A Real Life Room Organization Before and After – The Boys’ Room

I subscribe to a lot of magazines. I love that I can sit down for five minutes and read five entire articles; I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

My favorite is Better Homes and Gardens. I’m not much of a decorator but I aspire to one day have a completely pulled-together home, though probably in an eclectic way. Right now our decor is hand-me-downs meets early-family-budget-conscious meets kid-friendly-and-kid-resistant.

We don’t want to spend much money on furniture that the kids will destroy, because so far they’ve destroyed, well, just about everything. But I am trying to get the house in order – purging unneeded things, prettying up where I can, and trying to rein in the toys and clutter.

Miles and Grant have shared a bedroom since just a few months before Jonah was born. At first we didn’t allow any toys in the room at all, preferring to keep them confined to the jungle that is our play room. But as the kids got bigger their toys got smaller, things migrated to their rooms for safety reasons, so the baby wouldn’t eat them. Then the kids started to choose to play in their rooms, so more toys found their way under beds and in closets.

I used a slapped-together approach to organization. I’d find a bin and tell the boys to use it. We had nice bins under their beds. Nice bins in the closet. It worked for a while, but soon it became clear my shoddy system wasn’t enough.

After a couple more Christmases and birthdays, their rooms were overflowing. Zachary and I couldn’t even tell the boys to clean their room because we didn’t have any idea where they should put their toys, either. Mass chaos.

We finally decided that despite their accident-having tendencies we’d bunk their beds to make more room. I have so far resisted the temptation to hang an OSHA -style poster in their room stating, “We have gone X amount of days without a recordable injury!”

We bought a big, 16-square Expedit shelf from IKEA for the play room and moved the old 8-square one to the boys’ room, plus bought another 9-square one. We dumped all the toys out of their imperfect bins onto the floor and I spent two days sorting every Lego, Playmobil set, Tinker Toy, Lincoln Log, Transformer, Bionicle, spy gear contraption and book that they owned. I had to enlist their help to identify the smaller pieces. Amazing how children can look at a 3mm piece of brown plastic and immediately know which specific toy or game it belongs to. I hope this is a skill that will look good on their college applications.

Here are a few before and after pictures of the transformation. Unlike room renovations in Better Homes and Gardens, there is no gorgeous paint job, no adorable artwork (except the “No Bad Guys” sign on the door), no matching bedding. The walls are still moderately dirty and you can see in one of the before pictures that I had to employ a stain lifter contraption to only somewhat successfully remove a red makeup stain from their carpet (I have yet to figure out how that red makeup got on the floor – no one is talking).

But so far the boys have done a fairly good job keeping things picked up. Now the “Go clean your room!” command doesn’t leave them confused – there is a designated spot for everything they own.

Please note that these “Before” photos are a little dramatic and not indicative of how they lived all the time. In the first Grant had dumped everything out looking for some 3mm piece of plastic, most likely, and in the second and third we dumped everything out before organizing the toys into the new cube organizers.

Before – dun dun dun dunnnn.

And after – ta da!

P.S. Why are there no doors on the closet, you ask? Because the boys somehow so badly bent the track we had to remove the door. Another mystery that will never be solved.



  1. The bedroom looks great! And I love your writing style; so funny! (I just happened to stumble upon this while I was looking for ideas on organizing MY boys’ room. Well, son-to-be. The baby, age 2 1/2, is still in his crib in our room. The quicker we get him outta there and into his big brother’s room, the better!)

    My boys destroy everything too, and most of our furniture is the same as yours (“hand-me-downs meets early-family-budget-conscious meets kid-friendly-and-kid-resistant”).

    I am adding your blog to my bookmarks. 🙂

  2. jessica wood says:

    It’s so relieving to see that I’m northeast only mother who struggles with that kind of mess. I think in B.H.A.G. and magazines alike there should be before and after pics of real everyday home rooms. Cause the average person isn’t as put together as we want to be. We need help working with what we got.

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