1. Work With What You Have - For starters, look at what you have for spaces & evaluate. Look at spaces differently & be open to moving things around. Rearrange the living room if you have to. Ask yourself where you & your kids spend the most time and focus on those areas.
2. Create Zones - I've deliberately created specific zones in our house for E. She has a place in the living room, in the kitchen (yes, the kitchen), and in her room. As mentioned above, think of the spaces where you spend the most time and then make them work for you and your family.
For instance, E's room is where the majority of her toys are (at least her big toys, i.e. her play kitchen). That way they aren't taking up room in our one and only living space. It also works wonderfully since we're in an apartment (all on one level) and her bedroom is right across from the kitchen.
In our living room we have a basket that holds some of her toys, and then a few smaller toys I can easy tuck along the wall at the end of the day. She also gets the bottom shelf of the bookcase in our living room that holds some of her books and puzzles.
And yes, in the kitchen I've made sure to have little magnets (alphabet & farm animals) for her to play with when I'm in there and she wants to be right by my side. Albeit, we do drag toys to the kitchen fairly often.
3. Toy Swap - I'm learning very quickly that kid's toys can accumulate out of thin air. We try to keep the toy clutter to minimum in our home. But somehow toys seem to reproduce, or something like that. One thing I do, and find helpful, is tuck away some of E's toys (and even books) in her closet. I'll just put some in a basket if they're smaller & shove them up on the top shelf. After a few weeks or so when I find she's getting a bit bored of what she has, I bring out the toys I've tucked away and remove some others. I find continuing a cycle like this is helpful, especially at this toddler age.
Another great thing to do is evaluate the toys your kids play with a few times a year. Before birthdays & Christmas are an especially good time to do this. If you know they're going to be getting some new toys, go through the ones they have and ask yourself if they're still age appropriate and/or if they still play/are interested in them. Have them help you decided and then donate or sell if they're in good condition to do so. E's 2nd birthday is quickly approaching & I'm looking forward to doing this!
4. Switch Things Up - Much like the toy swap, if you've created different zones, switch things around. Sometimes simply moving something from one area of a room to another makes a difference. Maybe the "zone" will work better in a different spot, but sometimes just plain ol' change is good & makes things seem new.
I recently moved E's table & chairs, that she'll sit and colour at, to a different spot in our living room. When I first moved it she was so excited to see that it could be moved to a different place. I mean, think about when you switch up the furniture arrangements in a room at your house. Am I the only one who gets excited about that? A change feels good. So, do the same with the "zones" you create for your kids.
Lastly, it's a given that some days (maybe most days?) regardless of your efforts your house may very well have toys strewn all over the place. Just go with it. I'm trying my best to, anyway. Things could be worse, they'll always get picked up at one point or another ;)
Maybe you're like us, and don't have the space for a playroom. A lot of people don't and let's face it, space in your home is precious. These are few things that help to keep the toy clutter under control (as much as it can be with a toddler in the house) & that give E the space to play that she needs in our home.
How do you make things work when you don't have space for a playroom?