Parents! Don’t take this the wrong way: I’m not trying to shame you. But so many people ask me about storage when they have kids, and I think to answer this you just have to take a long look at the floor and see what’s getting between your toes. Be reassured: I have very little interest in hoovering, so feel free to take a rather blurry look at the floor. We are focussing on the toyscape, not dust bunnies or muddy footprints: the ever-encroaching army of kids’ stuff that litters any free surface of our once-calm homes.
For everyone it’s different, but I’ll bet you can name at least one plaything that you would love to put in its place, and stop spending at least a significant proportion of your day tripping over.
For us it’s cars. Races, lines, complex combinations snaking around furniture and walls, with a high-pitched Murray Walker-style commentary and glorious shrieking engines.
Ever since Jonas was tiny, we’ve had to respect these lines, and the story behind them: the race isn’t over until the chequered flag waves.
In times when we’ve needed the floor to be clear, they’ve taken snapshots of the race for future re-enactments. That’s how I’ve got reams of these photos, blurry and wonky, but with crucial information contained within.
Even a brief dabble in ‘track’ building (Brio wooden railway)
normally ended up serving as a backdrop to another race.
I thought it would be helpful to share some of the best-loved and most successful storage items — those which have got you through those years of ‘entire house as playroom.’
Our particular floor/sanity saver — one which has served us so well — has been a set of hinged, lidded wicker baskets with a calico liner (see above photo). With the cars tucked up safely inside for the night, these boxes looked rather attractive stacked in an unused fireplace in the living room of our first home. For the 18 months we spent in a (cosy/small) rental, they took up residence under a window next to the sofa. They didn’t look like kid furniture, so once the lid was shut, they blended right in. Now they live in Malachy’s bedroom — holder of the race mantle these days — and have lost their fabric innards at some point or another.
We bought the set of three from B&Q at a satisfyingly low price, and they’ve served us so well, but B&Q don’t do them any more. All I can do is point you in the direction of some other savvy outlets who still offer something similar. Remember, the hinged lid is the important bit for stacking. You want a box big enough to hold your stash of vehicles (nothing more frustrating at tidy-up time than a lid that doesn’t quite close: tantrums are made of this) but small enough for you to lug from room to room when needed. Also, and maybe this is a boy way of thinking, but toys seem to work best stored in families — ie cars in one box, trains in another; Playmobil in a big tub… I don’t know: where do Little Ponies prefer to hang out? In any case, they and all their equipment should be stabled together.
So in a spirit of great stowed generosity, I’ve compiled for you a list of the places you can still buy hinged lidded wicker baskets – so that you too can clear the clutter. You’re welcome.
In at Number One, with good looks and a reasonable price point is the offering from Wilkos:
If you’re looking at a more advanced case of toy invasion, or simply don’t have the floorspace free for any more furniture, how about tucking this friendly storage monster under the bed?
George at Asda is on the case too, with this similar-looking basket. They call it a trunk, but don’t worry, it isn’t actually that huge. The price is reasonable too.
You’d have to shell out more at Homebase, but you do get three for your investment — one largish trunk and two bijous containers (easier for little hands to transport).
A stately offering from Muji with taller dimensions — a steeper price point too.
Finally, a couple of giant options — less wieldy, to be sure, but sometimes those collections do get rather large. This from Wilkos is a reasonable price for the size:
And at the top end of our collection, Ikea brings you this sturdy trunk for the bulkiest items (I’m thinking Scalextric for this one: nice spacious garaging here).
How do you contain the chaos? I’ll bring you some more ideas in future posts, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tidy-up time solutions!