Out Of The Box Playroom Storage

Photo by Practically Perfect

This post was created in partnership with The Laundress.  For more information, please read our disclosure agreement.

At Practically Perfect – with six kiddos among the co-founders’ families alone! – we love a good playroom project.  From fort building and book nooks to craft corners and costumery, we’ve seen and organized it all. This month we had fun re-working a playroom with The Laundress’ newly-released line of home organization products.

We decided to tackle just a few areas of the playroom that needed the most love.  If you’re looking for a short and sweet makeover, we recommend picking just one or two spots at a time — perhaps just the toy bins or the craft supplies, or simply an overstuffed shelf.  This will you allow you the time to really dig in without becoming overwhelming.

Photo by Practically Perfect

This bookshelf is a true-to-life example of what a playroom looks like after kids actually play in it.  As both professional organizers and moms, we wholeheartedly believe that creating a home for everything is essential to involving kids in clean up time — and we quickly recognized that The Laundress’ Storage Cubes would be a practical solution for these playroom shelves.

Photo by Practically Perfect

The storage cubes are the perfect size for storing collections of toys.  We love how crisp and clean they look. And as lovers of all things labeling, we especially appreciate the built-in label pocket!

When labeling a play space, it’s important to take into account the ages and stages of the kiddos.  We recommend including text and photos for pre-readers so that they can still be independent at play time as well as clean-up time.  It’s also important to choose a labeling system that can is flexible and can be changed over time, as needed.  As always, consider what would work best for your own kids!

Not only are these storage cubes super functional — they also look beautiful on the shelves!

When choosing containers for your spaces, be sure to consider both your household functionality and aesthetic preferences.  Are your kids likely to put lids back onto bins, or is that not realistic? Would you prefer to see what’s in each container or keep everything tucked away?  Follow your instincts! Whatever you decide, make sure that you’re selecting items that offer both function and fashion.  

Photo by Practically Perfect

This photo was taken post-playdate, when the teepee and surrounding area had enjoyed some intense imagination time and soft materials and stuffed toys were strewn all about.

Photo by Practically Perfect

We always recommend playroom containers that are easy to empty and fill, to ensure a quick clean-up and happy kiddos.  We found the Collapsible Hamper to be the ideal home for the oversized parachute and stuffed animal collection.  It’s attractive enough that it doesn’t need to be stored out of sight when it’s in use, and the collapsibility is also a huge plus — we appreciate anything that takes up less space when it’s not in use.

We also love to find new uses for products, so we chose the Large Zip Laundry Bag to store pillows in.  This bag felt like an easy way to transport fort building supplies from one space to the next.  While traditionally used in a laundry room or linen closet, it’s versatile and neutral enough to use in this playroom, too!  

Don’t be afraid to use products in out-of-the-box spaces or to repurpose them in creative ways.  Consider a toolbox as an art supply organizer, food storage containers for beads or loose toys, a mail sorter as a homework station… the list goes on!

Photo by Practically Perfect

Dressing up is one of our kids’ favorite pastimes, and displaying adorable items is one of ours… so it made sense to also utilize a Collapsible Hamper to organize this collection of costumes. 

We decided to display a few of the kids’ favorites on hooks for easy access — and also to up the cuteness factor!  We often opt for hooks or bins when it comes to setting up organizing systems for costumes and dress-up clothing, as hangers tend to deter the little ones from tidying up.  Dropping something onto a hook or into a bin can feel a lot less intimidating and time-consuming than wiggling it back onto a hanger.

And with that, three of our playroom spaces got a beautiful new refresh!

Remember to start small and be targeted in your organizing.  What works for another home may not be best for yours. Your system just needs to be PRACTICAL and PERFECT for you!

We had a great time incorporating some pieces from this new line of products into this playroom.  If you’re in the market for some quality cotton canvas products to help keep your playroom and home in order, head over to The Laundress for even more inspiration.  And don’t forget to check out their eco-friendly laundry and cleaning products while you’re at it — you won’t be sorry!


After-School Afternoons Made Easy

Photo by Practically Perfect

This month, we’re partnering with a fantastic company, Iris, alongside one of our favorite fellow organizers, The Organized Mama, for a collaboration on some simple DIY solutions to help you prepare for the quickly-approaching back-to-school season.  For those of you who haven’t even wrapped your brains around starting school again, please do not worry: there is still a full month of summer vacation left. It’s our nature to plan ahead — so these tips are ready for you to consume at your leisure (while you sip a cool drink by the pool?!)

If your households are anything like ours, the period of time from after school until bedtime can feel hectic and chaotic (we’d really like to channel some of this summer sweetness all year long).  Naturally, we love any system that buys us a few extra minutes during an otherwise stressful part of our day — and helping our kids find more independence and responsibility is a huge bonus!

If your family’s schedule functions similarly to ours, if might look something like this:

  • Attend after-school lessons
  • Corral children into house, empty backpacks, empty lunch boxes
  • Feed grumpy children snacks (watch them transform into happier children)
  • Oversee homework
  • Break-up sibling argument
  • Redirect back to homework
  • Make dinner
  • Eating dinner together
  • Clean up dinner
  • Oversee bath (read: shouting to the kids from the kitchen while you do dishes)
  • Oversee bedtime (ask children 3 times each if they brushed well)
  • Snuggle your kiddos (maybe briefly close your eyes)
  • Wrap up the 4,982 things that can only be done when children are sleeping

In short, our afternoons and evenings can lean toward exhausting and slightly crazy-making.  However, we’ve found that the two following solutions have made our lives (and our kids’ lives) just a little bit easier during this part of the day.

The Snack Station

It can be an endeavor to create the a healthy, from-scratch, Pinterest-perfect snack that will make every child docile and agreeable, and let’s be real… who has time for that?

Nor do we always have the energy to negotiate and clarify that Nilla Wafers aren’t the best right before dinner, though we’ll concede they are delicious.

Our solution is a “Help Yourself” snack station – filled with parent-approved and ever-available for the hangry kiddo.

Photo by Practically Perfect

We highly recommend the Iris Stacking Storage Basket.  Not only does it look lovely in a pantry or on a countertop — but it’s a space-saving storage solution that allows for easy accessibility.  

Photo by Practically Perfect

For a distraction-free snack experience, (we parents completely know that opening the fridge and pantry can truly complicate the conversation of what healthy options are available that can be served quickly or on-the-run), we keep our “Help Yourself” stations in a designated space in our kitchens and only include packaged snacks that we approve of.  These snacks can be enjoyed at home, on-the-go and can be added into a lunchbox in a pinch! A few of our favorite are listed below…

*Please note that we also keep fresh produce within our kids’ reach in our kitchens at all times.  These are “anytime snacks” and can be enjoyed in lieu of or alongside a packaged snack. We like to call this “healthy snack merchandising.”

  • The Good Bean – the perfect balance of protein and crunch; a great chip alternative
  • Epic Meat Snacks – if you have an omnivorous family, we love these antibiotic-free bars and snacks that have no sugar, dairy or gluten
  • SeaSnax – a seaweed snack with only 3 ingredients (in the classic version) that is rich in minerals and sustainably harvested; another great chip/cracker alternative
  • Go Go Squeeze – on-the-go applesauce is a must, and this one takes the cake as it offers organic options and has no artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Packaged Nuts + Seeds (almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds are favorites around here) – available in snack-pack sizes at your local market… but feel free to make your own single-size servings using reusable containers of your choosing

Snack time… check!

The Homework Box

Are you ready to eliminate the daily digging through backpacks or sorting through your supply of art supplies?  

We endeavor to keep homework time as easy and streamlined as possible, and creating these boxes for our families has been a huge help.  A nod again to Iris, who has created a durable and stackable Modular Pencil Case – it’s one of our favorites!

Photo by Practically Perfect

So here’s the gist: each kid gets their own box, with all the homework supplies that they might need, from safety scissors and glue to pencil sharpeners and erasers, we put everything in each child’s container.  This eliminates the (legitimate) need for our kids to get up from their workstations and minimizes the possibility of sibling rivalry because one child “stole” another child’s highlighter. In addition to this simply being handy, we find our kiddos are so much more accountable for their work when they can set themselves up and manage their own supplies.

The boxes are labeled with each child’s name (we let our kids label and decorate their own boxes so that they would feel more ownership), and are stacked — because these particular boxes stack beautifully — in the designated homework spot for easy access.  We’re all about ease and practicality over here, if you haven’t noticed!

Photo by Practically Perfect

We use the exact same Modular Pencil Cases to create communal boxes filled with coloring supplies.  We find that markers, crayons and colored pencils are more easily shared — and we love the consistency of the storage boxes, as they are all being stacked together in one place.  

Homework… check!

It’s really this simple.  By creating two supply stations — one with healthy snack options and one with homework necessities — we have given our kids a bit more independence to empower them to stay on track during the school year.  If your family is also looking to streamline afternoons a bit more, grab your Iris items and go forth!

For even more inspiration on how to create that perfect DIY snack area, check out the How to Create a Snack Station For Kids post from our friend Jessica at The Organized Mama!

Photo by The Organized Mama


The Artful Way to Organize Your Memories

Mom With Art

Photo by Artkive

The sun is out, the rain is (nearly) gone, and smells of summer are beginning to fill the air.  The start of this new season also means the end of another school year, which means that armfuls of school projects are heading into your home…

Throwing away handmade art projects from your little Picasso can cause feelings of excess guilt.  But we all know how quickly a home can become filled with paintings, macaroni art, adorably lopsided pottery, crayon-filled birthday cards and oh-so-much more. What’s a parent to do?

Instead of filling up yet another plastic storage bin with endless creations and keepsakes, we’ve found a beautiful solution that we implement for our clients and in our own homes.  Move over refrigerator door, Artkive is here!

*If you’re thinking: “I don’t have kids — this post isn’t for me,” keep reading!  There are fabulous offerings for storing your memories, too!

Artkive is an incredible app that allows you to turn an entire storage box of artwork into a sleek, beautiful and easy-to-store book.  Think scrapbooking, but without the scissors, glue, glitter or stress!

Photos by Artkive

There are offerings that fit the bill for any household.  You can choose to photograph your child’s creations yourself using the Artkive app or take advantage of their white glove concierge service, which allows you to mail your artwork and allow the experts at Artkive to capture it for you (this is our favorite offering!)  If the idea of even creating is a book is too much for you, you can simply choose to digitize and store those precious works of art until you’re ready.

If you’re feeling like this might just be the (practically) perfect way for you to create some extra space in your home, we have a few tips below to help you get started:

1 – Don’t feel the need to include everything.  Be selective and do a bit of editing before you start.  You don’t need 5 pictures of rainbows drawn by your 5-year-old… just choose your favorite one.  Only save items that have sentimental or historical value.

2 – You don’t have to make a book every year.  It can feel tempting to create a charming little gallery book every school year but remember, the books will add up!  Consider group art collections into sections such as pre-school, elementary school and junior high.

3 – Don’t stress about wear and tear.  You can feel confident allowing your children to enjoy their art books.  Artkive gives you the option to add all of your images onto a thumb drive or to keep them stored in the cloud, so you can always recreate a book in the event that a little one, or a furry one, decides to use it as a chew toy.

For those of you who don’t have school-age children, we still find Artkive to be a fantastic option for both decluttering your home and cherishing your memories.

Photo by Practically Perfect

Maybe you have a collection of meaningful concert tickets, playbills, and movie stubs that you’re not sure what to do with.  Perhaps there are a few shoeboxes of old family letters you can’t imagine parting with but that are currently just living a lonely life on a shelf.  Whatever the items, creating an Artkive book is a simple and special way of cherishing them.

And if you weren’t swayed already, Artkive is currently offering Practically Perfect readers and followers $15 off their order.  Just use the code Practically Perfect.

Give your home a little breathing room… and feel free to break out the crayons all summer long!

Photo by Artkive

*Practically Perfect organizing clients receive additional special offers and discounts.  Email hello@practicallyperfectla.com for more information. We’d love to help you organize your memories!


Back To School: Easy As 1-2-3

My kids start back to school next week, and I am completely in awe of how fast this summer flew by!  I truly wish that I could press a magical pause button.  But since I can't stop time, I am simply going to do my best to prepare my family for the season to come.  Alas, I'm sharing the three things that I'm doing during the final week of summer to start the school year off as successfully as possible.

1. Shop Smartly

Don't buy what you don't need. This is a reminder for those of us who love back-to-school shopping (is there anything better than a package of fresh pencils?!) Through the years, I have learned to take detailed inventory of what we own before heading to Target, in an effort to avoid buying what we already own or more than what we'll actually need for the upcoming year. This might seem obvious, but it's a really important reminder. It's far easier to stay organized when you have less stuff to keep in order! This goes for clothes and shoes, too. Before I shop for anything new, I am sure to do a thorough edit of my kids' closets and dressers to avoid buying items that they really don't need.

Buy fewer, buy better. Last year, I splurged on adorable Pottery Barn Kids backpacks with matching lunch boxes for all of my kids, and I have been so throughly impressed with their quality. I have washed all 3 backpacks and lunch boxes regularly on a gentle cycle in my washing machine to keep them fresh, and they look brand new, even after a year of washing and some pretty serious wear and tear by my 4, 6 and 8-year-olds. This is the first summer that I am not buying new backpacks and lunch boxes, and I am thrilled about the savings!

Label everything. As the Lost & Found committee chair of my kids' school, I can tell you that you are far more likely to reconnect with lost items if you have labeled them. I love Label Daddy's customized labeling products. I use them to label my kids' clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, sports gear and more. Label Daddy is currently running a Back to School sale. Use promo code SCHOOL at checkout.

2. Say Thank You In Advance

As a former teacher, I know how exciting yet extremely exhausting the first week of school can be. So as a mom, I always go out of my way to do a little something to show our family's appreciation. When I was a child, my mom used to send me with an apple for my teacher on the first day of school. While this might feel old fashioned, I actually love the sentiment of showering my kids' teachers with love on day one... and fresh fruit is such a sweet (pun intended!) idea. I have also given my kids' teachers a gift card to Starbucks on the first day of school with a "coffee's on us this first week" note. Another incredible way of showing support right off the bat is to offer to purchase supplies and/or volunteer in your child's classroom. Be sure to let teachers know if you have special interests or talents.

3. Make Memories

Even if you're reading this just a few days before school is about to begin, there's still time to make one final summer memory. If there is something you've wanted to do all summer but haven't gotten around to... do it today! It doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Go for a bike ride, make a lemonade stand or watch a movie. If your family has had a favorite activity this summer (for us, it was bracelet-making)... do that one final time. Once homework and enrichment activities begin, it will be harder to remember to carve out time for these special moments. Perhaps you will even start a new back-to-school family tradition. The day before my daughter started kindergarten, we ate sushi as a special lunch date marking the last day of her summer vacation. She remembered doing this and, before first grade started, she asked to go back to the same restaurant again. Next Monday, we'll continue the trend - four years and counting. I love how this family tradition emerged organically, from my daughter's memory of a sweet summertime moment.

Here's hoping that you can squeeze a few more moments of sweetness and lasting memories out of the final days of summer.

Wishing your family an easy transition into the new school year!

~ J


Family Fun For The 4th

2 (treats) + 2 (ingredients each) = 4 (th of July)

Summer is in full swing, which likely means you're gearing up to host or attend a 4th of July celebration very soon.  Hopefully your plans include getting outdoors and soaking up some sunshine.  If so, we've got a few cool and refreshing crowd-pleasing treats that couldn't be easier to make.  We love both of these holiday-themed goodies because they are incredibly easy to make.  Each treat only has two ingredients -- and they can be prepared and assembled in about two minutes each, as well.  They're kid and parent approved on all counts: the little ones can essentially assemble them on their own, they're undeniably delicious, and one of them is even nutritious!  We've prepped a shopping list here for you - so that's even one less step...  Need we convince you any further to make both of these right away?

Here's hoping that these help you to stay cool and add a little fun to your 4th of July celebration!

Sprinkled Sandwiches

Shopping List

ice cream sandwiches - we used Julie's Organic
red/white/blue sprinkles

 

Assembly

Spill some festive sprinkles onto a plate.

Unwrap ice cream sandwiches and dip each side into the sprinkles.

Tip: don't allow the ice cream sandwiches to sit outside the freezer very long, as they will become soft and will be more likely to break.

Place these colorful creations onto a platter and return them to the freezer until you're ready to enjoy them.

Star Wands

Shopping List

watermelon
blueberries
bamboo skewers
star-shaped cookie cutter

Assembly

Slice the watermelon into 1" thick pieces. *This step is for adults only, please!
Press the star cookie cutter into watermelon slices.

Tip: plan ahead before inserting the cutter so that you can get as many stars as possible from each slice.

Cut up extra watermelon "scraps" to enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later.

 

Title

After washing blueberries, slide them onto the bamboo skewers. Use your own creative eye to determine how many you'd like -- but be sure to leave some space on the bottom for holding the wands.

Tip: large blueberries work best!

As a finishing touch, attach one watermelon star to the top of each skewer - and enjoy!


Controlling Chaos

As professional organizers and lovers of all things ordered, we deeply desire to have controlled households of our own -- but having three children each makes this an nearly impossible task.

When our preschoolers wake up in the morning, we don't know whether they'll be superheroes or pirates; paleontologists or soccer players... but we can set up their playrooms so that there are capes on hooks, swords in a basket, dinosaurs collected neatly in a box and soccer balls in a sports bin.  And we're fulfilled by the confidence that they can explore anything their hearts desire.

When our school-aged children open their closets, we can't predict whether they'll require the comfort of their softest pants, desire the confidence that they feel wearing their fanciest dress -- or if they won't want to get dressed at all... but we can organize their closets so that all of the choices are clear and abundant, and so that their favorite items are right where they expect them to be.  And we can be waiting to embrace their warm, pajama-clad bodies when they melt right down into our arms, overwhelmed with the possibilities and not really ready to make a decision at all.  And we can do that with the reassurance that once they do know what they need, we'll be able to find it quickly so that we can continue on with the rush of the morning -- but not before they are ready to leave our arms.

When we walk into our toddlers' bedrooms, we simply smile.  They collect blocks in the diaper pail, hoard books underneath their cribs and often deposit unmatched socks into the kitchen trash can.  And so, we let their rooms go a bit.  We'll organize them later.  It's good to have aspirations of future projects, anyway.