The Old System
I had tried to keep up with it all, purging every few months and having a storage basket in the living room and the rest of his toys in his bedroom. Then the toys changed. Some got bigger, some got smaller, some came in sets with many little parts. Cars and figures and things kept falling to the bottom of the storage basket. He was in the habit of dumping it out or dumping out the under-bed storage bins to find those elusive, favorite, tiny items. It wasn't too difficult to clean up--just drop everything back into the big bins--but too much was taken out too often. Everything had a place, but he couldn't find anything. It didn't work.
I had been drooling over IKEA's Trofast storage system for a while. Since Thomas is a climber, regular shelves won't do. He even took the bins off of a rod system (pictured here), used the bare frame as a jungle gym, and then stacked the bins and used them as step stools. This was when he was two. Never again.
Trofast is unique because the wooden sides of its frame have slots in which you can place either a shelf or a bin. I decided to use the bottoms and tops of the frames as shelves and then use a lot of bins.
Some purging was necessary before I planned out which Trofast components I was going to buy. I separated toys into "keep" and "hide." I chose to box up some toys instead of giving them away just in case he asked for something specific weeks later. (He has--two things out of dozens.) The hide pile included broken toys, toys he didn't play with much anymore, and toys that annoyed me with their noises or battery requirements.
I purchased three of the tallest frames and then six small bins and three medium bins. Bins come in three sizes and a variety of colors. I chose white because, as far as I can tell, it is the only color that is translucent. Clear and translucent bins are great for kids (and adults) who are very visual and tend to forget where items are when they're put away ("out of sight, out of mind").
I am very happy at how the system turned out. Thomas likes it too. I made labels using Microsoft Word and photos of toys from the Internet.
Some of the bins can be a little heavy, but he enjoys using them as drawers or pulling the whole bin out. He can even carry a whole bin downstairs. Clean-up is easy, and it's much easier to find things.
Success! For now...