Organizing Kid Chaos in Your Home

How to reign in all those toys without spending any money

By ClubMom Decorating Expert Lauri Ward

A couple in their late 30s called my firm two years after having their second child. Their home wasn’t large but was comfortable for the four of them. They just thought it needed freshening up since they hadn’t done anything to it recently, but they were daunted by the prospect of decorating from scratch.

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When I arrived, their home looked like a branch of the local toy store. Both the living room and dining room floors were covered with toys, and there was barely a path clear enough to walk on. The pair was clearly embarrassed about the mess and apologized profusely. They explained that they had waited several years before having their first child, and now that they were parents, they were having difficulty establishing boundaries for their children.

Their older child, a girl of 4, had a large bedroom of her own, and their 2-year-old son had a somewhat smaller room. But somehow the toys and baby paraphernalia kept piling up and spilling over into the “public” rooms, and the couple felt guilty about getting rid of any of it. Things seemed to stay where they dropped, and at night, after the kids went to sleep, the couple was left to relax in the living room, sharing the sofa and coffee table with their children’s dolls and games. The chaos was getting to both of them.

Fortunately, they had good, durable furniture, so we began by correcting the common decorating mistakes in the living room.  First we created a comfortable “U”-shaped conversation area with their sofa and a pair of chairs. Then we removed all the extraneous furnishings and accessories, and, after selecting their favorite pieces of artwork, we re-hung a couple of paintings, leaving one wall free of art to make the space feel more restful. Immediately, the room started to look and feel good, and my clients began to smile.

At that point, it was time to get to the heart of the problem: How would they deal with the avalanche of toys?

First, we brought in a trunk from the parents’ bedroom to replace their coffee table and double as storage space. In addition, we decided that an entertainment center would not only provide valuable closed storage, but would also neatly house the television and audio equipment that were presently on an open cart with all of their wiring exposed — posing a potential danger to children. We found still more storage in both children’s bedrooms, as well as under a living-room window seat, where games could be kept in rattan baskets. And we talked about donating any toys the children hadn’t used for a while to a charity for homeless children.

When I left two hours later, both parents were thrilled that their home was no longer visually chaotic and cluttered, but instead actually tranquil. And what they liked best was that we had used what they already had to transform their home… without spending any money.

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