I’m Sorry for What I said When I was Cleaning the Playroom

“Is that . . your playroom?”

I realized with horror that an epic amount of disarray was visible over my shoulder on FaceTime. “Um, yeah…” I switched locations and changed the subject.

“Playroom” was a generous and undeserved title. The room, carpeted with puzzle pieces, toys and books, was less of a living space and more of a storage field (living tribute? art installation?). The kids would tip-toe through the chaos to retrieve their toys and safely relocate to enjoy them elsewhere in the house. Whatever purpose the room served, it was decidedly not for play.

There was a breathtaking amount of disorder. The toy box had effectively managed our baby and preschool toys for years, but I had been unprepared for the transition to big kid toys. There were so. many. small. pieces. It looked like Geoffrey the Toys “R” Us giraffe had gone on a bender.

Occasionally, we would have play dates and even the children were astounded by the mess. Have you ever been admonished by someone else’s four year old? It humbles you.

I would occasionally buy storage bins in a half-hearted attempt to de-clutter, but would quickly become overwhelmed. At one point I gave up, thinking “how much worse can it get?”

The answer: so much worse. So, so much worse.

(Side note: “how much worse can it get” is an ineffective approach for most problems.  Follow me for more life hacks.)

An image of a disorderly playroomAn image of a mess playroom

I could go on with excuses and a listing of well documented character flaws, but here’s the bottom line. I dropped the ball. I dropped it and left that ball sitting, among many other balls, in the middle of the playroom.

In early 2020, I threw my hands up and called a professional organizer. Along with many of year’s best-laid plans, it never came to fruition. However, 2020 did provide the perfect storm of isolation and time to tackle projects that had otherwise been sidelined. Thanks to remote work, I was now spending my days staring into an abyss of Beyblades, Pokemon cards and assorted plastic dinosaurs. It was time to do something about the playroom.

I gave away a lot. I have had great luck with my local Buy Nothing group. You can find several Buy Nothing links and other donation/consignment options in the Iowa City area.

I had a variety of toy organizers and storage bins, but they just weren’t cutting it. I gave away or repurposed the others and bought two Ikea Trofast units. I use those to organize smaller toys according to category and use the original toy box to store larger toys like vehicles and play sets.

With some toys (cough, Legos, cough), organizing according to category basically means the chaos is just loosely contained. There are many Pinterest-worthy methods to organize by brick category or color, but ours are mixed together (we keep minifigures in a separate bin). This system complements how my kids currently play with Legos, but I know I may need to adapt again.

A beautifully, clean playroom

My playroom is still consistently messy (hello – an Ikea purchase does not a changed person make), but it can be easily tidied within 15 minutes (I’ve timed myself!). If you too have stared into the abyss of an unmanageable playroom, know if I can tame the toys, so can you. And if it comes down to it, I still have the number for that professional organizer.

Related: Read more organizing tips from Iowa City Moms!




Susie is a mom of two, book-lover and frequent challah baker. In addition to working at The University of Iowa, Susie is a PTA volunteer and sorority advisor. She loves date nights in the Ped Mall, catching a show at the Englert, and most of all, cuddling her family on the couch.


  1. Enjoyed reading your article. I certainly can relate to the chaos you described. My kids remind me that I made up a song about picking up the toys NOW. Good memories though.


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