays or use their own money to buy them. We donate the paper back books when we are finished with them. I am not saving them for the toddler.

    The kids also can get whatever they want from the library.

    [Reply]

  17. kristin campbell
    September 16, 2010 | 7:53 pm

    “Encourage grandparents to give experiences as gifts. Season passes, music lessons, cooking classes and camping trips all make wonderful gifts that our children love.”

    i love this! if my children had grand parents that actually got them something for christmas i would ask them to do this. its a wonderful idea! Since we don’t have loving grandparents for our children i think maybe this year me and my husband will do this for them.

    [Reply]

  18. Kim
    September 16, 2010 | 9:10 pm

    I also adore my labeller! Anyone can go into my kitchen and help because every item’s home is identified.
    I appreciate the testimony about Amber’s clothes. We all need to remember to trust in God’s provision.
    You really encouraged me not to keep things we don’t need. We are moving back to Australia in 18 months and I need motivation to shed some stuff. Perhaps Meredith and I will be neighbours. I really need to contact some Aussie homeschooling mums. None of my friends back in Australia homeschool.

    [Reply]

  19. Leann
    September 16, 2010 | 10:43 pm

    while I don’t homeschool, I have found a system for our books that seems to work (when I follow it)
    I divided all our books into 12 piles,one for each month. Using the theme/season/holiday of that month to help with some of the books I put in each pile. Adding none themed books to the months as needed to make them all mostly even. Then I stored them in 2 large tubs, with only the current months books out on the shelf. Then every month, I rotate the books and it is just like going to the bookstore/library. The kids are thrilled to see books they havn’t had in a year and we tend to read a larger variety of books.

    I did make labels for the fronts of each book with the month, so if a book is not on the shelf when I switch, it can find the way back to it’s month. I also didn’t include informational, chapter or the kids’ favorite all time books, they each have a shelf in their room for those.

    [Reply]

  20. Elizabeth
    September 16, 2010 | 10:50 pm

    I store books two different ways. The non-fiction books live on the shelves in our schoolroom. I have them divided into different subjects… it not exactly Dewey decimal, but subject terms my children are likely to use. I have dividers labelling and dividing each subject. Plus, we have different colored stickers on each of the books, with each subject having a different combination of sticker colors. This way even non-readers can return books to the shelves correctly. …in theory.

    For our picture books, I have them divided by the four seasons. If a book mentioned a particular season then it obviously went into that pile, but the others I just divided evenly between the four piles when I started this system. The current season’s books are on the shelves and the rest are in storage. At the change of each season we switch the books. It’s fun to watch my children get out the new books because it is as if they are meeting old and dear friends after a long absense.

    [Reply]

  21. DHM
    September 17, 2010 | 8:32 am

    Click on my name to see how we categorize our bookshelves.

    [Reply]

  22. Renata
    September 18, 2010 | 3:29 am

    I am laughing over your having boys so no books in the bathroom (probably because I can relate!!)
    Thanks for a great post! I also love my labeller, although I think you out-label me!
    I do think we need to get rid of some toys real soon though!
    Have a lovely weekend
    Renata:)

    [Reply]

  23. Heather L. @ Starving Artist's Wife
    September 18, 2010 | 3:16 pm

    I am always looking for new storage ideas for my home! Thank you! Lately I have been on a quest to be a better housewife and this really helps!

    I have given you an award that you can check out on my blog, Starving Artist’s Wife!

    [Reply]

  24. Marla
    September 18, 2010 | 4:09 pm

    Wonderful!I love to see how you organize everything!Keep up the wonderful work!

    [Reply]

  25. Moms of Many Manage Toys | Raising Olives
    December 9, 2010 | 8:27 am

    […] through toys a few times a year and we always make one of those times November or December.  Read this post for more ideas on keeping down the toy […]

  26. Patsy
    January 12, 2011 | 4:11 pm

    We have 6 children, in boy-girl order. There are 4 to 5 years between each same gender chid. Given this, would you keep very little – like only the best dresses, church pants/shirts? Just the thought that you may be giving me permission to get rid of most of my stash makes me giddy!

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I think I would keep very little. Are you giddy? Of course I’m able to get a lot of nice kid’s clothes at yard sales, so I’d take that into consideration.

    Here’s hoping that this new year sees you with less clothes to store.

    [Reply]

  27. Denise
    October 31, 2014 | 12:06 pm

    Build a ‘prop closet’ in the basement, garage, or anywhere you can squeeze a couple of feet of closet doored floor to ceiling shelving for seasonal decor and seasonal clothing with trash bag dust covers. Line an entry wall with hooks, shelf above, bench and shoes below. Refit the old coat closet with shelves for canning supplies, small appliances and bulk pantry overflow. Create a mail sorter, especially if you have adult children and/or parents living with you. A wine rack works great. When company comes just hide the mail and display a pretty bottle or two. Uncover toy and laundry bins so everyone can just toss stuff in. Store the lids in the prop closet for when company comes, or for when you sell the house. Install towel racks or pegs in every bedroom. We each have a beach towel with our name on it, wash them and hang them in the bedrooms again. Each person can also hang a personal toiletry kit with their towel to limit bathroom clutter. I only keep white hand towels and washcloths in the bathrooms (bleachable and mixable) and store them all on shelves as part of the decor. All replacement towels and bedding are stored in the prop closet. Mine is 16 feet long and six feet deep with two sets of french doors along one entire wall of our basement level family room.

    [Reply]

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