Lately, I’ve had several readers ask me how I decorate our home while having small kids. Aren’t I afraid they’ll break things? How do I keep them from touching things at their eye level? From pulling lamps off of tables? From eating candles? From marking on white furniture? From getting handprints on glass tables? You get the point.
Truth is, all of these things have happened in our house. And, I don’t think there’s one magical answer on how to decorate your home when your kids are little. Instead, I think it’s more about a mindset than an actual decorating style.
Now, please don’t envision me as some go-with-the-flow, always happy, anything-goes mommy. I’m not. Was I irate when I found half a tube of Chap-Stick rubbed all over our new sectional? Um, yes. Did I freak out when I found Sharpie on our new bathroom walls in our last house? Also a yes. Do princess stickers stuck on our hardwood floors make my heart race? Why, yes they do. Do toys and socks everywhere all the time make me feel like a crazy woman? Occasionally (although I’m trying to be better about that).
So, how do I create a home that makes me happy to look at but is still livable for my kids all at the same time?
Ultimately, I buy things I love, keeping in mind that they are just things. If I’d be too devastated if it were to get broken, it’s probably not what I need in this season of my life. And, that’s really just what it is. A season of life that will pass by (quickly, they tell me), and then, I can decorate my house with crystal tsotchkes from floor to ceiling if I want (or, at least until the grandkids come over).
So, while a certain accessory or set-up might not work for us right now, in another year from now, it might. I’m not a long-term decorator at this point in my life. While I want a pretty home, I sometimes choose value over quality. For example, I wouldn’t be quite as flustered to see someone swinging like Tarzan from my $30 IKEA curtains as I would be if I had spent hundreds of dollars in fabric for nicer, custom ones that look similar. And, I won’t feel half as bad when I’m tired of those same, spaghetti-stained curtains and decide to replace them in several years.
That was the same thought behind our sofa purchase. I found it, almost brand new on Craigslist for $150. Was it exactly what I had envisioned? Maybe not. But, it’s easier to take five monkeys jumping on your couch (which they’re technically not suppose to do) knowing we’re getting our money’s worth out of it.
And, we do have a few house rules, although even those aren’t totally rigid. I try my best to enforce no eating/drinking outside of the kitchen. It’s a treat, then, when they get to eat popcorn on the couch while they watch a movie. And, I tell them not to jump on furniture, but still catch them diving from the couch to the chair and ottoman on the other side of the room. I’m also not a fan of markers and pens in their bedrooms—and yet, I could go pick up a handful right now. I don’t want our house to get destroyed, but I really don’t want my kids to grow up feeling nervous in their own home.
With all of that said, I don’t think you should give your house over to the kids. It’s ultimately your house and should feel like grown-ups live there but with enough breathing space that kids can be kids in the same rooms. What that means to me might be different than what that means for you.
I do know that pretty rooms can still be affordable and comfortable, without looking like you live at a preschool. Storage is key. A big, pretty basket or a storage chest with lots of drawers can be your best friend. And, as I’m learning with each new day—and each new baby—so can learning to let go of some of the things that don’t really matter.
What’s your philosophy on decorating when you have small kids?