When you live in a small space, sometimes you have to “make-do” with sleeping zones, right? (Cue all those awesome loft beds and tiny house hydraulic beds that go up and down…) My two toddlers don’t have a fancy, themed room. Their room is a make-do toddler bedroom in half of the laundry room.
Our Apartment Set Up: Make-Do Family Living
I’ve been doing a series on this blog about how our family of four organizes our space. So far I’ve covered our TINY kitchen, my husband’s and my bedroom, and our master/family bathroom. We live in a rented apartment that is about 450 square feet (40 meters square). It is technically a one-bedroom apartment. But there is a laundry/storage room that we utilize as a make-do room for our toddlers. The room is narrow and relatively long – I think it’s about 6 feet across, and probably 15 feet long.
(A quick side note about ventilation safety – there are no windows in the room. However, we ALWAYS keep the door open when our kids are in there so that the room can benefit from the living room’s ventilation. We also don’t keep many toys in there so that there isn’t a big draw to play in there. And we make sure there are NO harsh laundry chemicals where children can reach. I do NOT advise you make a non-bedroom into a place where people sleep. We’ve tried to do due diligence to make it safe, but I don’t recommend it. End side note!)
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Make-Do Toddler Room Layout:
One end of the room has a utility sink, a washing machine, and a freezer. Recently, I asked our landlords if we could add a large storage shelf above that. (And our amazing landlord and his son came by about three days later to put it up for me – hallelujah!).
The “bedroom” door is about in the middle of the longer stretch of the room. Across from their bedroom door is another door that goes into our landlord’s garage. This door stays shut and locked the vast majority of the time since the garage is being used as a storage area right now. There are brooms and other tools leaning against the outside of the door.
Their make-do toddler room is just wide enough to have a crib, a crib mattress on the floor, and about a foot between them. Our one-year-old sleeps in the crib so far. And our three-year-old sleeps on the crib mattress on the floor. She isn’t a very big person, so the mattress is plenty large enough for her. But we do have a rolled up blanket at the top of the mattress against the wall, to help elongate the mattress by another few inches.
On the other side of the “hallway” between the doors from the girls’ beds is a kids clothing rack. I got mine at the Warehouse here in New Zealand, but this is similar.
Make-Do Toddler Room Storage for the Toddlers:
Under the crib we keep a cardboard box with our 3 year old’s wooden kitchen toys. The cardboard box we made into an “oven,” and we keep some wooden pots and pans, and wooden food and utensils inside. We got the set from K-Mart here in New Zealand, but this is a similar set off Amazon. We pull this box out as a special occasion activity, since she forgets it is down there.
Otherwise, under the crib is empty. I had originally wanted it to be totally empty so the crib could be on risers and we could slide the mattress on the floor under the crib. But, let’s be honest, a toddler in a crib on risers… that doesn’t seem like the smartest idea! All it takes is one rather enthusiastic tantrum and… well, that crib is probably coming down!)
Make-Do Closet Set Up for the Room:
Obviously, since this isn’t a proper bedroom, there isn’t any built-in closet set up. I opted for a kids’ size clothing rack. I wanted my toddler to be able to reach her own clothes. Personally, I like for my kids to be able to do as much as they can by themselves. Sometimes I’ll hang pre-planned outfits on a certain color of hanger and direct Mara to choose an outfit from that color hanger. This allows her to have some autonomy… But also give me a little bit of influence on what outfits get worn at what time!
We keep “nice” clothes (dresses specifically) for both girls on the rack. Anything that is a bit bulky and hard to fold (ie: sweaters, jackets, etc) also hangs here.
On the bottom shelf of the rack, we keep two baskets for our 3-year-olds seasonally-appropriate clothes. One holds her tops, and the other holds her bottoms.
Underneath the shelf of the rack, I have two basket trays that are about an inch and a half tall. One of them has my three-year-old’s undies, and the other has her socks.
Right next to the rack is a small three-shelf night stand cube shelf. The top box currently holds disposable diapers and wipes (we use cloth diapers during the day, but disposables at night). The second box has my three-year-old’s pajamas. The bottom box is where we keep the extra bedding for the girls.
Family Storage Section of the Make-Do Toddler Room:
Obviously, this room is not just for our girls’ needs. We also use it for family storage purposes. Directly across the room and parallel from the clothes rack is a tall, wooden six-shelf bookshelf.
The top three shelves of this rack are used for kombucha production (empty bottles on the top shelf, “vats” for brewing the kombucha, and spare juice for the 2nd fermentation on the third shelf. My husband made sure it is secured to the wall so it won’t fall on anybody!
The fourth and fifth shelves are usually empty, but sometimes I store extra onions or kumara/sweet potatoes if needed.
The sixth shelf has a couple baskets and a wooden box. This is where most of my one-year-old’s current clothes live: one of the smaller baskets has her spare pajamas in it, the other smaller basket has several pair of overalls in them (a bit bulky), and the large basket has her tops and bottoms (leggings, jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, etc). The wooden box has her socks and tights.
Vertical Space Usage (Of Course!):
I’m a big fan of over-the-door hooks, so of course I have utilized both the doors in the girls room for some vertical storage. On the door that leads into our landlord’s garage is a super cool rack I got from K-Mart. It has six shelves on it, and this is where I keep all of our cloth diapers. We use a combination of old-fashioned flats with waterproof covers (Thirsties is my brand of choice!), pocket nappies (Melina and Twinkle Tush), and extra padding which are additional pocket nappy inserts from Opp Shops. I also have a large stash of baby face clothes for reusable wipes, as well as microfleece liners. This is also where I keep a few baby odds and ends – fingernail clippers, diaper ointment, etc.
On the side of the door that is in the living room when the bedroom door is shut, I have an over the door hook with five individual hooks on it. I actually don’t usually keep stuff permanently on that rack. I like to keep it free for guests to hang their jackets or purses on if needed.
On the back side of the door (visible inside the bedroom), I have another over the door hook with five individual hooks on it. This is where I hang the diaper bag backpack and two of my own jackets. I also keep my supply of bubble wands hanging here!
Laundry Room/Family Storage Organization:
Under the utility sink is where I keep my 10kg bag of potatoes. I also stash empty vinegar bottles there to take to the bulk store and refill.
Above the utility room sink is a floating shelf, which is where I keep a diffuser that serves as a nightlight for my kids, as well as a plastic bucket with stain remover and a scrub brush in it. I also have my hand soap up on the floating shelf, and currently two of my daughter’s mis-matched socks are also living there.
On top of the freezer I keep my laundry supplies (laundry detergent, ingredients to make more laundry detergent, and white vinegar) along with the spare dish detergent.
The large shelf above the sink, washer, and freezer is one of our primary “storage” spots, so it has a wide variety of stuff. This is where we keep anything from our travel cot, to extra beeswax for candles, to my maternity clothes. We also keep our not-in-use toys for our toy rotation, and prizes for Mara’s character sticker chart.
Hanging next to the freezer is a board with a couple nails in it, so I hang my broom and dustpan from one of the nails, and a few reusable shopping bags from another (I like to keep most of my reusable shopping bags in the back of the car, but I keep a couple inside the house for easy of hauling stuff from the house out to the car when we’re going somewhere).
And we have a towel on a command hook next to the sink.
Make-Do Living: Toddler Room + Storage + Laundry = It Works!
That’s basically it for what is in our make-do toddler room (plus laundry/storage room). I love having few enough things that I know pretty much exactly WHAT we have in the house, and where it is (or a high likelihood of where it would be).
As far as the girl’s stuff, I use the space I have available to dictate how much stuff I keep for them. This is one of the most helpful things for our intentional lifestyle: if it doesn’t fit (easily!), it can’t stay. To be totally honest, the girls have more than they need – they could probably make it on half of the amount of clothes they have. (I stay on top of laundry pretty well, so we keep clothes cycling through at a decent speed). However, I think the space and system we have will work fine for them for awhile. Even as they get bigger and their clothes get larger and take up more room, there’s still a bit of room to grow.
When we run out of hangers or there isn’t enough space in the baskets to have everything neatly arranged (I konmari fold their tops and bottoms), that’s when I sit down with my toddler and we weed out things that are too small, getting too stained or tattered, or things she doesn’t like and never chooses to wear, and we downsize. So far, it works well, and I love that I get to teach her about embracing limits to help determine priorities.
I know our make-do toddler room situation for the girls is a bit unconventional, but I’m curious about how other families organize their little kids’ stuff. If you’ve got a well-organized space, or grew up in a well-organized space, please let me know how you arrange things in the comments below. How do you determine how much is enough? What tips and tricks can you share about setting up your kids’ rooms? I’d love to hear them!