Organising Kids Stuff: Small Homes & Combined Living Spaces

Organising kids toys in small homes

For the first year of Immy’s life, we lived in a 1 1/2 bedroom apartment with one open plan living area. For the second year of her life, we lived in a home with one small, closed in living area. Needless to say, I developed a few strategies in my endeavours to manage the toys and kids “stuff.”

I believe it is possible to coexist with children in small living spaces without it feeling like you are living inside The Wiggles House (all of those bright colours must be bad for ones mental health, I am sure!)

Tip #1: Think about colour

Our existing furniture includes a latte coloured couch, white TV cabinet, and red accents in the form of cushions, vases, etc. When looking for storage solutions for Immy’s stuff and children’s furniture, I thought about colour. White shelving and table. Reds and browns for the felt board firescreen I made (see bottom photo) and even her little felt birds (in picture above).

Tip #2: Think about organisation

Choose storage containers that complement your living space. Sure clear plastic tubs are great but they aren’t really that attractive. Neutral, natural woven baskets tend to blend in with home furnishings and work well to hold toys in sets – one for instruments, one for wooden blocks, one for zoo animals, etc. To help children identify what goes in which basket, you can tie on luggage tags with picture cues (or words for beginning readers and readers).

I also like the white wooden storage cubes (see below) as they can be really multifunctional. Turn them on their side for storage and a place to put your drink. Right way up, they are great for books, dress ups and larger toy items or games.

Tip #3: Think furniture

Be clever when choosing “children’s” furniture. The Ikea Lack coffee table (see below) is perfect as both a coffee table and children’s play table. Ours has hosted tea parties, train tracks and farmyards (to name but a few). The height is great for toddlers and young children and the shelf provides some extra handy storage space. I have also seen people butt a matching Ikea Lack side table up against the coffee table so that children can sit at the table and draw or eat. Looks great, and is also multifunctional.

Organising kids toys in small homes
Tip #4: Toy Rotation

How much is too much? I am a BIG fan of toys and book rotation. Children today have so many toys. Too many toys out all at once can be very distracting and cause children to be more likely to flit from one thing to another, rather then spending time dedicated to more involved play with one toy or game at a time. At a bare minimum, you should put away (or cull completely) toys that your children have outgrown or lost interest in. I like to rotate sets of toys (and books) regularly, it makes them fresh and interesting and keeps the “stuff” a little more under control!

Organising kids toys in small homes
Do you share a living space with the kids? What are your tips for keeping the kids clutter under control?

Related Posts

  • Organising Kids Stuff: Make Pack Away Time Fun
  • The Case for NOT Packing Away
  • A Useful Purchase


  1. Zoey @ Good Goog says:

    I really need to get more organised with the play area. We live in a small house (with no built ins whatsoever) so storage is always a challenge. And the play room is also my office, which means we've sacrificed the dining room. I love the idea of toy rotation. And I also think in a small space – white is a great way to go for furniture/storage – darker tones can make the space seem smaller than it is. Now I just have to do something about it. Always the hard part!

  2. I'm also a fan of the white storage cubes -I'd have an Ikea expedit in each room if I could 🙂 We have the large one in the living room and have baskets on the bottom 2 shelves filled with kids stuff. If you use baskets like you mention you'd never even guess there were toys in them.

  3. leechbabe says:

    I love our IKEA Expedit storage system (about halfway down this page)

    It lives in our kitchen.

    I just moved the girls bookshelves into the loungeroom last night. Bookshelves had lived in their bedrooms but they kept fighting about which books belong to who. Now the books are in the lounge and we can all share 🙂

    I love baskets too and op shops which is a great combo as I often find inexpensive baskets at op shops 😀

    My next problem is clothing storage – we have huge walk in robes in the bedrooms with no shelving just hanging space. We've experimented with a variety of shelving systems. Now we are trying plastic tub/draw system from ALDI.

  4. I am so with you on the baskets and integrating kid storage into every day living areas.. ikea stuff is fab for that.

    My one tip… after four years in this little house, with no storage – think about where and how you will store things before you get attached to them! We rotate toys into the lounge area for everyone to play with and the girls have a few special things in their bedroom… but the rest we have to find somewhere to store, and I find that rough. I've tried to be ruthless and get rid of stuff… but it's hard when you've already gotten attached to the stuff!

  5. PlanningQueen says:

    I agree on the kids having too much stuff thing. We culled clothes last week end and this week (school holidays) the kids and I are going to start with the toys.

    Rotation works really with young kids and now my older boys are at an age where they can just choose games etc from their cupboards. Love the red couch!

  6. Hear Mum Roar says:

    I love that lounge! It looks easy to clean, but being a darker colour would make any spills less obvious…

    We, like you, started out with one child in a small unit, then we moved to a smaller one! Then we moved to a 2 bedroom house (with a tiny sunroom) and went on to have two more kids! It was a total squash.

    I found the most important thing for us was to really BEG family not to give us large gifts. My father makes beautiful furniture, but sometimes would gift us with a piece we didn't need and had no space for. So I had to really do my best to (nicely) put a stop to that. The same applied to large toys.

    We also stopped buying stuffed toys, and got rid of any manky ones. I noticed our two older kids barely even looked at them, let alone played with them. My youngest child loves any stuffed toy that is a puppy, so those are the main stuffed toys we own. That and some 'in the night garden toys'.

  7. Great ideas, thanks! Max is only three and a half months and already his things are starting to take over the house..

    I have an expedit in his nursery with baskets on the bottom four shelves. Perfect for stashing the multitude of fluorescent toys he's been given.

    I'm definitely going to use the rotation idea as he gets older.

  8. Lovely felt board fire screen! Thanks for the link (and for inducing Ikea envy, again!)

  9. I love your ideas for the kids! I am definitely going to go through our little ones toys tonight and try to see if she (19 mo) will help. What I more or less picture is toys strewn from here to kingdom come. I also don’t see the novelty of spending an arm and a leg for something that has separate compartments. I can find better organizing or for the kids or even husband to spend that money on. We are, however fortunate to have a creative family that can make something out of nothing. Keep up the Good Work!!

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