February 20, 2013

Busy Bag Organization

Several ladies have asked me how I organize and store our busy bags.  Great question!  When we first started making them last year and after one or two busy bag swaps I realized how quickly they became a cluttered pile of confusion.  I asked another lady who I had swapped with and she said she just kept them in a box in their coat closet so they were easily assessable to the kids but out of the way.  Great idea I thought, until I realized, oh yeah...we don't have a coat closet (or any kid-friendly closet).  I considered Addi and Josiah's closets, but then I realized how much I didn't want them to pull out the busy bags unsupervised because some of them do have smaller pieces.

Next I researched what other blogging busy bag moms have done to keep them organized. Testy yet Trying used 3 ring binder pencil pouches with a clear plastic front.  Because they are all the same shape and size she is able to store them neatly in cardboard boxes.  I found myself wishing I could afford a bajillion pretty 3 ring binder pencil holders, and then soon realized that I would be spending more more on the busy bag holders than the actual activity itself.  Ha, never mind!  I think my ziplock bags will work just fine (even if they don't stand up neatly in a box).  I also thought about that the old phrase "out of site, out of mind." If I were to place all the busy bags in neat boxes and store them somewhere I would probably be less likely to pull them out as often.  I imagined myself telling Addi she couldn't play with her games because I didn't want to fool with the hassle of pulling out a box.  Or even worse, I imagined that Addilyn and I both would forget she even had the games to play with.

Finally I decided I was going to set them out in some orderly way in our laundry room (closest thing I have to a closet in the front of our house).  I tried multiple ways before I finally found a method that worked for us.  My favorite failed attempt was to replicate the method used by  We Love Being Moms. They used shower curtain rings and clips to display all their busy bags from a wire shelf in a closet.  Well I wan't about to purchase and install a wire shelf in my laundry room (because I already have great cabinets and there would not have been any room); however, I thought I might be able to improvise.  I Found a tension rod that we had used in our previous home and I tried securing it in multiple locations (under one of the cabinets, in-between two shelves, and another that wouldn't make any sense even if I tried to describe it to you).  However, by the time I added the shower curtain rings and one or two of the busy bags the rod would slip loose and fall.  I tried this over and over again tightening the tension rod each time.  With each failed attempt I became more and more angry.  I soon realized I was a living example of the quote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." I finally came to my senses and decided to start back at square one.

As, I was putting back the tension rod in this small nook with the other odds and ends we used at our old house I came across a over-the-door hanging shelf.  We had used it on our pantry door to create more "shelving" and here it was just waiting to be put to use once again.  The notches in it were the perfect size for a clothespin so I decided to give it a try.  Perfect!

Each bag is hung up by a single clothespin and I have enough spaces to hang approximately 30 bags.  In addition the heavier bags can sit on the actual shelves directly behind the clothes pins.

This has worked so well for us.  First, it is neatly put "away" in the laundry room so that when we have guests they are not seeing tons of bags laying in a basket or a box on the floor.  Secondly, it is still placed in a area that I see every day so that we don't forget we have them.  Third, they are organized so the kids can see many options of games, but they are high enough on the door so they can't get them down without my help.  Finally, they are extremely easy to get out and put away (it really is as simple as squeezing a clothes pin).

And, for all the ones that don't fit, I pack them away for a  month or two and then trade them out with the ones the kids have been playing with.  It's the "put some of the toys in the attic" trick; except in this case, I use clear plastic storage bins next to my dryer.  I have one bin for seasonal busy bags (i.e. Christmas, Valentines, etc.) and another one for year-round games I can pull out for just any old reason.  I've found that the ones that have been put away for a little while are also good for road trips or doctors visits!


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