Is is possible to live in a small, uncluttered space with kids?
When we knew we were going to be parents, we wondered if we should look for a new home. Did we want to live in an apartment with a kid? The more we considered it, the more we realized we wanted to stay. We still live in the same apartment. Yes it gets messy, but it works.
Our one-bedroom apartment is small, but it’s not extreme. It has a small study with no closet. When Lane was born we turned it into her small bedroom.
I don’t have children yet. I look around my house which is kept clean most always and has very little “stuff” in it… and I wonder how in the world will I manage having children with toys? Children don’t understand the simplicity of having a few things that you really want. How do you organize their toys, how do you keep them from stacking up, and how do you say NO to them?
I’m definitely not a parenting expert, but I’ve learned that it’s not the kids who need or want a lot of toys. It seems to be the parents or grandparents who lavish too many toys on kids. There’s a joke about how kids enjoy the box or the tissue paper more than the gift, and it’s really true sometimes.
One strategy is choosing toys that are small or things that are already around the house.
- Sheets of paper or boxes can provide hours of creative play.
- Crayons and finger puppets don’t take up much space.
- I shortened the broomstick handle with a saw so Lane could sweep.
- She uses my paintbrushes to paint with water on the patio.
- She stands on a chair to wash dishes with me and play in the sink.
- We turn on music and dance around the living room.
Lane loves to play with my things. I fill up a tote bag with little things of mine that she can play with. She dresses up in my clothes and clomps around in my shoes. And when she’s tired of those, I put them back and get something else.
When we’re out shopping, I let her pick up toys and admire them, but when it’s time to go home, she’ll happily put them back on the store shelf. She doesn’t feel the need to bring them home.
Occasionally I go through her toys to see what she’s not playing with. If a toy’s only use is to be tossed on the floor instead of played with, then we donate it. I’m hoping to teach her to do this with me, but it’s too early to tell how it will go.
To make Lane’s room into an open space where she could play, we removed some furniture and placed storage along the wall. Not having all the furniture makes it seem much bigger and more open.
Lane hangs her umbrella, bag, hat and coat on hooks. A wood shelf is mounted on brackets two feet above the floor so she can reach everything easily. Baskets hold all of her toys ($10 for all 4 from IKEA). A magnetic board holds her alphabet letters (from IKEA).
Her books are on display in a vinyl rain gutter ($12 from a hardware store). Seeing the covers of the books makes it easier to choose one. Not all of the books fit — more are stored in a cabinet, and I rotate them every once in a while.
In the other corner of the room, a flea market sewing cabinet makes a changing table, and the shelf above holds supplies. A duvet cover turns into a curtain with clips. A picture of Humphrey Bogart hangs above the door to the patio. (I don’t know- it’s Doug’s.)
There are days when her toys are all over the apartment. But even if every single toy has been brought into the living room, it only takes 10 minutes to put everything away with her helping me. We just scoop the toys into the baskets and put them back on the shelf.