Do you love your home? If your answer is anything less than an enthusiastic “YES!” it could be that your home — or at least parts of it — don’t reflect who you are, or how your family functions. Often, when spaces aren’t working for us we assume the problem is the people, and try to  “fix” them. And most of the time, that doesn’t go so well. Instead, what if we could fix the space to match the people living within it? With small children, though, you may find that a compromise is called for. As fun as it may be for your littles to live in Preschool Paradise, a home has to be comfortable for adults, too.

Small children need places to play.  Ever wonder why they, and their toys, end up all over the living room instead of in their bedrooms or other designated play spaces?  Most likely it’s because they want to be near you. Enjoy this time — as any parent of teenagers will tell you, it doesn’t last forever, and you will miss it.  But stepping on lego is not conducive to enjoying anything, so it’s worth finding ways to co-exist happily. Some suggestions:

  • Make space for storing frequently-used toys in the living room.  Sturdy, attractive baskets placed on lower shelves of book cases, cabinets, or tucked behind a chair can be ideal. Set a limit that respects and accommodates your child’s needs, but honors yours (and your partner’s) as well.
  • Place a rug near the toy shelves, and ask your littles to keep their items on that special area.  Resist the urge to get that cozy, fluffy, multicolor rug — it’s a trap! A low-pile rug will make clean up easy. I know a lot of folks love a colorful rug for children’s spaces, but be aware that colors and patterns tend to camouflage small toy parts, making it harder for kids to clean up after themselves.
  • If your house feels like a museum to your kids’ creations, consider that even museums have to be selective with their exhibits.  Maybe suggest that your budding architect keeps her best three buildings on display, or that your future inventor stores his creations in his bedroom.  Sometimes photographing hot wheel track set-ups and lego masterpieces makes it easier to agree on a time to dismantle them and make the pieces available for another day of play.

Whatever your particular challenge is, talk to your child, and find a plan that works for both of you.  After all, organizing involves people! Learning to work together to create and maintain spaces where everyone feels comfortable is an important step toward a peaceful, relaxing home.