Corral the Clutter...head 'em up...move 'em out...let's hide!
What you'll find in The Romantic Mom.com
Read up on my revolving Rodeo Round-up of the toys and clutter. I would also LOVE to lasso some ideas from you, too!
In the meantime, take a peek at these fun links!
Ikea - Childrens
Land of Nod
Maine Cottage Furniture
Moolka - Haba Odds & Ends
Our Green House
The Romantic Life, The Romantic Mom--Setting up the Home
Setting up The Home
When Mrs. Tittlemouse ventured to come out—everybody had gone away. But the untidiness was something dreadful—“Never did I see such a mess—smears of honey;and moss, and thistle-down—and marks of big and little dirty feet—all over my nice clean house!” She fetched soft soap, and flannel, and a new scrubbing brush from the storeroom. But she was too tired to do any more. First she fell asleep in her chair, and then she went to bed. “Will it ever be tidy again?” said poor Mrs. Tittlemouse.
Oh! How many times have I felt like poor Mrs. Tittlemouse—will it ever be tidy again?! I empathized so with that dear little mouse all worn out and crumpled in her tiny rocking chair surrounded with nothing but messes and chaos.
So how do we go about seeing—or shall I say cleaning—our way clear to peace and tranquility again?
Organization and clutter-control are certainly important factors in setting up the home. But more importantly are the creative aspects we bring to the picture that truly make the home our home. What are some of these areas that factor in or influence the composition or the setting of our home?
Here are the general topics we’ll discuss along with many ideas and suggestions. As I mentioned earlier, the first five topics deal mostly with the children. The following topics are more general—beauty and comfort, lighting and ambiance, the outdoors, and our joint efforts as a couple in making our home truly our home. Naturally, the children and family as a whole are thoroughly accounted for in each of the topics.
Arranging for activities
Decorating with children in mind
Outdoor—Yards/Gardens/PorchesBeauty and comfort
This one is a biggie and influences every square inch of the house. I’ve had to get really creative in the home we’re now living in since we have six people living in about 1100 square feet with only two closets and an open floor plan. I love to organize things, but this house has stretched even my organizational capacities. It’s been great, though for truly thinking outside(or within) the “box.” When you throw in the fact that my husband runs his business from home as well as the fact that we home school, I’ve had to become very delineated in carving out niches for all the various activities—even if it’s just a set of plastic drawers or a stack of boxes. I continue to grab inspiration from catalogs and container stores. I’ve also enjoyed the Pottery Barn Kids Rooms There’s no shortage, of course, from all the magazines and publications available so it’s more a matter of making the most of what’s out there. I started with each of the closets and one big piece of furniture. I concentrate on keeping the surfaces clear or clutter-free. I use containers, clothes, bags, hooks, toys, and books as much as I can for ‘decoration’ rather than decorative things for that purpose only. I do have a few of those things, but its mostly photos in frames only. Whatever I have out needs to be useful or have some other purpose than just ‘looking pretty.’ Fortunately we do have a large shed and a large storage unit, so I do as much seasonal and toy rotation as possible. So far this is working pretty well. I long for more space, more space! But it’s not going to happen anytime soon so I’m just going to keep on streamlining and learn all I can this circumstance is most certainly meant to teach me.
Something else that has recently occurred to me now that we have moved and I’ve had to go through the process of organizing closets and playrooms and bedrooms several times now, is that I’m leaning more and more away from closets and more in favor of closet furniture—similar to the old armoires. Now that there are so many options available, especially with stores like IKEA, that taking up precious floor space for the usually inefficient use of closet space is looking less appealing to me these days. In order to truly use a closet efficiently it needs to have shelves and hangers arranged in such a way that you can get to everything and it can get rather costly to outfit every closet to where it’s actually being used to the greatest capacity. In addition to this, in every new place, I have to go through the drawn-out process of adapting each new space to our current needs. This is a major ordeal with the children and all of their requirements. So, I’m thinking that if I had the furniture to store our clothes, the toys, all the various paraphernalia, then I wouldn’t have to always be going through that exercise. I would know where everything goes, the children would know where everything goes and I wouldn’t have to keep reinventing the wheel every time we found ourselves in a new space. This may not work for some people, but it’s certainly something to consider. This would definitely solve my dilemma in where to put closets in our log home, too.
I found myself really regretting that I had sold in our three week marathon garage sale all the shelves and bookcases I had used in the playroom in Texas. I had all the matching baskets and we all knew where everything went and how it could fit in. Trying to reconstruct those things later once we were out of the RV was out of the question at that time, so we made do while I kicked myself and learned another lesson.
Another idea along these lines is what I recently read in Linda Eyre’s book, A Joyful Mother of Children. In an attempt to keep the children’s rooms in better order they devised a rather ingenious system—very specific to their family’s needs. She explains:
I would like to mention a few basics that have helped us a great deal in establishing better order in our home. After taking a good look at the frequent “disaster areas” (the little ones’ rooms). We decided that the biggest culprits were: (1) dressers to hang clothes out of, (2) closets where everything accidentally dropped to the floor, (3) beds under which to hide toys, Sunday suits with mashed potatoes squashed on them,…
Then we decided to turn an unfinished area in the basement into a “nerve center.” We removed the dressers from all the rooms except those of the two oldest girls (who did a good job of taking care of their own things) and built a “unit” in the laundry room for each of the five younger children (we had seven children at the time). Each unit consisted of four drawers: one for shirts, one for pants, one for pajamas, and one for under clothes and socks. Under the four drawers we put a bin for shoes. Above the drawers were two square shelves for treasures, school projects, and special possessions, and to the right was a tall opening for violins, tennis rackets, and baseball bats. Above that were two shelves that only I (or Richard) could reach: One for seasonal clothes (winter clothes in summer, summer clothes in winter) and the other for hand-me-downs that the child was about to grow into. The units were part of the laundry room so that the children could go there, takeoff dirty clothes, and put them in the appropriate bins, and choose clean clothes or pajamas.
When I did the washing, the clothes went directly from the bins to the washer, dryer, folding table, and back into the drawers—all within six or eight steps. There were also two bars for hanging clothes and four shelves for Mom, Dad, and the two big girls, where we could pick up our things once a week and put them in our rooms.
We also took all the toys out of the bedrooms and put them in one toy area with shelves and drawers where they belonged when not in use.
With no clothes or toys or dressers in the children’s rooms, things became much simpler. Each child had a bed, a night stand with special books to read at bedtime, and pictures and decorations on the walls that made him happy.
These ideas segue into our next topic that covers efficiency and clutter-control. The simpler we can continue to make things the better.
book among others. Efficiency/Clutter-control/Accessibility
One goal to always have in mind with children is to be able to have the house at least presentable on a moment’s notice. If you and the children can scramble around and get the house to a minimumly decent order in less than thirty minutes, then that is a major accomplishment and excellent goal. Having your house organized along these lines will save you heaps of stress and a few embarrassing moments. The more you can train the members of your family to be more conscientious in keeping the home in a relatively orderly fashion, the better off the whole family will be. I’m working on that area as we speak, so don’t test me on that one right now. Like I said…it’s a goal! In our beach house we put one of our metal tubs outside the entrance to the kitchen so that toys could be dropped there upon entering the kitchen. It was difficult enough just clearing off the paper and crayons without adding toys to the mix. But it also gave me an extra place to dump ‘kid stuff’ in a pinch. I have some designated spaces that I use for ‘cramming’ stuff at the last minute. The catch is that you need to go to the ‘cramming’ spaces and clean them out every so often or one of two things can happen. One is that you find all sorts of things you thought were lost for good and, secondly, you’ll suddenly find you have no more room left to ‘cram’ in a pinch.
Again, there are some great ideas in enlisting the help of our children in learning how to organize and maintain some order on a regular or habitual basis. Where do all the coats, mittens, hats, scarves, and boots need to go other than discarded in front of the door? Where can pants, shirts, shorts, undies, socks, and PJ’s go when dirty, clean, or awaiting further use tomorrow? I hung up the canvas shoe hangers and sweater hangers side-by-side in the children’s closet to store leggings, shirts, sweaters for each child. We can have pockets and shelves and baskets for things to slip into quickly. We can also use charts, calendars, lists, boards, etc. to help the process along. The more children feel that they own the process, the more enthusiastic they become about it. There are also some good ideas from visual/spatial learning web sites for pictures, charts, posters, etc. designed for children (and adults) who think more in picture-form than in sequential/word form. These are basically useful for all children regardless of their propensity in learning-style. Most, if not all, children love pictures and ideas or learning set to music.
Another factor to consider in clutter-control is to look critically at all the places you have toys stashed about. In our Texas home, at one point I realized that I had toys stored in every room of the house. It was no wonder that I felt like I was tripping over toys all the time. We had a huge dining room right off the front door on one end and the kitchen on the other that we had turned into the children’s playroom. I decided that I would only allow toys to be in that room. If they wanted to ‘travel’ with the toys, that was fine as long as the toys ‘traveled’ back to the playroom at the end of the day. Their bedroom was so small that by the time our third baby came along, space was at a premium in there. That being the case, we only had books, a few stuffed animals on the beds, and my daughter’s dress-up gowns (at that point in time we only had five or six—not the case today) hanging on some hooks in the closet. I also tried, somewhat vainly, to keep the toys out of the very small entry way. It was rather disconcerting to me that when I answered our front door, the first sight to greet a guest was the playroom usually looking like a bomb had gone off in there. Eventually, we painted the whole room a sunflower gold color, laid out two matching rugs that had railroad tracks and cute little village scene on them from Pottery Barn. I borrowed a shelf unit from my mom and found several different colored baskets that picked up the yellows, blues, reds, and greens in the room. The shelf units ranged from painted wood to plastic, to metal, to stained wood. For one of the deep metal shelves I found some brightly painted metal tubs with wooden handles in color tones from the rugs that gave those shelves more usefulness and a much better look. The main thing, though, was that three- to four-year-old children and younger could get most everything put where it needed to go—and that objective I did accomplish for the most part.
Secondly, I wanted the room to at least look mildly presentable with some ‘bones’ to it other than just a huge mish-mash. I was mainly able to accomplish this goal too, but it happened pretty much about the time we were looking to move. I felt a little regretful that I didn’t get to finish tweaking or enjoying it as much as I would have liked. There was a beautiful large window with about a foot deep window seat (a bit too narrow for me, but neat for the little ones) in that room looking east on the front yard where we had some nice landscaping, so I really wanted a more usable spot for myself to enjoy the view and be more accessible for the children. At a thrift store, I found a round pedestal-style table of dark thick wood and two wicker chairs, pale blue and green, to go with it. At least then I had a more comfortable spot to sit and chat or drink coffee while watching the children. That particular playroom went through numerous transformations and rearrangements—none of which were totally complete—even by the time we moved. Now that we’re so pressed for space, I have longings for that big, wonderful space so sunny and bright.
Another area to think about is what I term indoor-outdoor clutter-control and accessibility such as where shoes, boots, sandals and all outdoor paraphernalia and attire can go—quickly. In Texas, we had two large sliding glass doors that opened onto the back yard from the living room. Once again, it was so easy to mess that living room up in no time. In the summer, I put a basket next to the door that held all the sandals and flip-flops. In the winter, my husband made a shelf unit that was in the shape of a house which was supposed to be used in the playroom. However, it never made it to the playroom because it worked so well to stash the boots and winter stuff onto right next to the wood-burning stove (yes, a wood-burning stove in Texas of all things. We put it to great use, though!). The plastic over-the-door divider with several pockets running across and down make great organizers for mittens, scarves, hats, goggles, etc. I’m also using those even more so in our house now in the bathrooms and on the inside of my closet door. My sister-in-law, Carole, uses them to store craft supplies in her children’s bedroom.
Carole came up with another clever idea for some accessible book storage, too. She uses white plastic rain gutters with their clips and attaches them to the wall where ever she needs a spot to store a few books or magazines—like next to the children’s beds. It works the same as thin shelves you see where the cover of the books face outward. She also treated their long hallway as her children’s ‘art gallery’ by stretching lengths of string in a zig-zag pattern along the wall then uses colorful plastic clips to hang the drawings or paintings that are easy for the children to clip the pictures to themselves.
Excerpt from The Romantic life, The Romantic Mom by Debbie Gallagher