I know you’ve seen them.
The episodes of any home and design show where desperate young parents plead with a wily and energetic interior designer to help them ‘reclaim their home’ from their kids.
The before images are almost always the same - a living room that looks like it was ravaged by a Toys’R’Us tornado, a dining room table buried in arts and crafts, plastic bins of stuffies and Lego and dinky cars lining the hallways and ‘no place’ for the parents to just be adults.
Typically the answer to these parents’ problems is two-fold. Reorganize their space to take advantage of the entire house, whether by renovating an unused space, or by expanding the current footprint of the home; and then creating designated ‘zones’ for certain activities.
“Here’s a little play nook for your girls! The toys can go in this floor to ceiling cabinet, and there’s even hooks to put all their dress up clothes and tea party things.”
Yes. It’s lovely. Like a show home.
Sometimes, if the home is big enough, the designers will create a separate playroom with a door that slides closed.
Can. You. Imagine?
Don’t get me wrong. I love these shows. I watch them all the time. But rarely do I pull inspiration for everyday living from design shows that ‘help’ free people from their lifestyles. What I pull from them is a glimpse into the reality of what it’s like to actually live in a home where both parents work, and the kids are, well, just being kids.
I’m expecting my first baby in a few months. I know, I know - I won’t have a sweet clue what’s about to happen to my house until baby arrives and destroys everything.
However, more than enough people have told me that there’s no sense in trying and I’ve now seen enough Toddler Takeover editions of home design shows, that I’m focusing on trying to prepare myself for the inevitable.
That’s right. I don’t really plan to fight it. I’m not emptying out a room in my house to hand over to toys.
So what am I doing instead? I’m not just nesting in the nursery.
I’ve replaced all my couches with bleachable, slip covered, generic couches. Yep. Goodbye ‘adulty’ microfibre dark grey, impossible to clean, camel back couch. You’ll be missed until I remember how hard it was to get dog drool off you. Now, if baby wants to barf on ANY couch - feel free. It’ll bleach right out. And if not, I can either flip the cushion or order a new cushion cover.
I’ve boosted the above-waist-level storage in all our bathrooms, with a mixture of new medicine cabinets and wall shelves. Why? So that the under the counter storage we are using now, can be emptied to make way for Finding Dory and Dora The Explorer bath toys.
I moved all of our seasonal and large counter top appliances to new built-in storage in the storage room. Now, under the kitchen counter is just full of pots, lids and Tupperware.
Hey baby! You need a wooden spoon to beat that drum? Here you go.
Instead of designing an adorable playroom (though, I wish I could), I’ve mapped out the functional design of every living space we have. In our case, that’s the living room, sunroom, and family room. I ditched at least one large piece of furniture in each room.
In the family room, where we keep our television, I got rid of a ‘man chair’ and added a daybed. It’s fun, it’s comfy. It has giant (slipcovered and bleachable) multi-coloured pillows of all sizes. It fits everyone and the dog. We can play there, nap there, pretend it’s a boat, an island, a kids-only zone. When Gramma comes over, she can sleep on it. So much better than an ‘adult’ chair.
Then I added empty storage in multiple areas in every family space. Giant rattan baskets under end tables, empty bookshelves, basic crates lining the bottom shelves of a display cabinet.
I’m not building a playroom. I’m preparing my house and myself for play.
I have no illusions that I’ve done nearly enough. I know a day will come when I feel like our quaint home is being swallowed by bright plastic things.
But at least when the tsunami of toys comes, I’ll feel like I at least have a life boat.
Now, what to do in the nursery?