Anyway, I'm waxing poetic about our basement utopia because although we have a basement, it needs to be reworked significantly (water-proofed, laundry space barricaded from the tiny button-seeking fingers, and tearing down the previous owners' attempts at a room featuring water-damaged rickety paneling and exposed wires) before it would be safe for Nugget and Lil' Sib. So for now, his playspace is in the family room.
I'm not really a neat freak, but I do get anxious seeing "stuff" everywhere. Our family room would definitely never qualify for Better Homes and Gardens but it's comfy and liveable, and every item has a home. Here's my solution.
1. IKEA Expedit Bookshelf. We turned it horizontally. The top surface houses a lamp, puzzles, and IKEA bins. The bins hold smaller toys like tools, lacing beads, and flashcards. The top cubbies house board books. The lower cubbies are outfitted with Target fabric bins. One for plush. One for vehicles. One for mini books. One for random stuff like a top, jack-in-the-box, stacking rings, etc. Every night, we ask the Nugget to help put his toys to bed. Some nights we are more vigilant than others. Yes, there is some overflow, but when he receives more toys than will fit, we rotate some out (they live in our basement in a jumbo plastic tote) and give some away. There are no finger-pinching hazards and the Nugget can access his own toys without adult help.
2. We are lucky enough to have a mantle, upon which I keep one fabric/leather bin full of cds. I have another shoebox full of the Nugget's favorite dvds and VHS tapes. It's one of the very few spots left safe from the Nugget's reach (a challenge with having a very tall toddler).
3. We make good use of our tote bags. I store them in our entry way on a little side table. The largest tote stands open and holds the other empty totes. I keep a library tote and store the books in there, so they are always ready to go back. We read them and put them right back. I keep another tote full of the Nugget's musical instruments (maracas, a drum, bells) so we can grab and go to our monthly music class. Another tote holds a foam peg board, with tiny pieces that would otherwise get lost in the daily fray.