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No More Clutter!

A Functional Family Room

"This is an excellent place to use a room-within-a-room arrangement  -- much as preschools organize the room into activity centers," says professional organizer Pauline Hatch, coauthor of It's Here...Somewhere.

Make a hobby or game center with an inexpensive pint-size TABLE AND CHAIRS, or for toddlers, a plastic mat to protect the floor, and pillows to lounge on. Make the area inviting with a whimsical rug.

Get all those little trucks and dinosaurs off the floor while allowing kids access, with CLEAR PLASTIC BOXES with easy-to-open lids; they let children see what's inside, but also stack and take up less space. Other good choices: bins, dishpans, buckets, and boxes, all of which act as slide-out trays, making shelved items easy to reach. OPEN-FRONT STACKABLE BINS can hold toddlers' larger toys.

Stow toys that don't get daily use in LARGE PLASTIC BOXES, then stash them on a high shelf or under the sofa. Because kids can always keep an eye on the contents, they probably won't protest.

Toss out broken game boxes and put game parts in ZIP-CLOSE PLASTIC BAGS, then into a larger master container. Tape instructions to the back of each board and file next to the game-parts box on a shelf.

Save a roomy basket or toy chest  -- where smaller toys just get lost  -- for large toys and bulky stuffed animals, says Nellie O'Brien, a consumer reporter and professional organizer in White Plains, NY. It's also a neat place to pile pillows, or hide blankets and sleeping bags.

Create a pint-size reading corner for your child by positioning kid-size BEANBAGS or large pillows around bookshelves. Or make a portable library by standing books (titles facing out) inside a colorful PLASTIC TUB. A small child can easily flip through to find her favorite Dr. Seuss book without dumping them on the floor. (But if she does, they're easy to put away.) Joe Strasser, a father of two in San Diego, made bookshelves out of bright plastic crates from a discount store. He stacked four 1-gallon crates atop two 4-gallon crates and secured them with nylon ties.

Set up a kiddie entertainment center. File kids' CDs, videocassettes, and tapes in RECTANGULAR WICKER BASKETS that can be placed on a shelf or on the floor, near the TV and the stereo.