Kids are messy and unpredictable. It’s a fact.
As I write this post I am dealing with clean up efforts in my basement from a (thankfully, fairly minor!) sewer backup after someone flushed items they should not. (Excess dental floss, in case you wondered.) And, in the last six months I have also had to clean up dark purple nail polish from a travertine floor after a bottle slipped from little fingers while it was being handed over to mommy. Good times indeed!
However, in spite of the unpredictability and occasional chaos a young family provides I still don’t believe it means resigning yourself to a life of clutter, we’ve-got-kids-brown-leather decor, or to constantly tripping over things underfoot. Notice I said constantly: It’s still going to happen sometimes!
Living stylishly with children is possible, it just takes a bit of creative thinking and compromise. Here are my top tips.
1// Accept that things are likely going to get (really) dirty or broken from time-to-time
Choose finishes that can be cleaned, and that can take a little abuse without looking abused. Cotton, wool, outdoor fabrics, leather, plastics, rustic and or heavily-grained woods, mid-tones and paint vs. (some) wallpapers are good places to start. Save the precious finishes for areas that are not high traffic, but also know that restoring, repairing and touching up is easier and oftentimes less expensive than you might think. I won’t tell you all the things that my couch has been subjected too, but I will say that having a good cleaner in your phonebook is essential for those times when soap and water just don’t cut it.
2// Be realistic about how you want to live
Scan your rooms and imagine where you’d prefer certain activities take place, or get realistic about where they are taking place now. One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients with children is that they created a separate play area or room in their home, but the kids don’t want to be there and drag toys all over the house anyway. Commit to living in your entire house and decorate accordingly. Add built-in shelving or attractive bookshelves in the living room or kitchen nook. Carve out a space for craft supplies in a kitchen cupboard. Add a deep storage ottoman in the family room for blocks, lego and the other assorted toys that come in 2,000+ pieces. Having a designated space for everything makes it quick at clean up time. When things no longer fit, it’s a good cue that it’s time to do a purge.
3// Get creative about identifying closed storage in your rooms
There are usually many places people overlook that can be used to stow children’s toys, books and craft supplies. You don’t have to look at a sea of multi-coloured plastic all the time. Unless, you enjoy it. Do you have built-in cabinets full of old photo albums you never look at? Re-deploy that space for lego blocks, or the children’s library. Consider adding doors to the bottom shelves of an open bookcase, or get a set of decor appropriate baskets to store the toys in. Consider using furniture creatively for storage. That buffet doesn’t have to hold dishes, and there is no rule that says toys have to go into brightly coloured plastic bins.
Above all, remember that kids will generally rise to the occasion if you set limits and enforce them. And…for those inevitable times when they don’t — please see Tip 1.