Organizing 101: Family rooms
The more people using a room, the greater the chance that clutter will happen. So what's the key to making a shared space like the family room work? It's simple: carefully editing your belongings and creating a good organizing system that makes it easy for people to put things away.
1 Make an activity/equipment list. Include every activity that takes place in the family room, and the equipment needed for it. TV viewing, for example: adequate seating, TV, DVD player, VCR, remote(s), storage for all DVDs and video tapes, TV listings. Kids' play area: toys, storage for toys and crafts, crafts table.
2 Plan activity zones. Devote separate areas to different activities. If your family room is large, place medium-height bookcases (tall ones could topple over) back to back to create a handy reading/TV zone that offers book storage on one side and a play zone with toy storage on the other.
3 Find homes for equipment. Create storage space within each activity zone.
4 Edit. Before buying any organizing equipment or furniture, go through everything, including books, magazines, CDs, videos, board games and kids' toys, and dispose of whatever you possibly can (see The Right Stuff for tips).
5 Choose furniture with storage. The armoire has become an almost ubiquitous piece in family rooms, often serving as an entertainment unit. You can also use it as a home office, crafts cupboard, or games centre for board games, puzzles and playing cards. Other furniture with great storage power: end tables with drawers and cupboards, an antique chest used as a coffee table, wall-to-wall shelving, and custom built-ins.
6 Use any oddly shaped and unused spaces. Basement rec rooms often have nooks and crannies, like under the stairs, niches in walls that accommodate wiring or ductwork, or areas where the ceiling is low. Incorporate built-ins and wall-mounted or stand-alone shelving.
7 Maintain the space. In Organizing Plain & Simple (Storey Publishing, 2002), author Donna Smallin suggests keeping a “go-to box” near the family room door. When tidying up at the end of the day, stash items that belong elsewhere in it. Every week, empty the box with family members and let them return the stuff they originally brought into the room.
The right stuff
CDs, DVDs, videos Use technology to organize your music and free up storage. Transfer old CDs, tapes and albums to your computer and save them as MP3s (make backups!). Software for making MP3s is free (and legal) to download from the Internet, and cables that connect your stereo to your computer are available at electronics stores. You can also transfer audio tapes to CD, and then throw the tapes out. Sell your old formats at secondhand record stores. If you can't part with all your albums (Fleetwood Mac's Rumours holds fond memories!), keep a few favourites.
Organize newer CDs, as well as DVDs and videos in appropriately sized, attractive storage boxes (be sure to get the kind with slots on the front for labels); or throw out CD jewel cases and organize discs alphabetically in CD binders; or use freestanding CD towers or wall-mounted shelves, and store DVDs and videos in drawers or on shelves in or near the entertainment unit.
Books After editing your collection of old books or those you're unlikely to read, organize what's left in a way that makes sense to you, such as alphabetically or alphabetically within categories.
Magazines, newspapers Keep a paper-recycling bin in the family room. Consider cancelling newspapers you don't read, or requesting weekend delivery only. You'll save money, trees and trips to the curb with the recycling box. Cancel magazines you aren't reading. Organize current issues in neat piles or in big baskets.
Crafts Plastic containers specially designed for sewing, paints, knitting needles, beading and much more are available at craft stores. Designate a shelf or two for storing them.
Remotes Today, there are sofas with special pockets at the back or sides for remotes; consider including pockets on a slipcover if you have one made. Or put a basket on the coffee table or on the TV for them. You can also buy multiple-compartment remote caddies to house separate audio and video remotes.
Keeping on top of toy collections is a battle. Kids outgrow things quickly, well-meaning relatives give more toys than children can play with, and toys can be awkwardly shaped, making storage difficult. Here are some tips.
Use one or two toy chests for large, awkward items like monster trucks or large dolls. Don't store small items like the parts of a tea or train set in them; they'll get lost or broken and are difficult to retrieve from deep containers.
Install custom built-ins in wasted space, like the shallow niche under a high window. Design units to hold books or CDs when children have outgrown their toys.
Buy economical utility-grade shelving on which containers of toys can be stacked, if custom built-ins with closed storage aren't an option. Hang attractive drapery panels in front; those with grommets slide easily. Bolt shelving to the wall and the drapery rod to the shelves to avoid accidents.
Organize toys into plastic bins that are see-through or translucent and are clearly labelled with pictures and words.
Choose identical storage containers for a uniform look, and match the size of the container to what's stored inside.
Keep some toys in the garage, basement or storage room in an easily accessible spot and rotate them occasionally.
Ask generous relatives if they'd like to contribute to a new bike or museum membership instead of giving the kids more toys. If you sense hurt feelings, accept any toys graciously and donate some to a women's shelter.