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A pro’s storage solutions for helping corral children’s clutter

By Mari-Jane Williams Washington Post

Almost a year into this pandemic, we’ve had lots of time to look at our homes and contemplate what works and what doesn’t. And, of course, with everyone at home all day, every day, there’s more stuff everywhere. School stuff. Work stuff. New hobby stuff. Life stuff. Or at least it seems that way.

Parents, in particular, are constantly battling the tidal wave of kids’ clothes, toys and now schoolwork and supplies that threatens to take over every surface and room. I asked interior designer Andrea Hysmith, founder and owner of ASH Interiors and Design in Ellicott City, Maryland, what parents can do to contain the chaos.

A mom of a 14-year-old, Hysmith says one of the biggest mistakes people make is looking for kid-specific storage solutions, which seem cute and fun when you purchase them, but they don’t age well.

She’s now helping a client with 3-year-old twin girls. “I would love to have the girls in a cutesy pink polka-dot room, but what are their personalities going to be in two years, in five years?” she said. “They’re going to grow and change.”

For kid storage, look for pieces that don’t look “kiddie,” Hysmith says. Shop with an eye toward evolving functions as your child ages – something that can store toys now, but will work for art supplies or books later, for example. It’s fine to choose some fun, kid-themed smaller pieces to add some personality, but think long-term for bigger pieces; you want to choose items that will last five to 10 years or more, she says.

And just because pieces aren’t kid-specific doesn’t mean they can’t be fun or interesting. Quirky items in bright colors can add personality to a space. Don’t forget to anchor any large, bulky items securely to a wall to keep them from toppling over.

Here are some of Hysmith’s suggestions for functional and stylish storage solutions.

The Smastad wardrobe with pullout unit ($240.97, has hooks for hanging clothes, jackets and backpacks, as well as baskets for art supplies, small toys and other items. Hysmith suggests adding decorative hardware to personalize it. And at 42 ½ inches tall, it’s easy for tiny hands to reach what they want and – perhaps more importantly – put things away.

Hysmith found the Unicorn Storage Collection ($49-$89, while shopping for a young niece. She suggests using the smaller basket or larger hamper to hold blankets, toys or books. Both are made of natural water hyacinth fibers woven around a metal base.

A colorful rolling cart is a great place to corral art supplies, toiletries or toys, Hysmith said via email. The Container Store’s three-tiered rolling cart ($34.99,, at 17 inches wide and 14 ¼ inches deep, would be easy to stash in the corner of a bedroom, bathroom or workspace. It’s available in black, white, sage, mint, teal, blush and dark gray.

Even if many of us weren’t doing school from home these days, Target’s Shadwick two-door metal locker storage cabinet ($307.99, would be a fun and functional option for closed storage, particularly in a kid’s room, Hysmith says. The cabinet is 39.96 inches high by 31 ½ inches wide and 15 ¾ inches deep, and it comes in four colors.

For toy storage that can blend into the design of a more grown-up space, Hysmith likes West Elm’s midcentury toy chest in acorn ($399, The sleek chest has a lifting lid that locks in the open position and a soft-close feature for safety. It can hold toys and books, or it can be used to store winter items, blankets and clothes for older kids and teens.

Bookcases are great organizational tools, and the 37 ¾-by-41 ¼-inch Laurencho unit ($158.99, would work in any child’s room from baby to teen, Hysmith says. The shelving unit is divided into multiple sections and has two drawers to stash away smaller items. The unit is available in gray, navy blue or pink.

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