Thinking inside the box

Keeping kids’ spaces neat and organized can help result in keeping the kids neat and organized. This delightful child’s playspace, above, marries form and function with an interior designed by New York City-based SISSY+MARLEY ( and SISSY+MARLEY for Jill Malek for Wallpaper.—Marco Ricca photo

I admit it. I’m a 100% neat freak. I love a tidy house. It gives me a sense of calm and respite. Unfortunately, my family and I live in a house full of stuff … toys, books, magazines, games, sporting equipment, hobbies, school books, paperwork, holiday decorations, and one too many sets of dishes.

The writer’s son, Chase, chooses a baseball cap from the locker-style armoire that his parents bought (and assembled) from IKEA. — Bob Soucy photo

I often struggle to keep the house organized but I’ve found a solution through multi-functional furniture and the right storage. And with the start of another school year just around the corner, there’s no better place to start than your child’s bedroom.

When it came time to give our older son, Chase, a more grown-up bedroom, we decided to convert our infrequently used formal dining room into a bedroom for him. The room was spacious but wouldn’t allow for bulky furniture and didn’t have a closet. It was necessary to be clever when it came time for clothes storage, desk space, and open shelving for a tween’s paraphernalia.

This project required us to think inside the box — as well as the bin, the basket, and the bookshelf. Thanks to an open wall unit and locker-style armoire we purchased from IKEA, we had function with form that will be easily adaptable to our son’s changing needs as he gets older. The cubbies, baskets, and bins allow him to minimize clutter and focus on what’s most important — getting a good night sleep and having an uncluttered desk space for homework.

When it came time to turn Chase’s old bedroom into our daughter’s fairytale kingdom full of unicorns, dolls, books, toys and games, however, we had the same square-footage but with far more stuff. We relied on similar IKEA open shelving, bins, baskets, and a multi-purpose bench/toy chest to do the work. Some storage solutions completely hide the stuff while others are designed so your child can easily put their own things away while still allowing quick access to them.

Matt Baier, owner of of Matt Baier Organizing ( in Stamford, helps clients organize their children’s bedrooms as well as playspaces.

Neutral storage in a baby nursery designed by SISSY+MARLEY. — Marco Ricca photo.

“Perhaps the toughest category to organize is toys because they come in such a wide range of shapes and sizes,” Baier observes. “Forget traditional toy boxes. They’re either too small for large trucks and too large for Legos. A variety of open and visible storage solutions are easier to sustain. I like towers of clear plastic drawers on wheels for arts and crafts and small pieces. Open shelves and cubby holes are good for the medium toys. Some children take to putting things away when the solutions are easy, but most, to be honest, still won’t do it. Bottom line: useable utilitarian looks better than unused attractive.”

Don’t forget the closet: in my son’s room with the open armoire, what you see is what you get, so it has to stay neat. If you have decent closet space or are lucky enough to have a walk-in closet in your child’s bedroom, that, too, can perform double-duty. For our daughter, Ava, we took a cue from Matt Baier and used stacks of clear plastic drawers so she can easily see her clothes and accessories.

Knowing how rushed school mornings can be with the never-ending dilemma of what to wear, Karen E. Bradbury, design director/owner of Norwalk-based Closet & Storage Concepts (, offers these closet organization tips:  

“First, decide what is important and make sure your closet provides the solution. It’s best to use long, medium, and double-hang areas to maximize closet storage space. Use adjustable shelving to adjust to your belongings, and build your closet storage systems off the floor for easy cleaning.”

Remember, clutter is like dust. You clean it one day and the next, it reappears. Unless, of course, all that clutter is neatly tucked inside a box.

Spacious cubbies, some with pull-out bins, help Ava Soucy keep everything in its place!—Bob Soucy photo




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