When we first bought the house almost a year ago, we weren’t sure whether to christen it Privet Drive or Narnia. It was a closet under the stairs that just screamed extra storage, and we knew right away that we wanted to turn it into a play space for the kids. Narnia ultimately won, simply because Narnia is mostly a happy place, and Privet Drive, well, isn’t.

Even though its shape resembles Harry’s first room, it’s like Narnia in that you have to push through coats to enter the world. The problem was that since we moved in last July, that world hasn’t been too magical. Crazytown mess, more like it.

So in this second week of Project Simplify 2013, I just knew I had to tackle our Narnia as this next hot spot: That Pesky Closet. We all have these places where things just seem to get thrown in—hey, if it doesn’t break or cause major damage to the other items within, why not just throw it in and close the door?

I’m not anti-junk drawer, believe me, but if we don’t eventually address these little areas in our home, the stress surmounts to panic. We’re scared to open the doors lest something unsavory jumps out. Or simply, we just can’t find the darned thing we’re looking for. A little attention, an afternoon devoted to the task, and you’ve got a cleaner, more organized storage space.

So here’s my before-and-after pics of my pesky closet, and at the end, you’ll have space to showcase yours.

Narnia, our play closet—before and after

On the left is the embarrassing result of kids’ toy pickups before bedtime. That’s not even that bad—I had cleaned it out only a month or so before. But the “after” is more than just cleaned—Kyle added new shelving, keeping puzzles and games with small pieces out of (immediate) reach of our two-year-old. He is our main mess culprit.

When we’re tired and justneedthekidsinbed, for goodness sake, this is how toy pick-up would more often that not result, since we moved in last July:


Now, it’s much saner, and things finally have a home:


We had the extra white shelves from our master closet, which were floor-to-ceiling when we moved in. We didn’t need that much storage, so they’ve just been waiting under our bed—waiting for their perfect use. Well, shelves, we found your purpose in life:


They’re nothing fancy, but you can’t beat free.

Turn the extra space of a closet under the stairs into toy storage.

I bought shoebox-sized containers (a dollar each), and cut these chalkboard labels in half to stretch them further (Martha Stewart strikes again).

Add chalkboard labels to plastic boxes for reusable toy containers.

I used baker’s twine and some leftover clips from extra kids’ clothes hangers to make a super simple art gallery. (That hole in the wall? Was there when we moved in. Priorities—we’re remodeling the whole house, a smidge at a time…)

Twine and clothespins make a simple art gallery.

I also added a strip of chalkboard contact paper (bought at Michael’s). Sure, the kids draw off the edge, but it’s the closet, so I don’t care.

Use a strip of chalkboard contact paper for a simple, removable chalkboard.

We added two simple LED push lights (bought at Home Depot) because the coats up front can muffle the already dim main light. It’s not much, but the kids think they’re cool.

LED lights that turn on and off with a little push. Kids think they're cool.

So now, the kids can either play in the closet (they were playing eye doctor in there just a few minutes ago, with the chalkboard strip as the eye test), or they can take out a container and play with whatever in the living room, right out the closet door.

Finn playing with sorting animals

Chances are slim to none he will pick these up as soon as he’s done without complaint or reminding.

Finn playing with sorting animals

And at the end of the day, we still have plenty of room to use this closet for our coats. We have a mudroom that houses our everyday outer gear, but this closet is nice for those coats we want tucked out of the way but still have accessible.

Turn an oversized closet under the stairs into a kids' play space.

That’s our Narnia.

Your turn

I hope you’re up for tackling your pesky closet! Like last week, all you have to do is take a “before” pic of your closet, then declutter, clean, and organize it—and then take an “after” pic. The photos don’t have to be super fancy—use your high-end DSLR, or your camera phone. Whatever you want.

Also? You can do as many or as few closets as you want—whatever helps your home the most. We don’t have a lot of closets, and this one was screaming for help, so I just did the one. Plus, I need to conserve my strength for next week’s hot spot, because heaven help me if we don’t have a lot of piles to tackle from our remodeling projects. Yeesh.


Tag your Instagrams with the hashtag #projectsimplify, and they’ll show up above.

I can’t wait to see your photos! You’ll be able to add them to this linky above, or via Instagram all week, so don’t panic—you’ve got plenty of time.

I’ll be back with more photos next Tuesday, of our (cue Darth Vader entrance music)… piles.

Where’s your pesky closet?