Monday, May 24, 2010

Play Rooms

When we moved into our current house five months ago, I was stoked about the space upgrade. The difference in square footage isn't much, but the layout was a huge change. We were going from a 1.5 bedroom apartment (I consider a converted laundry room with no closet space and no windows a "half-bedroom") to a 3 bedroom house. And I had it firmly in my mind that the third bedroom would be a playroom long before we signed on the dotted line.

Even though Rob would have preferred to use the space as an office/library/home gym/random crap depository, he helped me unpack all of Westley's toys into it and a playroom it became. Or so I thought.

Five months in, our third bedroom is less of a playroom and more of a toy room. Now, because I know my mother reads this blog I have to explain that this toy room is nothing like the toy room I grew up with. Until I was eight years old, my brother and I shared a bedroom at one end of the house and a "toy room" at the other. Our family called it "the toy room," and occasionally we'd have to "tackle" (clean and organize) it - "Time to tackle the toy room, guys!" - but it was a playroom. It was where the toys lived and my brother and I played when we weren't running around outside. The "toy room" of my adulthood is just that: a room full of toys.

Westley does very little playing in the playroom. Instead, he treats it as a walk-in closet, hauling out the things he wants to play with and bringing them into some other room of the house. When I do my morning "rounds," tidying and straightening and bed-making with my post-breakfast burst of get-up-'n'-go, I'm surprised if I don't find Westley's toys in every room of the house. Plastic farm animals in the bathroom. Plush "Sesame Street" characters in my bed. Wind-up toys in the kitchen. And the living room is practically always a minefield of toy parts and toddler-centric miscellany.

Fighting the whole-house-as-playroom phenomenon, much like the influx of licensed character toys, is mainly an issue of aesthetics for me. So while I don't enjoy stepping over Brio trains on my way to the bathroom, I'm glad Westley enjoys playing on his own. What I find frustrating at best and infuriating at worst is that when every room becomes a playroom, everything becomes, by extension, a toy.

Westley and I got into a fight this morning over make-up. I was in the bathroom, putting on my make-up, and Westley wanted to play with my make-up and make-up brushes. I told him no. Screaming ensued. It's a drama that gets played out in the bathroom often, as Westley tends to gravitate toward my things (make-up, lotions, jewelry) more than Rob's.

The kitchen is a similar kind of battleground, with Westley always wanting to crash my glass pot lids together like cymbals, or open and close the dishwasher, or haul out the salad spinner and give his toys a ride in it. Yesterday I threw away a colander that Westley had managed to crack severely enough that it was no longer safe or practical to use. He's busted the food scale more than once. And he's sneaky to the point that can openers and garlic presses have gone missing for months (and replacements have been purchased) before I've discovered where Westley stashed them.

Meanwhile - while I'm making chili without the canned tomatoes because no, seriously, where is my can opener? - I have this room in my house full of kid stuff that just sits there, not being played with. Really, who needs blocks and trains when there are DVDs to yank out of the media cabinet? Historically, when I've attempted to "disappear" un-played-with toys by surreptitiously relocating them to the attic or the garage during nap time, Westley has asked about those very toys shortly after waking up (which suggests to me that he is not only the enemy of organization but also psychic).

I'm left wondering if I should just give up on the idea of a designated "playroom," and start transforming our third bedroom into a cozy, though toy-infested little home office/library. Perhaps I was naive to think that the toy-management system that worked so well when I was growing up would be just as successful with my own child. But I still really like the idea of having a playroom. And I'm quickly running out of high-up places to stash the things I really don't want Westley playing with.

I'm totally stumped, here. This feels like poor planning on my part, but I can't see what I should have done - or what I'm supposed to do now. Let the toys take over the house and put all the "non-toys"...where? In one giant locked cabinet? Duct-taped to the ceiling? I'm really hoping you all have some clever solutions to toddler-centric home organization up your virtual sleeves. Help a mother out, please?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to see if I can figure out what happened to all of my spatulas.


Melissa said...

So I don't have a toddler, but I do have a husband, two teens and one pre-teen. And I can't find anything in my house. My can-opener goes missing at least once a week. I yelled at them last night because the lid to my Pyrex had mysteriously disappeared. The night before that, my tweezers were magically transported out of my bathroom drawer by the hand of no living thing. They have not been seen again. I refer to it as the vortex. The mysterious force that sucks absolutely anything that I want to use into it, never to be seen again.

My point? At least you know your toddler did it, and he has a good excuse. He's two. The 41 year old husband, not so much.

Deb said...

Not only do we have a playroom downstairs for the little ones, we have a game room upstairs for the teens. But where does everyone (and everything) end up? The living room. I keep saying I'm going to move all the boys' toys up to their bedroom but it hasn't happened yet.