Our small living space is constantly competing for breathing room with Arlo’s toys. And I’ve been banned from even thinking about splurging on storage solutions that might work (our house motto since we moved in is ‘If it ain’t broke, live with it. And if it is broke, bodge it’.

I have a high tolerance for clutter (there’s no pretending otherwise, I know you’ve seen the evidence in my 366 project). Blaming our current set up has made it very easy to give up on attempting to create a sense of order amongst the toy debris. But I will admit that it is nice to step into a tidy living room once in a while. My theory was that having some sort of vague system, and ‘a place for everything’ will make a faster job of tidying up at the end of the day, and perhaps actually even encourage me to tidy up, which I know Sam would appreciate.

I’ve noticed that as soon as I’ve tidied away Arlo’s toys, he starts picking up toys that he usually doesn’t pay much attention to. It’s almost as if he hasn’t seen them before. Not only that, but he plays happily for longer periods of time. I think having lots of toys out at once is a bit of a sensory overload, and so he defaults to his safe favourite toys. A recent post on Young House Love described the same thing happening with their toddler, and further motivated me to organise Arlo’s toys a bit better.

Having a place for everything in our living room meant some serious condensing of Arlo’s toy collection. I sorted everything into three piles: Things he plays with all the time, things he plays with occasionally, and things he never plays with. The latter two piles formed the cull list, and have been evicted to the bedroom, destined to make an appearance on rainy days and occasionally get switched out for some of his ‘downstairs toys’ to provide a bit of variety. I kept the things he never plays with in the event that they might one day become a favourite, as has happened quite a bit in the past.

The rest of Arlo’s toys have been condensed into this wicker case on the left of the photo. Also featured here is his bubble wand collection, which is another of those ‘always out’ toys. He loves to tip them out, count them, and put them back in…over and over again.

I would love to be able to show you my expedit shelving system with each compartment dedicated to different types of toy to be brought out for different occasions (I know people who have done this and I am JEALOUS). Or the ultimate dream – a playroom that creates a peaceful separation between the adult chill out zone and the child zone. But we have room for neither of these things.

Unfortunately this post does not contain any groundbreaking toy organisation secrets, but rather just a very small, ramshackle, subject-to-be-moved-at-any-point set-up. There will never be a permanent space for Arlo’s toys (apart from maybe his bedroom when he is old enough to play in there unsupervised), but for the moment they live alongside the chimney breast wall of our living room.

From left to right we have Arlo’s collection of milk bottles (he’s obsessed, we try to limit him to no more than four as otherwise they really take over the living room.) A basket with lots of random items (see photo further down), a shape sorter, spinning top, stacking frog ball game thing, a small box of duplo and wooden building blocks, ball, stacking rings, sensory triangle thingy, stacking blocks, a steering wheel, and a play tunnel (soon to be relegated to our new garden shed).

This is more than enough toys to keep him busy.

Over in the corner we have his walker which he still seems to be getting a lot of use out of, and a small collection of his books on the TV stand. Oh, and Thomas, of course (he moves around a lot).

Things that are pretty much always out on the floor or sofas are his trains and cars.I would be fighting a losing battle if I tried to put those away in toy corner.

Inside the basket are some little dinosaur figures, some stray building blocks that haven’t made it back in the plastic box with the others, the truck that connects to Thomas, a pull-along dog, weebles, maracas, and that yellow box is squeaky eggs, which you all should get if you don’t have it already. I can’t say I understand the appeal, but Arlo loves it and so do all of his friends (I bought them all squeaky eggs as a first birthday gift).

The basket was a first birthday gift to Arlo from his auntie Sophie. She painted it and put his initials on the top of the case.

For now I’m banned from any non-essential purchases, but eventually I want to get another decorative fabric bin or basket to sit next to Arlo’s wicker toy basket and house all the toys that are currently sitting there loose. Something that I can quickly scoop and dump toys into at the end of the day once he is in bed.

A wider angle, taken from the door to the living room. Don’t mind Arlo and his wellies in the corner!

The other room/dining room (we haven’t yet settled on an official name for it) is generally a toy-free zone. Of course, this means all of Arlo’s toys migrate that way, but none of them actually live in there except for a fridge magnet toy, and Bounce and Spin Zebra.

Other than the photos I’ve already shown you, plus a few garden toys and bath toys, all that’s left of Arlo’s debris lives on top of his chest of drawers and there is also a cuddly toy basket in his bedroom.

The push-along dog is an example of a toy that gets a lot more interest now that I’ve moved it out of the living room and into its new home next to the cuddly toys. The green bag holds the track for his brio trains. 

And that’s it. All of Arlo’s toys and books, save for a couple of things that I’ve kept back from his first birthday.

I can’t believe in just four months, I’ll be re-assessing the toy situation again to make way for second birthday presents. Oh, how this year has flown.


On another note, you can find me waffling on in my first interview as a proper photographer (how exciting!) over on I Heart Snapping. If you have a blog, you should definitely check out I Heart Snapping – it’s a great resource with loads of info and simple tutorials on all the visual aspects of blogging, from buttons and headers to photography.



  1. Isabel has a thing about milk bottles too. I wonder what that’s all about.

    Anyway… toys. I am a horrible, horrible mum. Every few months I have a clear out of toys and send a small batch to the charity shop. I hate clutter (although don’t keep on top of it like I should) and I figure it’s easier to keep tidy a few select items than masses of plastic tat (I also have a thing about noisy plastic toys, but I’ll shut up before people start calling me a toy nazi or something :p)

  2. What I would do for a playroom! I have the same problem and our house is over-run with Iyla’s toys – most of which she rarely even looks at. Even after I clear them away she ends up picking things up and leaving them around the house. No matter what I do there is always books and toys in every room of the house! x

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