When we approached the lovely ladies over at nwaMotherlode, Gwen and Shannon, about guest posting for us, they went ALL OUT with helpful tips for moms on how to reclaim your domain! Check it out below. And if you have a moment, especially if you’re a mom, you absolutely must stop by their blog, which we featured in our August issue. It’s an online getaway from moms in northwest Arkansas and beyond, a place to meet and mingle. And it’s fabulous.
Thanks for stopping by, Gwen and Shannon!
It starts just before the baby is born, usually after a few âshowersâ. The baby gear and toys start to pour into the house and seem to breed upon arrival. By the time the baby is a year old, your once stylish home looks more like McDonaldâs Playland â lots of primary-colored plastic stuff as far as the eye can see.
The breakables have long been put away âfor safe keepingâ and every room in the house is brimming with toys, books, blocks and all kinds of kid clutter.
Well, the nwaMotherlode mamas (Hi, Gwen and Shannon here!) have been there and waded through our share of play tunnels and train sets. We say itâs time to reclaim your domain. Let your homeâs style say who you are â in addition to being a mother. If youâre not sure where to start, weâve got a few ideas to help curb the clutter and restore a little grown-up style back into your kid-friendly home:
SHANNON: If you think about it, we sometimes tend to treat our kidsâ bedrooms like oversized storage units. Make their rooms appealing enough that theyâll want to stay â and play. Unfortunately, that means youâll have to bust the clutter in there, too. They canât play in a room thatâs wall-to-wall toys. Itâs too overwhelming, plus thereâs just no extra space to get creative.
Organization is not my forte, but one of the best things I did was to redecorate my daughterâs bedroom and throw in some cute storage items that worked with the dÃ©cor. One of my favorite ideas (via my sister, the decorator behind Two Trendy Designers in Conway, along with her biz partner, Missy Thoelke) was to convert an old, narrow shelf into a shoe cubby. I painted it white, added some pink-and-green bubbles and turned it on its side. Now it can hold eight to ten pairs of shoes and also serves as seating so sheâll have a place to sit and put on shoes. We hung a coat peg above the shoe cubby for tutus, hats, scarves, and in my daughterâs case, a large pair of purple butterfly wings.
It was the purging beforehand that took the most work!
GWEN: Speaking of purging, there are two kinds of mamas when it comes to this topic â the ones who hate the idea of getting rid of things and therefore procrastinate doing it (my own mom is in this group), and those of us who kinda love it and find it both freeing and cathartic. Iâm in that second group, so I donât mind sifting through all our kid stuff at least once a year and purging those things we just donât need anymore. If youâre in that first group of moms who would rather have a root canal than get rid of things, here are a few tips that might make it less painful.
1)Â Â Â Â Do one room (or closet) at a time. Donât bite off more than you can do in a few hours because you and I both know that we moms rarely get more than a few hours of time to do any one task. We ALWAYS get interrupted, so keep the project relatively small so that you can get it done and feel good about moving on to something else on another day. Better to have one small closet completely done than to have five projects throughout the house in a state of perpetual âIâm in the process of cleaning it outâ chaos.
2)Â Â Â Â Get the kids to help! Believe it or not, theyâre better about letting go of things than you might think. I told my kids that we canât get new things unless weâre willing to let go of some old things we donât use or play with anymore. At least once a year, I have each of my 3 kids pick out at least 5 toys/games that theyâd like to donate to kids who may not have as many things to play with. They always rise to the challenge, and I think it helps turn what might be seen as a chore into one of those famous âteachable momentsâ about giving to charity.
SHANNON: Iâll admit to occasionally tossing out old, beat-up toys in the dark of night, after my kidâs asleep. Of course, after we pare the clutter down to manageable status, then comes a birthday or Christmas. And we canât deny that weâre just as bad about buying our kids new âthingsâ they really donât need throughout the year. When those new items join the family, conventional wisdom says to give the same number of things away. If you can muster up the courage, mitigate the âtoo much stuffâ syndrome at holidays by asking grandparents or the cool aunt to give kids âexperiencesâ rather than toys. One year my husbandâs sister gave our daughter horse riding lesson money. You can bet that was a hit!
GWEN: So where do you contain all that stuff you decided to keep? The good news is that the industry has come a LONG way in this area. There are so many great storage products out there, and weâve finally got variety and affordability on our side. Have you checked out the website for The Container Store? Thatâs a great place to start. (Iâve been using their clear shoe storage boxes for years.) But you can also find some really cute storage bins, cubes, baskets, ottomans and more at places like Target, Wal-Mart and home improvement stores.
For example, I just found this $10 canvas storage drawer at Target and itâs perfect for my 8-year-old, basketball loving son. Boys donât typically get excited about storage cubes, but even he smiled when he saw this one.
: What about all the art projects, smiley face homework and achievement certificates that seem to multiply during the school year? I recently framed an interesting canvas that my daughter painted at art camp. And I LOVE, LOVE something Gwen did to condense her kidsâ artwork a few weeks ago.
GWEN: Okay, hereâs the story on the coffee table book of kidsâ artwork that Shannon just mentioned: I have a Sterilite storage bin with a lid on it sitting at the bottom of my pantry. When my kids come home from school and we unload backpacks, I put any of their extra special art projects or other papers into the âkeep it box.â (Why the pantry? No real reason other than it keeps it out of view and out of the way but still close to all the after-school action.) You have to be judicious about what goes into the âkeep it box.â Not EVERY single piece of paper can go in there, or it will overflow the box, your house and your entire life. Just keep the stuff you and they really love.
At the end of the school year, I take the papers out of the âkeep it boxâ and lay each one on a piece of black poster board, one at a time. I shoot a digital photo of each art project. After I shoot each piece, I upload the photos, edit them and put them into a photo book using the Shutterfly.com website. I add captions for some of the photos so I can include more details about who drew that picture, what it was about, when it was drawn, etc.
A few days later, you get this awesome book in the mail from Shutterfly that contains a whole school yearâs worth of your kidsâ artwork. Ours is on the coffee table, and the kids look through it over and over again, sometimes showing it to friends or relatives who come over for a visit. (This could also be a great gift for grandparents.) Once the photo book arrives, I can empty the âkeep it boxâ into the trash and feel absolutely no guilt because Iâve got all those memories captured in one book. We start each new school year with an empty âkeep it boxâ thatâs ready for more artwork!
: We know just how hard it really is to âreclaim your domainâ. If it seems too tall an order â or if your kids are so small you have to keep toys in each room so they can be within armsâ reach while you do other things in there â we advise choosing one room in your house thatâs ânuh-uh, no-kidsâ-stuff-allowed.â In most situations, thatâs going to be your bedroom.
I recently (with the help of a capable decorator at Modoa Interiors) transformed my bedroom into the âlove nestâ I had always wanted. Here are a few things I learned during the revamping process:
- Remove pictures of the kids so the focus will be on relaxing, not that dentist appointment you need to make for your son and the cookies you need to bake for the next Girl Scouts meeting. Plus, kid faces do not signal romance.
- Paint is one of the cheapest ways to spice up, calm down or generally transform a room, and I chose a beautiful serene green for my nest.
- Beverly had a great idea to move my bed in front of the window and make the window treatment as wide as my bed frame for an extra-dramatic effect. Love it!
- Choose a theme. I found it easier to have a âthemeâ so I could pull some complementary things together. So what belongs in a love nest? Birds, of course! I donât know if itâs because of my focus or not, but I seem to find bird items simply everywhere right now. From a twig chandelier to a bird-inspired clock, the room has lots of special âfeatheredâ touches.
- Our love nest wouldnât be complete without books because my husband and I adore them. We must read before going to sleep. So we both have night stands now (donât worry about them being matchy-matchy â thatâs âoutâ), our own lamps and baskets underneath for all those random texts.
- Of course, all kid stuff was removed from the premises.
We know itâs not easy, but we think balancing your kidsâ need for gear and your need for a beautiful space helps maintain a mamaâs sanity. Thanks for making us feel right At Home here — and good luck in your quest to reclaim your domain!