Keeping an Organized and Comfortable home
... with four kids.
... in 1800 sq. ft.
... without a garage.
... after moving again.
I can't handle clutter. It stresses me out to the point that I get bitchy if it doesn't go away. Fortunately, I don't project that on the rest of the family, because I'd rather just handle it myself anyway.
I keep a lot of stuff too. I keep the kid's artwork, photographs, our Coast Guard memorabilia, and clothing for hand-me-downs. One of the reasons this is important to me is because there's very little from my own childhood; a few Christmas ornaments and a small sampling of pictures up until I turned 11. There's barely any indication of my existence between the ages of 12 and 19, aside from yearbook photos until age 15, and one soccer picture. Such is life in a divorced household. When our girls are adults, I want to sit around a big table with a bottle of wine and go through bins of art work and candid family shots. I want to bring their memories to life with tangible evidence that fills in the voids that time inevitably creates. I want them to know that their first watercolor painting of a fish was so precious to me that I shlepped it across the country for 15 years, always transporting it in our car to avoid loss or damage.
One of the biggest challenges to keeping our home organized is the fact that we move so often. We've lived in 1,100 sq ft to 2 ,800 sq ft and everything in between. Here's a quick run down of how I keep house:
*I don't claim to have any interior design talents. I have no fashion sense either. I keep things simple and attempt to make them look pretty, while working with what I've got.
- I think the placement of your furniture and colors in a room go a long way in making it feel clean and put together. Neutral colors are calming, and I think they make rooms look bigger. It's also easier to make them work in a Mediterranean condo in Boca Raton, or a cottage on Cape Cod, just by switching out pillows, rugs, and art work. Someday we'll settle down, buy a house, and finally purchase furniture based on that style and space.
[We recently put a smaller TV in our living room and moved the furniture around, to take the focus off of TV and make it more about conversation, reading, and games]
- The entertainment accessories are all put away. We use a buffet that we got 60% off of at Crate and Barrel. Wires, cable boxes, modems, game consoles, DVD's, remotes, etc. are all stored in it. Even if you use it all the time, it just looks messy when it's out.
- Sturdy furniture that can serve a double purpose is ideal for military families. When we lived in Cape May, our kitchen was the size of a hall bathroom in most homes, and it housed the laundry closet as well. We had to keep all of our dishes and glassware in the buffet pictured below, because there wasn't enough cabinet space, and no pantry...and no dishwasher. I don't miss that devil kitchen. In Florida, we used it for liquor, wine, and bar glasses. Now it's the entertainment center. Money well spent.
- I don't do picture collages on the walls, especially in a small room. I think they're too busy. Plus, you barely notice the photos, because there are so many distracting you. Instead, I rotate photos through a few frames in each room. Every few months, sometimes weeks, I switch kid pictures out for updated ones, and scenery pictures according to season.
- I keep a basket for toys in the living room while the babies are young. We've been doing this since the twins were born. Most of their toys are kept in the bedroom in toy chests, but I keep a basket downstairs for daily convenience. If it doesn't fit in the basket, it doesn't stay in the living room. That keeps our family space from turning into f*cking Discovery Zone.
[Obviously there are times during the day that my house looks like a bomb went off, because the kids are playing or I'm busy doing something else. By the time the Sailor comes home though, it's cleaned up.]
- I store our photos, the kid's artwork and writing, and our military memorabilia in tubs like this under our beds. This is convenient, cheap, and not dependent on storage space in our home.
[As you can see, I take really good care of my photos. Ha! The Sailor keeps suggesting I organize them so they don't bend. Most are kept on two hard drives as back up]
- These bigger tubs from Home Depot -HERE - hold everything for us. The hand-me-downs for the girls, holiday decor, blankets, winter gear, etc. We just label them and stack them in the basement, or garage, or storage shed, depending on where we live.
- Bathrooms are a big challenge for us most of the time. The U.S. Government seems to use the same measurements for the bathrooms in military housing as they do for the bathrooms they put on battle ships. Similarly, Cape style homes have small bedrooms, small bathrooms, and small closets. It's just the way it is. Our 'master bathroom' here on Cape Cod doubles as our laundry room, and the bathroom anyone that comes into our home would use. There's no bathtub and one small closet, in addition to the closet that houses the washer and dryer. The solution? I keep it clean, and I use baskets in the closet to keep all of my girly stuff. It's not easy, especially when you throw in the fact that we cloth diaper. But honestly, just keeping things put away makes it manageable.
- I don't leave towels hanging all over the bathroom. The one that was just used hangs, otherwise they're folded in the closet, or in the dirty hamper. Towels hanging all over the bathroom just looks sloppy.
- We use a small Rubbermaid garbage can with a lid, that fits in the bottom of the bathroom closet next to our laundry hamper, to put soiled cloth diapers during the day.
- The Sailor built a clothing rack in the basement to hang our out of season clothes and coats.
- We use armoires that we've been given over the years to hold board games, knick knacks, and other collectables. We keep those in the basement.
Can I get an AMEN for basements?
- The only thing I don't have a solution for in this house, is our books. We have a lot, and I like to keep them on display. There's no space for bookshelves here though, so they're mostly in boxes.
- We give away toys, clothes, and books every year before the holidays, to make room for the new.
Regarding the "comfortable" part:
- Even if the house was a wreck all day, I always clean it up before the twins and my husband get home. It's nice for them to walk in to a clean, nice smelling home after a long day.
- Around 5 PM I light a candle, turn a few lamps on, pour a glass of wine, and turn on classical or jazz music for background noise. It sets a peaceful, relaxing mood before dinner.
- I keep beds made. The twins make their own, but I make the rest every morning. Isn't it more enjoyable to walk into a room with a freshly made bed?
- We keep plants and flowers in the home. Live ones. I'm not fancy about it, we buy plants that don't require a green thumb, and whatever is on sale in the floral department of the grocery store. Like animals, plants are always a healthy addition to your home.
- This isn't meant to be instructional or dictate how anyone else should keep their home. I realize I'm probably to the far right on the tidy scale. This is just what we do to combat clutter, without relying on the size or layout of the house we live in, since that's always changing.