Friday, July 23, 2010

Interior decorating for parents

My house looks nothing like it did when we were first married, or even the way it did a few months ago. It's actually less cluttered and the space better organized now than ever—very few knick knacks, more open space, more storage areas, less useless junk. We've found that you don't need more stuff and you don't need much fancy when you have kids. Just pack up every gift from your wedding for the next 10 years or so and stick with whatever dishes, flatware and furniture you had when you got married. If you've already bought new furniture, put it in storage and visit your local thrift shop. Same goes for dishes.

Over the past four years, we've rearranged our house and pared down our supplies every few months just to keep a step ahead of the kids. As you'll see, "de-decorating" the house is an ongoing process. Here are a some of my interior decorating and home tips for those with babies or about to have babies:

Doors on the kitchen: When we first looked at our current house with a real estate agent, we commented that the doors on the kitchen would be in our way and besides, we preferred to have a more open floor plan. We removed them soon after moving in. Our agent predicted that we'd miss them once we had kids. We did. Jim put them back up a few months ago as Dutch doors when the kitchen started to resemble a busy hive and the queen bee became very agitated. Unfortunately, Danny can open both doors and Fiona can open one. Next up? Locks for the doors.

Carpet: No matter how nasty your carpet becomes, try to hold out on a new flooring until the last one is potty trained. Best to wait, too, until they can reasonably be expected to carry a drink without spilling and have a snack without turning their immediate surroundings into a pigsty.

Funiture: I mistyped that last word but decided to keep it that way since that is really what our furniture has become. Stick with whatever hand-me-down stuff you had when you got married. Our children climb, stand and jump on furniture and no amount of correction or scolding seems to work. Not only that, this furniture will be the scene of countless dirty diaper changes. (After a while, you'll just be too damn tired to trudge to that fancy, expensive changing table.) The furniture also will be puked and peed on, have snacks ground into its fabric and tucked in every crevice, and have more drinks spilled on it than a barroom floor. So we have my grandfather's recliner plus a three piece living room set that Jim got used from his sister.

A word about entertainment centers and stereo equipment: These items are like crack to young children. They can't keep resist touching all the buttons and dials. It was my kids' first stop upon learning to crawl. We've finally hit upon a solution. Our flatscreen TV is mounted on the wall and the stereo equipment is in the recently constructed hall closet. We control the system through an RF remote sensor. No entertainment center also means one less item to dust. The whole set up is the fanciest thing we own (just in case you're thinking of robbing us). I'm not saying everyone should do this; it's just an idea. You'll figure out your own solution soon enough.

Ditch the coffee and end tables: These clutter-gathering forehead gougers are totally unnecessary. But where will I put my magazines, newspapers, that dust-collecting piece of junk I got in Aruba, drink coaster, drinks? You won't be reading magazines and newspapers nor will you be lounging about with a drink of any kind let alone setting it down near a roving toddler hell bent on destruction. And that precious knick knack? It will be broken two seconds after your little darling learns to pull himself up on the table which he's already hit his head on a hundred times whilst crawling under.

Dining room furniture: Don't buy any. Wait until your kids are at least 10 years old to have a formal dining room. We bought an eight-piece, Mission-style dining room set with a china cabinet to store all our beautiful wedding gifts. Seven years later, it is childproofed to the hilt and when those devices failed, we were forced to zip tie the door handles together (hence WE can't even get into the cabinet without heavy machinery). The dining room table has grooves in it that gather dust and play dough crumbs. The dining room chairs are fabric covered and disgusting. They need to be recovered with fabric and 1 mil plastic sheeting. We should have gone with our original plan to make it into a sitting room. At least then we could put up the baby gate, hide from the children and let them have the rest of the house.

Eat in kitchen:  My old boss made a point to discuss this critical feature with me upon my engagement to Jim. She was so very wise; I go from kitchen counter and fridge to table about 20 times during each meal. Be sure you have one in your house even if it means knocking down a wall to create one. The EIK is where do most of our eating, except on Fridays after Parents Morning Out when the kids and I eat Micky D's chicken nuggets in the dining room on paper plates. My kids think that's just as fancy as can be. And speaking of fancy ...

Dinnerware: Resist the temptation to have any silverware or dishes that match or that you find attractive in a way. The minute you develop a fondness for any of these things, they will be lost, broken or thrown in the trash. When my husband and I first got married, he had an assortment of plates and bowls of all different sizes, shapes and colors. Same thing with the silverware. It made me twitch. It looked like he bought cast offs from a little old lady's garage sale. We kept only two from that "set," and only because they matched the new set. That set has been broken and chipped from heavy use. Our silverware collection gets thinner and thinner with each passing toddler who finds the trash can the most fascinating device in the house.

Best way to organize things? Baskets and shelves for toys. Toddlers just LOVE putting in and removing items from baskets (it doesn't even matter what the item is). Adults' books up high, toys and kids' books down low. Everything else under lock and key.

Best way to arrange rooms? With lots of open spaces and minimal furniture. What furniture you do have should line the walls and preferably be bolted to them.

And don't buy too many toys (remember my feelings on toys?). Save that money for the fabulous new flooring, dinnerware and furniture you'll buy later.


Laurie said...

Josee, this is funny, true, practical, and entirely original. When you write your book, be sure to include this as a chapter!!

Heidi said...

I will just give a hearty DITTO to that. Esp the dining room furnature. We had some moment of stupidity and bought new stuff before we moved here 2 years ago and not only is it trashed from the kids and the cat knocking water over on it all the time, but we got jipped. I really miss my two other tables that we had, ahhh hindsight.