Nursery Organization.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above features mini’s nursery rug, Dash & Albert’s Paris Stripe, which has since been discontinued. Their Island Stripe is similar, but in a more pastel/muted color palette. Image above also showcases this darling story-telling game, which mini actually loves to use just to create little vignettes and stories with the figurines included herself. She received this as a sweet gift from our neighbors along with this book for her third birthday and both have been a huge hit! Easy gift idea for a little girl, possibly bundled with this fairy set — mini loves these little figurine kits!

With Christmas and the attending prospect of new toys and gear on the horizon, I spent time over the Thanksgiving holiday organizing my children’s rooms. The most time-consuming part** was filtering through the bins and baskets to re-group tiny parts that belonged to one another but had somehow found themselves diaspora — puzzle pieces, cards from Candy Land, stray Duplos, etc. A reader had pointed me in the direction of these waterproof zippered pouches awhile ago and — wow. The perfect solution. I have been slowly “decanting” games, puzzles, and toy sets into these over the past few months, but this past weekend represented a complete migration to pouch life. These are particularly wonderful because they are inexpensive, come in a range of sizes (the smaller ones ideal for organizing things like game parts and beads), are semi-transparent (meaning my children can see what’s inside), have different colored zippers (making it even easier to remember which bag you’re grabbing), and difficult for my 18-month-old to open without assistance, meaning that all of the small parts and puzzle pieces he should not be tampering with anyway remain isolated. I also like that they look a lot tidier than the smashed cardboard boxes these games came in, and you can fit more of the bags in bins/drawers anyway given that the shape makes them more malleable.

A couple of other nursery organization finds and must-haves:

+This inexpensive IKEA shelving system is the piece de resistance in mini’s nursery. I love it. It keeps all of mini’s books, toys, and activities very easy to access. We lined the bottom shelf with these straw bins and have each one dedicated to a slightly different category: one for dress-up, one for doll clothes/components/accessories, one for musical instruments, and one for “miscellaneous.” We use the upper two levels mainly for books, with two cubbies reserved for “activities” like wooden puzzles, magnatabs, magnetic sets, stacking toys (for Hill), etc. Basically — all of the pretty items that remind me of Montessori and that invite play by virtue of being artfully and accessibly presented. With this most recent bout of organization, I ended up removing about half of the items in that “activity” category and stowing them in the closet with the intention of rotating them into play every few weeks. I was, frankly, astounded by how excited mini was to play with some of her sets/toys just by virtue of them being moved around in her room and made more visible to her!

+Note: the Kallax comes in multiple different cubby dimensions (you can do, for example, just a 2×2), but if none of those options work in your child’s room, I also love the look of this little shelf system for a smaller nook, or this acrylic rolling cart.

+We also have a couple of woven bins similar to these to house bulkier items and overflow toy/puzzle/game sets stowed in the aforementioned pouches.

+We use these plastic woven bins in pink to stow “building” type toys underneath mini’s bed. They have a low clearance and will work under many cribs/beds. We have a separate one for magnatiles, building blocks, Duplos, and play food. I like them because they are lightweight and easy for the children to drag out on their own, but they are also inexpensive and will not fray or scratch like some of their woven counterparts — important given how often they are dragged out! (These inexpensive white handled bins, which I use elsewhere in the house for storage, would also be a good solution.)

+Over the weekend, I deployed this white rope bin to house all of mini’s Maileg mice, accessories, furniture, and the darling decorative matchboxes/bins the mice come in. Prior to this weekend, we had been keeping the mice and some of their clothes in a small Pehr bin, with the other boxes and furniture stowed elsewhere, somewhat haphazardly. We will be giving her the Maileg mouse house for Christmas so I really wanted to corral everything together for her, especially because she has been playing with them so much recently.

+We repurposed mini’s doll cradle (which she never uses anymore) to stow all of her stuffed animals at the foot of her bed. I love this reuse of space because it keeps them all in one place, a bit out of the way of the rest of her room.

+Both of my children love to draw, paint, etc — we spend a good chunk of every day doing this — and I have been keeping most of the supplies organized in these bins in the closet, drawing out the materials whenever the mood strikes. With this most recent organization effort, I decided to keep crayons and paint sticks permanently accessible on mini’s play table in this divided organizer, with coloring books and drawing pads in a bin beneath. I had really wanted to buy this divided lazy susan for the purpose, but it would have taken up too much space given the dimensions of the table. This slim lightweight organizer is the perfect solution given our space constraints. (And, come to think of it, I’m not sure I want to have more markers/materials available to Hill at 18 months…) This caddy style might also work if you want something that’s a bit more mobile than a lazy susan (i.e., if you want to be able to quickly clear the space for some reason — I feel like the lazy susan is sort of meant to stay put permanently).

+Not truly organization, but we do a lot of painting and crafting in mini’s room. I put down this midi-sized Gathre mat whenever we’re getting messy. It’s an ideal size for beneath a high chair or underneath a craft table. It’s easy to roll up and wipe down and it folds into a small square when not in use. Love. And we use these long-sleeved smocks for those occasions, too. Mini has a tendency to really get into the medium at hand, so these have saved many articles of clothing. A few other must-haves for the painting-obsessed: these palettes, these jumbo paint brushes, watercolor paper, and Crayola washable paint (God bless it)!

+For the closet, I use acrylic shelf dividers and fabric cubes to keep things tidy, and these appropriately-dimensioned children’s hangers for hanging clothes.

+I have been looking for a better solution for shoe storage, and I think I might buy these stacking wire bins for the purpose.

**Correction: the most time-consuming part was attempting to do this while two pairs of tiny hands were interrupting my progress at every turn. Every time I’d manage to form a little mound of carefully organized Calico Critters, little fingers absconded with select pieces.

P.S. More organization gear I love and storage/org solutions for small spaces.

P.P.S. My favorite home gear of all time.

P.P.P.S. Still a few great deals happening at Nordstrom as a part of the Cyber Week promotions — namely dialed in on these classic Sperry boat shoes for boys for only $26!

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10 thoughts on “Nursery Organization.

  1. So many good ideas here! I also bought those zipper pouches after reading about them in the comments, and they’ve been so great. I’ve actually given some away to my parents & siblings when shipping them care packages during the pandemic … they’re so great for corralling small items! I need to buy another set soon…

    +1 on the KALLAX love! We have them all over our house, mainly for book storage — one in the 10 y-o’s room, one in the kitchen for cookbooks, and three others for art & photo books. Can you tell we love books?!

    Also, I loved reading your conversation with Stephanie re: Santa, Elf on the Shelf, and other Christmas traditions. At 11 and 10, my stepkids have pretty much stopped talking about/obsessing over Santa, but the 10-year-old still insists on doing Elf on the Shelf, much to my chagrin (I have never loved that particular tradition and have gritted my teeth through it over the years … I’m ashamed to admit this, but it’s true! Ugh) What I HAVE done is always put emphasis on the magic of Christmas and the importance of giving to others, and I hope those lessons stick 🙂


  2. I think I might have to finally buy those zipper pouches! Yesterday when one was in school and the other napping, I did a clean up in our “toy department” (as my 3yo calls it) in anticipation of a deluge of new Christmas toys. It looks better but could benefit from some pouches and bins.

    Unrelated…I’m interested to hear your Santa strategy. I’m struggling with this myself, and can no longer ignore it since Claire has started telling us that Santa is bringing her presents. I don’t like the idea of keeping up a long ruse on my kids, but I appreciate the tradition of Santa and recognize that it’s an avoidable part of the season. I also don’t want her to unknowingly ruin Santa for her friends if we start out telling her he’s not real. Aaargh. And I’d also like to put more emphasis on the religious aspects than on Santa. Anyway, interested to hear what you’re doing, if you’re willing to share!

    1. Yes! I think these pouches might afford you an extra measure of sanity and control. Even if my children don’t yet fully put things back in the pouches, I at least know everything has its own home…

      Re: Santa, I so hear you! Tricky, and I don’t think there’s any right answer here — I think trust your instincts. I’ve been thinking about a permutation of this question with regards to Elf on the Shelf, which we do not do, though I’m sure Emory would LOVE it. I just felt it was too much on top of doing the Advent calendar — but now I’m cringing waiting for her to come home with news of the elves in other classmates’ homes…I think I will probably say something straight-forward and simple, if she does, like “That’s so fun that they have an elf visit! We don’t, but that’s OK. We focus on the Advent calendar in our house.” For Santa, I may be in the minority here, but I’m personally comfortable with upholding the myth of Santa until she’s older. I perceive it as part of the magic and fun of Christmas, and will probably explain it as such when she’s old enough to know he doesn’t exist. Like you, I have been trying this year to focus on the religious story of Christmas, too — it’s been helpful to light the Advent wreath every night (we sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” while we light it — it’s kind of an intense, old Testament-style song but it’s what we always sang growing up and I’m surprised that Emory already knows some of the words after only a few nights) and to check the Advent calendar for a little surprise every morning. We have also been reading a board book on the story of Christmas nearly every night at dinnertime, too. We haven’t yet pulled out the nativity set but I think that will help reinforce the narrative. I feel horribly ill-equipped to lead the charge on communicating the Christian meaning of Christmas but I’m just muddling through the best I can…!

      One other thought — my mother always held the Jesus figurine from her nativity set aside until Christmas morning, and, before we could run in to see what Santa left us, we had to stand in front of the creche and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. One of us was appointed the responsibility of nestling Jesus into the set each year, too. At the time, we were not huge fans of this and I remember us mumbling the words as fast as we could to get through it. But it definitely brought home the fact that Christmas was first and foremost — above all gifts and all else — a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I don’t think I’ll do this exact tradition but I am thinking I might do something like put a birthday hat on Jesus/sing him the song later in the day or in some way incorporate it into the day in a major way…

      Please share other thoughts! I’m all ears!!! I am feeling my way through this just like you are…


    2. Ha – I’m smiling imagining you all impatiently singing to baby Jesus on Christmas morning! 🙂 We also have an advent calendar, and several nativity scenes that she’s enjoying. So hopefully we’re sowing the seeds for a religions Christmas before she can really understand it all.

      Ugh I didn’t even think about her friends’ elf on the shelf! I think you have a good response to that. I also like the idea of considering Santa as a real part of the magic and tradition of Christmas, while not actually being a real guy who breaks into your house on Christmas Eve (which is what my brother was worried about as a kid, ha!) Hopefully they’ll be able to grasp that nuance and not feel like they’ve been lied to for years and thus be scarred for life.

      As far as presents, we are introducing stockings for the first time this year, and I think just the stocking presents will be from Santa. I’d like to put more emphasis on giving gifts to each other(rather than giving credit to Santa!), so the bigger gifts will be from mama and daddy. Trying to think about how to make this simple from the beginning so it’s less likely to spiral into something unsustainable!

      Thanks for sharing 🙂

      1. Hi Stephanie – I love the idea of keeping Santa’s gifts in the stockings and the bigger ticket items from mom and dad! That seems like a really easy distinction to make/reinforce. Just like you, trying to figure it out little by little…


  3. So many helpful tips here! I feel like I am always trying to get toys more organized too.

    I had also purchased those translucent zippered pouches as your reader had suggested and they are excellent. I put all my daughter’s wooden puzzle boards in them and it is a relief to finally have proper spaces for each one.

    I have also been really liking these very inexpensive Target trays for art/craft items: https://www.target.com/p/2pk-large-storage-trays-white—room-essentials–8482-/-/A-77294237

    They come in different sizes too, sometimes I put 1-2 smaller ones in a larger one if I want her to sort little items like hair ties by color (or some similar activity). In general I feel like trays are just SO helpful for infinite uses.

    IKEA Kallax for the win! I have been very impressed that they survived 2 moves (one of which was cross-country). We have the 4×4 and 4×2 and they have been a godsend for vertical storage. I love that the Target fabric storage bins fit perfectly in them so I can easily get more as needed, as it’s not always easy for me to get to IKEA (and I’m not willing to pay for their $50 delivery for small items!) for their woven bins, which we have and like as well.

    1. 100% agree on the trays. I bought a four pack of trays at the dawn of quarantine and not a day goes by where we don’t use them. They also are helpful in our house for reinforcing “private space” or “a designated workspace” for Emory and Hill — it’s an easier way to say “uh oh, that’s not yours. Look in your tray.” Mini’s Montessori is also very big on that notion — the children always work on a mat, and carry things from the shelves on specific trays, because it helps them have respect for their own space and that of others. The trays are seriously a god send for ALL of that, plus easier to set up activities, keep small parts together, etc.

      Who knew I’d love trays so much? Haha!

      And YES to the Kallax!!! We love it. One of my favorite buys — functional, attractive in a minimalist way, etc.


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