4 Ways to Keep Your Kids’ Messes Out of Sight, According to Home Stagers

published Dec 10, 2020
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As a child-free person who’s obsessed with all things organization, I often hear from parent friends that from the day they brought home their little one, their house was forever changed. In addition to the bountiful love and possibilities that a new bundle of joy brings, parents suddenly become the proud owners of stuff—and lots of it.

Despite desperate attempts to contain toys and supplies, messes inevitably spread from the nursery to all corners of a previously neat and tidy adult home. Let’s face it: fighting the kids’ mess migration is futile. Thankfully, I spoke with home staging experts who shared four tips and tricks for managing children’s household messes in every room of the house. 

Designate a “kid’s space” in every room

No matter how hard parents try, some kids’ messes are going to wind up in the kitchen, bathroom, living room—you name it. Gathering toys and supplies to transport back to the nursery or playroom is another chore parents don’t need. 

Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home in Philadelphia, says, “Not everyone has tons of space where they can designate a room and just have that be the ‘kid room.’” She shares that storing unconventional items in specific types of rooms, like a kitchen, is one way to cut down on clutter. 

When I was little, my mom cleared out a kitchen cabinet for my arts and craft supplies so I could color under her supervision while she cooked. But it’s OK if an entire cabinet isn’t possible for households where storage is limited. Daniela Benloulou and Nicole Graff, co-owners and principal designers for Los Angeles-based interior design firm Hamsa Home, tackle this issue for their clients. Benloulou recommends making the most out of the kitchen’s lowest drawers, saying, “Put Tupperware or that kind of storage that doesn’t hurt a child [in the drawer] and then also you can pile in the wooden food from the play kitchen, the little colanders and things.” Toys are out of sight in the kitchen, but still safely accessible for parent and child.

Bathrooms are another room that quickly collect toys. When exposed items start making a mess of a shared bathroom, Fasone recommends parents reconsider what to display. “Instead of using a linen closet, use the closet for other things,” Fasone says. She applies this trick to her own home, adding, “My towels are in a basket on the floor in the bathroom. It looks good, it’s convenient.” With clutter tucked away in the linen closet and linens on display in the bathroom, the room now boasts a tidy spa-like quality.

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Also, be on the lookout for furniture items with bonus storage solutions, like sofas, ottomans, and coffee tables. “Those storage pieces are really great for just throwing in the stuffed animals and the Legos and the toys and all the things that you are inevitably going to step on when you’re walking by,” Benloulou says. Don’t overthink it! Just pop the top off the ottoman and toss in the mess.

Utilize vertical space

Especially in homes with limited storage options, cabinets, dressers, and cubbies often have little room to spare. The solution? “Make as much use of vertical storage as possible,” says Benloulou. Many bathrooms already have the perfect spot for this. Benloulou recommends floating shelves, adding, “Usually above a toilet is wasted space, and on those shelves you can put baskets for the things that you need, you can stack cute toilet paper, or you can have your basket of bath toys.” 

Any empty wall space can transform a room’s storage options, from the living room to the hallway to the dining room. Says Fasone, “The wall can be decorated with really fancy hooks and usable storage.” Don’t overlook hardware like unique hooks and knobs when shopping at your local home decor store. Pick up hooks or wall racks that are aesthetically interesting and serve as a design element in and of themselves. 

The same goes for shelving. “Don’t put decorations on [a shelf], put baskets on it that you can put stuff in if you need,” Fasone recommends.

Invest in neutral storage

The part of kids’ messes that’s so unsightly isn’t the fact that toys are scattered all over the place—it’s that everything is bright, blinking, and cartoonish. That’s perfect for a kid’s personal space, but less desirable in a formal living room. “Baskets are definitely something you need anyway… things that are for kids but can be accessorized in a way where it doesn’t have to be so garish,” Graff says. Storage designed to function both in a nursery setting and a formal shared living space tones down the “Holy cow, my kids are staging a coup on my decor!” feeling. 

Fasone agrees that parents and kids should meet halfway. Says Fasone, “Let’s compromise here! Wicker can be neutral… it’s neutral enough to be boy or girl.” She encourages parents to take a step back before indulging kids’ obsessions beyond toys and into decor. Introduce neutral storage elements to house the My Little Pony figurines, GI Joes, and building blocks. 

Plus, deliberately choosing neutral storage containers has an added bonus. “You can always get cute rattan baskets, and theoretically a) They’re not an eyesore, but b) Once your kids grow out of whatever their uses are, you can always use them as planters, or just regular baskets for throw blankets and things like that,” Benloulou says.

Say goodbye to unused items

Ultimately, a portion of children’s clutter can be eliminated altogether, especially for families with kids at the age when they majorly obsess over just one or two toys. Fasone urges parents to use discretion when making room for toys, saying “Get rid of some stuff! Do some decluttering!” Infrequently used items can be donated, or packed up and stored long term and out of sight for a toy rotation system.

For those unsure where to start decluttering, setting aside a box and adding unused items bit by bit is one simple yet effective starting point. Fasone knows parents already have a good idea of what items are disposable. “We had multiple seasons during this lockdown, and if you didn’t use things, you don’t need them,” says Fasone. “You have to maximize every inch that you have.”