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One of the biggest design challenges I face as a mother of two young children is clutter; more specifically toys, books, diapers, art supplies, DVDs, and every electronic gadget imaginable. I remember in the months after my first daughter was born thinking that our living room was slowly succumbing to bright plastic overlords, objects that got progressively bigger, louder, and oops! Mommy accidentally took a hammer to that one!

It has only become worse with two kids, and now every night as we corral the kids to bed, every corner of our living room looks like this:


You have no idea how hard it was for me to take that picture and share it on the Internet. I just can’t stand messes like this. They crawl into my brain and block all reasonable thinking. Which I guess means I’m walking around all day thinking irrationally. This explains so much! Can you hold on a second while I go give my husband the good news? If he’d just keep the living room clean, we wouldn’t need couple’s therapy!

Every night we tidy up the mess, and this includes having our oldest child take everything down to her room that doesn’t fit inside her designated living room space, a mid-century console I bought at a local antique store for a little over a hundred bucks:


This is her space: the room inside the door and all three drawers. If it doesn’t fit inside this area, at the end of the day it has to go back to her room.

We store her DVDs inside the door:


And the drawers are used for miscellaneous objects and art supplies:



About once a month we have to sit down and reorganize everything, because she’s six years old and likes to shove things into the drawer more than she knows how to place them gently and in an orderly fashion. But this solved her clutter issue instantly.

As far as the clutter surrounding our eleven-month-old, we’re still in the process of figuring this one out. I use a large decorative bowl to organize her diapers and wipes, something we can stash onto a shelf for easy access:


Everything else fits into a wooden basket that we keep by the fireplace or is transferred back to her room for the night:


No, the basket doesn’t hide the ORANGE! and GREEN! and PURPLE! of her toys, but I like the fact that when you walk into this room you know that kids live here, that this place is lived in. And then I get to enjoy the rational part of the brain for the rest of the evening.


Design Inspiration

29 Responses

  1. ozemum says:

    wow i have a 18 mth old and the number of boxes, baskets, bookcases etc i have to use to tidy away her things everyday – not to mention her trike, babydoll stroller, pretend shopping trolley, blackboard, her own pushchair etc that get hidden (sort of) in every vacant corner throughout the house….makes me ask myself….does she have too much stuff???!!! hmmm

  2. Real Parent says:

    I guess as a parent when I see the diapers and the wipes in the (presumably) breakable large, decorative bowl all I can think of are the times that I fumbled for that equipment when changing a blown-out diaper – you know the kind of bowel movement that was nearly explosive and has the volume and heft to show that your child's bottom meant business. I only know that I would have certainly broken that bowl at those times.

    And that mid-century piece of furniture is painfully and self-consciously neat. I find it hard to believe that it is that way when not being photographed. Sorry.

  3. Marianne says:

    Love the Orla Kiely melamine (not breakable!) bowl and I covet the mid-century buffett. And sure, the drawers might not always be that neat but I wouldn't be able to resist making them look neat and tidy before posting them for millions on the internet.

  4. As a professional organizer… KUDOS to you. I too have the basket of toys in the dining room entryway to save me from a little "visual noise" when I just can't take it anymore. Also love your "less is more" decor. Less stuff… less stuff to clean. Less stuff… less stuff to store!

  5. DannMc says:

    yep. "you and your stuff aren't welcome here!'. When four people live in a house, it should reflect those people.

    • Lauren says:

      Soooo the two of you are saying that when you were little, you didn't have to put your toys away? Interesting. I did… And wouldn't you know it… I still put my stuff away as an adult!

      • DannMc says:

        I put my stuff away, both as a child, and now, and having been raised Montessori, and raising children the same way, trust me, it was well engrained! But my stuff had a place in my whole house, not just one room. Its very, very telling when you walk into a house and don't see evidence of half the family. Even Leta's room (in the next post) looks like a guest room – not much personalization there, either.

        Its just so sterile. Why not buy toys good looking enough to be seen? Why buy your kids toys you hate to look at? Its so weird to me.

  6. kedmo says:

    Love, love, love the artwork. Where did you get it? Who is the artist? Thanks in advance!

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