The Satisfaction of Finding The Right Tool

I’ve talked a few times about how little changes can have a disproportionate impact; relocating our CO detector made play with the kids easier and moving deodorant to a different drawer streamlined my morning routine.

Implementing both of these (tiny, seemingly insignificant) tweaks was also deeply satisfying.

And the other day I realized another common source of satisfaction: identifying the right tool for the job. Or, in this case, the right tote for the toys.

Levi loves action figures. As toys go he has low expectations; some LEGO, some mini-sticks, some IKEA balls, some action figures and he is content.

The action figures are the cream of his toy crop, and he plays with them daily.

(Yes, he “needs” all the ones pictured below and has specific roles for every single character. Regarding all that plastic: two were gifted and the rest – you guessed it – were thrifted. So, eventually, they will return from whence they came.)

For years we stored action figures in an adorable wicker basket we had inherited from dear knows where.

This basket was the worst tool for the job.

It was small. It had very wide weaving, leaving a lot of holes for the hard plastic limbs of action figures to get stuck through in ways that might, perchance, elicit some wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap language (from me – not from Levi, who was quite content to leave said action figures strewn about his room in a festive manner and avoid the pitfalls of said wicker basket).

A few months ago, when a friend asked me to pick up an IKEA TORKIS tote, on a whim I added one to my own cart (without any evaluation – how rebellious).

This tote is $8 of pure genius. It is sturdy, yet flexible. It fits every single action figure easily (so a certain someone has no excuse for not picking up) and it fits neatly under his bedside table (IKEA, $10).

I can’t tell you how often I have walked into his room over the last few months and sighed contentedly to see how easy toy cleanup has become.

Identify the problem – and then get to work identifying the right tool for the job. It might be as simple as an $8 tote.

Your turn. Any satisfying changes lately that have made life easier? Anyone else have experience trying to fit too many toys into a too-small container?

P.S. I mention IKEA numerous times in this post, but this is #NotAnAd. IKEA has no idea who I am…though our house is basically one giant IKEA building project.

Header photo by Vanessa Bucceri on Unsplash

15 thoughts on “The Satisfaction of Finding The Right Tool”

  1. As soon as you said you’d been storing the action figures in a wicker basket, I immediately imagined how problematic that was! It’s funny how we put up with things like that for so long, and when we finally make a change we wonder why in the world it took so long. I can’t think of any past situations like that (although I know I’ve had them) but your post is inspiring me to fix a current problem- for some reason we’ve made a little “charging station” at on outlet right next to the kitchen table. Every time I go to sit down I trip over a cord or knock someone’s phone onto the floor (or headphones, watch, Ipad.). Not only that, but all these things are sitting on a bin of outdoor Christmas lights (WHAT?) This settles it- I’m fixing this problem today!

    1. It will be such a satisfying fix, Jenny!
      We put up with so many annoyances because we get used to them. Or, in the case of the toys, finding the right tool. Normal “totes” wouldn’t have fit or would have been very rigid. I just love the size and flexibility of this particular tote. It makes the whole discovery of it (thanks to my friend’s highlighting this for use as toy storage) so, so satisfying!

  2. We have this 3-tiered toy holder thing full of LEGO bricks even though the slats are juuuust wide enough for the bricks to fall out, and it drives me nuts. But not nuts enough to fix it I guess? My whole garage is a bad tool right now. I know our lives would be easier in many practical ways with better/different organization and storage in there, but I am jut so overwhelmed. I need to start with a better way to store all of the sportsballs…

    Also, speaking of toy storage– how great are these? (But would they be great IRL or would they be full of fingerprints…)

    1. That acrylic hanging storage is adorable!!! Though I can see kids hanging off them and ripping them out of the wall…But would look so cool.
      We replicate this idea, slightly, using glass jars to display Perler beads, buttons, pretty rocks, etc. Lately, I’ve just been saving nice pasta jars, but we’ve also found some in the woods before (random; at an abandoned camp) and they have loads of these things at DollarStores.
      LEGO is a storage nightmare. We no use plastic shoe box totes, with lids, and separate by colour. It works relatively well…
      I just told my husband I’d really like to source a weatherproof box for outside to house the soccer/basketballs etc. The kids end up leaving them outside and then we can’t find them, so now they’re all in our (tiny) entryway. I REALLY want a box that can stay outside but stay dry for the summer, at least, when these balls (and other things like water guns) are being used constantly but I also want a place to corral them at the end of the day.

  3. Oh gosh…I know I have several genius ides of my own, but they all escape me at the moment. I do remember, though, using various baskets or tubs for certain small toys. It just made more sense to store all like items together, even if the baskets/tubs were stacked haphazardly in the same cabinet (and, often times, tumbled over…releasing all their contents from confinement).

    1. When I open the cupboard door where we store games and everything falls out…I know it’s time to pass some things along to a new home!!!

  4. This is genius!
    I certainly find that I develop blind spots around things like this.
    Some of my recent discoveries have been changing from a 2 slice toaster to a 4 slice, meaning instead of me cooking A’s toast and her being done and gone by the time mine is ready, we can eat together!
    I also love finding the right storage for things. I managed to reuse a small pink tub this week and it’s now in the bathroom cupboard, housing all of A’s bath bombs in one tidy place.
    You’re absolutely right that the satisfaction gained from these small wins is incredible!

  5. Last fall, we got a 6-cube organization cubby thing and I bought 3 cube basket things that fit in the cubby. That has been really helpful as we also have soooo many little plastic toys – many of which are hand-me-downs from friends. That really helped our basement looks more organized, but we are not always great at having the boys clean up before they go up to bed so they are probably a little less utilized than I would like! But we’ll get there some day… We have some baskets on our main floor but one is for baby toys and soonish, that basket won’t be needed anymore as Will is less and less interested in the baby stuff. I can’t wait to get rid of it!

    The latest change I made that I should have done ages ago is to move all of our dvds to high-up shelves of our window seat. Will loves to pull things off shelves, including DVDs. And I put up with it for a really long time until I realized this past week that they needed to be stored in another spot. And probably some of them should be parted with completely as we never watch DVDs anymore and much of what I own is probably available on a streaming platform… but it was a good intermediate step to move them out of Will’s reach!

    1. You will totally get there. I didn’t actually have my kids help that much with clean-up when they were little, to be honest.

      While it is bittersweet to get rid of baby toys…can I just admit I also loved the purge. I didn’t keep a single plastic baby toy (I have a few wooden puzzles and board books and that’s it!).

      We never use DVD’s either (though Levi always wants to get them out of the library) because, as you mentioned, just about everything is available on streaming sites!

  6. Whose house is not full of useful IKEA stuff? LOL
    You’re totally right: sometimes it just takes identifying the problem and finding an $8 solution.

    1. I know there are a range of views on IKEA products, but they have been such a huge tool in our setting up a home affordably. And we’re keep-it-forever sort of people (or sell/donate), and I’ve been very impressed with the longevity of things. We choose wisely, but I do find their items…so useful!

  7. This post is making me realize that… I am NOT a basket person. The two storage options in my apartment that drive me bonkers are the 2 baskets I have – one that I put the reusable grocery bags in when they’re up here and now down in the car, and one near the couch that holds my journals and some books but nothing ever fits well in it. Your post makes me want to get rid of them! But, what to get as a replacement – particularly for the books/journals? Ponder, ponder. (Side note: Wish IKEA were closer, sigh… LOVE your toy tote. Perhaps I should look at what they have online… hmmm…)

  8. Isn’t it crazy how we’ll spend so much time with an annoyance until we figure out the solution to stop dealing with said annoyance? I’ve been annoyed by my Kindle charging cord – it’s so short so if my Kindle battery is drained and needs to be charged, I either can’t read on my Kindle or need to read at a really weird angle while it’s charging. So then it hit me: GET A LONGER CORD. Duh. The simplest change is sometimes the hardest to figure out.

    1. A short cord is one of the worst things. I bought a long cord for my iPhone (after fighting with/hating a short cord for YEARS) a few years ago and it is life-changing. It cost my less than $4, too. So it’s not a cost issue…sigh.
      I did the same with my blow-dryer. I bought a salon-grade one and the biggest difference is how long the cord is – at least 3x the length of a pharmacy-grade one. I don’t even care how it dries (though that’s great too) – having a super long cord is just wonderful!

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