When kids arrive we kinda just make do – literally squeeze those bundles of joy, all their toys, clothes and general gooey mess into our lives and homes. We prepped for the arrival of our daughter by converting our walk-in closet into a nursery, delaying the inevitable move to a bigger space for another year.
The fact is Brooklynites live in a part of NY where real estate now costs a whopping $565 per square foot (which suddenly makes those vast Jumperoo type toys seem rather more expensive.) But even pals I know who have lucked out with entire brownstones or four-bed apartments moan about the lack of garage to stash sledges and bikes and the never ending avalanche of kid booty that descends. Which got us thinking, maybe its less about space and more about getting organized and cutting down to the essentials. Not judging but I know several moms with three strollers in their fleet.
We sat down with professional organizers Sarah and Stacey of DwellWell NYC – who estimate that 85% of their clients are parents – for some speedy solutions.
1. Purge before you splurge. When people want to get organized, they go straight to The Container Store to buy containers. But that should be the last thing you do. Firstly, whatever space you’re organizing, sort or purge and then really come down to what you’re storing, decide where it’s going to live and measure it up before you head out to the shops.
2. Embrace label makers (and lose the storage bench). We’re not fans of benches that have storage in them. They’re big and bulky and become a dumping ground. Kids almost never sit on them. Make it seamless for a child to put toys away themselves by using storage bins without lids and label everything. Be specific in terms of what goes back in ie separate bins for cars as opposed to soldiers. For kids who can’t read yet, place a photograph of a musical instrument or a vehicle so kids get use to the matching game.
3. Open shelves are for books only. It’s tempting to store toys and accessories but only books should sit on an open shelf. A common mistake is trying to put too many things on one shelf. It has to be structured. Make it a no-brainer solution. This is where the keys go, this is where the books go. If you have too many things living in one area, that creates clutter.
4. Utilize hidden nooks and crannies. Storing a stroller can be a difficult task but if you have the space, don’t be afraid of getting creative. We had a client who had the space to create a way to hang strollers into a nook. It frees up the entry space and has a huge impact.
5. Re-think storage solution pieces. Just because something is labeled for certain areas of the home, it doesn’t mean you have to keep it there. Glass Ball jars can be used and lined for pennies, markers and crafting supplies. If you cut out the bottom of a shoe pocket, you can use it to store long rolls of wrapping paper. We’re big fans of the Ikea Expedit: It’s a big square divided into cubbies and comes in many configurations. For a child, this can be used for books, clothing, toys – it allows for so much tailoring.
6. Create an art library. One of the big problems parents face is not knowing what school artwork to keep or lose. Kids bring so much home and parents don’t know what to keep. In a digital age, you can take photos and create a catalogue. For originals, save one to two a month of their best work and store in a portfolio so you can take samples for that year to create a meaningful sample of kids’ work.
7. Say hello to spaces that don’t clutter. There is drop down table from Ikea which is light and folds onto the wall. We use it all the time in Manhattan where there is very little space. It doesn’t create a surface that attracts clutter and is available for kids for whatever project they’re working on.
8. Keep it cozy. Most Brooklyn apartments come with hard, wooden floors. We had a Park Slope client where the kids never really wanted to be in their room. The final touch was adding a big carpet in the room. By making it cozy and a place where kids wanted to play and be creative, now you can’t get them out of the room. They’re happy inhabitants.
9. Don’t spend a fortune. Ikea, MUJI, Bed Bath and Beyond, West Elm, Lampsplus and Target Threshold are a few of our go-tos. Storage items shouldn’t just be functional but also beautiful and inspire you.
10. Digitize to downsize. Scancafe is great – they’ll send you a box to fill with photos and post back to them, in return you get a DVD digital catalogue of all your photos. We also like Cam Scanner Pro, it’s super easy to scan and store documents while on the go. Also keep a Drop Box account of all personal and business. I take a photo, save to Drop Box and I have all the documents I ever need on the run.