Creating a Family Friendly Home that Doesn’t Look (or Smell) Like a Daycare

I have had several conversations with friends and acquaintances alike lately that has encouraged me to write this post.  And my hope is to give moms out there, who feel like they live in a daycare, but long for beauty, some practical help and hope, even on a budget.  We have four boys, ages 2-9, and while one of my passions is promoting a healthy thriving family, another one is exercising and creating the beauty that God has put inside each one of us so uniquely.

When I was pregnant with my first boy ten years ago, I had a goal.  I didn’t want my house to look or smell like a daycare.  I didn’t want the smell of poopy diapers to be the new Scentsy, and I didn’t want plastic noisy toys everywhere.  And yet, I wanted our home not to be museum for our kids.  So, how do you make a family friendly home that doesn’t look like a daycare?

I think one thing our culture has taught us is, when you have kids, don’t get nice stuff, because they will ruin it.  And while there is some merit to this, it isn’t entirely true.  Kids will make messes, and some personalities are more prone to creativity in exploring their own home decorating opportunities with alternative ingredients.  (I had one of them!).  The key I think here is creating proper boundaries for us and our children.  For me, an ivory tufted linen sofa would be a silly endeavor (although, they are my favorite).  As I design and decorate our home, I think about my ideal style and color scheme, and then make it reasonable for a family and for our budget.

Ivory linen tufted sofas are out, but I can still create a refined look with a medium brown leather (easy to clean and camouflage everyday wear), off of craigslist.  I ended up getting this set for less than we sold our previous set for.  It has proved very family friendly. And though leather isn’t my favorite (I think it’s cold) it is a practical, and comfortable, our craigslist set is Lazyboy, and I can still accomplish the overall “look” I’m going after.

Tufted Ottoman 14

With that, I’ve also found it important to have things be washable.  I discovered my shower curtain was dry-clean only when I was potty training my eldest boys.  Need I say more?  Also, I can unzip the covers to my throw pillows and throw them in the wash.  I try to prevent messes, but sometimes, blueberry fingers make it to the living room.

Tufted Ottoman 7

The notion that kids are kids and will just ruin stuff, so have an ugly and uncomfortable house til they are grown up is just not entirely true.  It’s true, there will be mishaps.  There is a subtle ink mark on our leather couch (but you wouldn’t notice unless I pointed it out, because it is brown leather).  And my gorgeous antique treadle became the casualty one evening when a bored child decided to flake off some of the veneer, the size of a half dollar.  And while I was very sad, we take these opportunities to teach our children respect.  We respect our furniture.  We don’t jump on it, because that would ruin it.  We don’t eat on it (adults can), that’s what the kitchen is for.  We don’t write on it, or chip things, or purposefully try and destroy things.  I also teach them that some things are don’t touch.

Green Velvet Pillow 3

Most of our house is completely “childproof”, but the fireplace mantle is within toddler reach.  I try and keep it unbreakable, but it’s good for kids to learn not everything can be touched and moved.  We teach our children that the stuff we have been blessed with is ours to steward, and while we experience life, a task the Lord has given us is to improve our property and steward it well.

Hints of Spring 12

With that being said, it is also valuable to create a children’s space.  We have a very odd “L” shaped living space upstairs, and the corner has been the kids space over the years.

Wooden tray 2

Again, it doesn’t have to look like a chintzy daycare, full of plastic and primary colors. (Shudder).  My parent’s bought my boys a nice wooden table and chairs about 6 years ago (at the time, it was actually the nicest and newest piece of furniture we owned).  Kids are thrilled to have their own space to be and to create.

Kids Corner 2

Because the furniture is wooden, it still looks classy, but at the same time it’s welcoming to children.  It can become quite the frenzy of activity, between playdough, coloring, Leggos and models.  But our goal is to have the house picked up and clean by the time my husband walks in the door at 5:30, to create peace.

Kids Corner 1

What and how much you put in plain sight is also important.  Upstairs, the only toys on hand are the trains and train tracks in a wooden box I found for $4 at a thrift store, and fabric baskets of books we have on either side of the couch.  These look neat, but include the importance of our family.

Kids Corner 4

All the other toys ad activities are organized in plastic bins in the closet where we get them out one at a time.  (The rest of their toys are in their bedroom which is a perpetual tornado that I haven’t found the solution for yet.)

Kids Corner 3

In an effort to eliminate day care smells, don’t keep the poopy diapers indoors, ever.  Unless you have a large amount of wet diapers, they are not as potent.  But the poopy ones, just prove the point that you have an outhouse going on inside your house.  I’ve seen some people throw them outside their front door in a plastic bag, which gets the stink out, but, frankly, the curb appeal of poop sacks isn’t great.  Many years ago we bought a brown locking lidded garbage at Costco for around $40.  It is brilliant.  It looks nice enough that people don’t even notice that it is a garbage, it looks more like a wood box.  And the lid seals in the smell (at least in Alaska, I don’t know if Texan summers that would do any good, however, here it works).  So when friends come over, and change their children’s poopy diapers, and they ask where they go, I kindly respond, “to the poop deck.”  It works really well, and most them hadn’t even noticed there being a garbage before.

kids corner 5

All this to say, don’t’ be afraid to create a beautiful living space.  It really can be possible, even with a young family at your heels, and on a budget.  Think washable, practical, comfortable, all the while teaching our children stewardship and respect.  And be ok with imperfections, accidents, and the opportunity for growth and learning.  After all, we still make mistakes, and the only time a mistake is a failure is if we don’t learn from it.  Life is a process.  And we have the opportunity to create and enjoy beauty in the process.

I hope you find these words encouraging and inspiring.




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