4 Tips for Organizing Toys with Evernote

If you have small children you know how quickly toys accumulate. Somehow a tiny baby who starts out with a handful of rattles and a play mat grows into a toy-crazed preschooler with enough Thomas trains to start his own eBay shop. When I wrote about our toy conundrum way back in October, to say I felt overwhelmed by the amount of toys in our living room would be an understatement. Without a dedicated playroom in our home, the living room is a catchall space and I am starting to lose my mind. At the end of a busy day at work and once the kids are in bed, I don’t want to sit on my couch and be surrounded by toys; I crave a more peaceful environment.

To kick-start my organizing efforts, I formed a toy organization game-plan using Evernote. No, this is not a sponsored post. My director at work, a woman for whom I have a great amount of respect, turned me on to Evernote a while back and it’s such a handy way to keep track of all kinds of ideas and lists for both work and home. So why not toy organization?

Organize Toys with Evernote

Divide the note into toy zones

Some of you (hi, Mom!) prefer handwritten checklists and that’s totally cool. But if you are like me and spend 90% of your day in front of a computer, create a new note in Evernote and write down the zones you want the toys to occupy. For me, that’s the cupboard in our built-in bookcase, the TV stand/media cabinet, toy corner (which will have a shelving unit), and the kid’s bedrooms. I focused on which zones I would keep and not the ones that are going away.

Be specific about what toys will go in each bin or basket so that you can determine what will and will not fit in advance, and also create graphic labels.

Use check boxes to stay on target

Check boxes are a great little tool to remind you of what you’ve already accomplished as well as what’s left to do. Evernote’s little check box feature is in the toolbar at the top of the note:

evernote toolbar snip

Use the check boxes to keep track of what you what to remove from each zone, what needs to be done to prepare it, what will be put back in the space, and what must be purchased.

Note that I started my Evernote list after we purged damaged books as well as unloved or outgrown toys from the space. If you haven’t completed that step, you should start there. Since we already purged, in addition to noting what I plan to put back in the space I added tasks like selling the changing table (yes, we had a changing table in the living room), throwing away a broken lamp, and adding a pretty rug to make the space more inviting and comfortable.

Link up products and inspiring images

It’s easy to keep track of what you want to buy by creating a hyperlink in Evernote. Simply highlight your text, right click, and select “Hyperlink -> Add”:

creating links in Evernote

You can use the same method to link up inspiring images, or use the paperclip icon (seen in the toolbar image above) to attach a file to the note.

Take action

A checklist is only good if you actually check things off the list and truly, that’s the hardest part. You can see that we’re slowly making progress. In fact, the media cabinet is almost done – I just need to label the new DVD boxes and photograph them so I can share the project with you. We purged a lot of toys, sold the changing table this weekend, got rid of a broken lamp in the toy corner, laid down a gorgeous rug that’s been in storage under our bed, and bought trimmings to update the canvas bins that were previously used in the changing table. Checking things off in Evernote helps me to stay on task and reminds me that I have indeed made progress.

Are you a fan of Evernote? Are you also tackling toy organization this year? I’d love to hear your ideas!

The Toy Conundrum

Before I had children I prided myself on having a pretty tidy home. I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination, but I managed to keep our place pretty well picked-up and didn’t stress out too much if an unexpected guest popped by.

All that changed when my little dude and dudette arrived, and thanks to overly generous family members (ahem, Mom and Dad) and my own shopping problem, my living room looks like a Toys R Us pop-up shop.

Folks, there is a giant train table in my living room where a chair used to be. That chair is now wrapped in plastic in my garage.

taming the toy beast The toy situation got a little bit better for a few brief months when my son’s baby toys were hiding in storage awaiting his sister’s arrival. Once she was old enough to play, I smartly pulled out a limited number of old toys …and yet the “extras” are camped out (ironically) in a Container Store shopping bag in a corner of the living room.

living room toy corner

I run around like a crazy lady the night before our housekeeper comes so she will actually have surfaces to clean. I fear the occasional visitor because we don’t have enough places to hide ALL THIS STUFF. I desperately crave a clutter-free adult space at the end of the day after the kids are in bed. Something has to change. I can’t live like this much longer:

living room with too many toys The changing table next to the brown bookcase won’t be needed too much longer, and I’ve since repaired the broken door on the built-in.

But.

There is always a “but.”

In the past three+ years of parenting I have realized a few key points that affect how our space is used and how the stuff in it can or should be stored. Note that we don’t have a family room, basement, or attic to use for playing or storing things.

  • We like playing in the living room with our kids so they can be near us if we have to cook or do something else (we don’t have a family room, basement, or attic).
  • I like keeping the toys in their bedrooms to a minimum so as to avoid distractions at bedtime.
  • I have a really hard time getting rid of toys and books that my kids have played with. I’m extremely sentimental like that, and although we’re probably done having kids I’m not mentally ready to depart with all the baby stuff just yet.
  • My son remembers everything. About six months ago I hid a few toys in our garage that it seemed he wasn’t playing with. This week he asked about them. Mr. JC and I played dumb.
  • My girl is just a year old and open bins/baskets are easy for her to see and grab what she wants (but, they make all the toys visible).

Action Plan

I’ve complained about our toy problem for long enough; now it’s time to do something about it. Here are the steps I’m going to chip away at with some help from the Mr.,who is the most laid-back man on the planet and is not nearly as bothered by all this as I am:

  • Clean out and organize the media cabinet by selling/donating DVDs and video games that we no longer use to make room for kids’ games. Seriously, what parent of young children has time or energy for Guitar Hero? I’m thinking these clear DVD storage boxes from The Container Store would be a good option – one box for grown-up movies and one for the kids.
  • Throw out or recycle toys and books that are broken beyond repair.
  • Sort through baby toys that my youngest has outgrown or never shown interest in and store them until I’m ready to let them go (she now generally prefers her brother’s trains and Legos to her rattles).
  • Get some kind of storage for the “toy corner” (ugh, they’re all toy corners right now). I’m thinking the IKEA Trofast but am open to other ideas.
  • Move the existing toy storage bins to my son’s room with a limited amount of toys and create a toy rotation of some kind in which he can pick the toys that he wants to have downstairs.

Now here’s where you come in:

If you have kids (and especially if you have a similar lack of dedicated play space) how do you manage the toys and keep your too-smart-for-his-own-good toddler happy? What other products or approaches can you recommend?

5-Minute Style: Wearing & Organizing Scarves

We’re here on Week 2 of October’s 5-minute style Wednesdays (check out last week’s fall flat style finder) and it’s all about scarves! I’ve got a roundup of great fall scarves plus two DIY scarf organizers that I use at home.

I’m admittedly new to scarf wearing; it took my stylish friend and former colleague to turn me on to modern scarves that can add a bit of zest to any outfit. Before that, I thought they were just for old ladies like my grandma, who had a sizable silk scarf collection. Now I can see the benefits: scarves perk up the most boring tee and jeans outfits, add a little whimsy to a traditional business suit, or add a contrasting pattern to an already spicy dress.

fall scarf roundup

Buy them here:

I’m still building my scarf collection but needed a better way to keep the ones I do have organized. Using a little “pin-spiration” I took a hanger from my closet and a set of unused shower curtain hooks to create my own DIY scarf organizer:

DIY Scarf Organizer There are plenty of extra hooks for more scarves, wa-hoo! My small collection hails from TJ Maxx, Target, and Old Navy – three stores that always come through with great prints for cheap.

Hanger Scarf Organizer If you have an extra pants hanger, check out this other version that I use in my coat closet for wool scarves:

Organized Scarves with Pants Hanger Free solutions are always good solutions! Are you a scarf wearer? I”m wearing them more and more now that my daughter just wants to chew my necklaces. She actually looks pretty annoyed when I put on a scarf instead of jewelry!