In my first pregnancy, the husband and I decided we wanted to limit the amount of stuff we bought. Honorable goal, right? We didn’t want to end up with a million baby things that were never used, so on a lot of the “must-have” items, we decided to wait and buy them after our son was born – if we deemed them absolutely necessary.
After he was born, though, the “absolutely necessary” rule seemed to suddenly apply to everything: swaddles, a sound machine, breast-feeding pillows, a swing, activity mat, and, of course a jumperoo. Basically, anything to help us survive whatever phase he was currently in.
Once he was old enough to have an opinion, we fell into the trap of buying cheaply made, character-covered, plastic junk we swore our kid would never own. I had, of course, intended to only bring necessary things into our home – and beautifully designed, well-made things at that.
When we had our daughter, all of the things just seemed to increase even more, and it wasn’t long before our playroom had become overrun with stuff.
We hadn’t exactly outgrown the size of our three-bedroom house, but more the functionality of it. Our kids’ stuff started to inhabit every room, and we tried rearranging rooms to make up for the space we lacked. We moved our home office three times. At one point, we even changed one of our spare bedrooms into the dining room. Our lives and work have been a bit unpredictable since we’ve had children, and the issues we were having with our house didn’t help.
It’s a vicious cycle. I long for simplicity in my life and work, but most of all in my environment. I want my studio to be organized and efficient so I can get right to work. I want my house to be relaxing and calming so when I come home, I don’t immediately feel like I have to do something other than spend time with my family.
Inspired by friend Gabrielle Blair’s book Design Mom: How to Live with Kids, I went room by room and examined every single thing. I assessed how we use each room, regardless of what the room was created for or what the room is called, and began to formulate a plan to make it more functional for our family. I made lists of things we needed to get rid of, things we needed to purchase, and even decorating ideas for making our home feel more relaxing.
I got to work implementing some changes this summer. I painted our dining room and living room white to help infuse the calm environment I craved. We replaced some inherited furniture that always felt awkward in our space with more appropriately sized pieces that fit our style better, and our space became more functional to how we actually use our rooms.
I re-listened to Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up while going through my kitchen cabinets. I started tossing anything that didn’t bring me joy and folding my clothes vertically (complete game-changer.) I pored over The Home Edit’s instagram feed and I spent a bit more than I’d like to admit on containers and shelves and hooks and all sorts of fancy contraptions to organize all the things we kept.
I can now find things in my kitchen cabinets much more quickly, and the rest of my family knows where to put things after they use them. But I’ve only had time to tackle part of the house on this cleaning and purging binge, and it doesn’t take long for all of the rooms to feel cluttered and chaotic again with two toddlers. I’m afraid it’s just an endless cycle–we’re probably going to be picking up toys and clothes all over the house until they’re in college.
Even though my cluttered house can drive me crazy, I’ve realized it’s also a reminder of how much my kids are learning and growing and just living every day. There’s so much life visible in our messes. I see it in the pile of nine different costumes my four-year-old put on (all before breakfast.) In the dolls and stuffed animals my daughter lined up and put down for a nap on the floor in the playroom. In the stacks of books they’ve carried and read all over our house. The toys and messes look different than they did a year ago and the year before that, constantly reminding me how much my kids have already grown from the babies they once were.
There will be no longer be a tiny wrecking crew behind me at all times. It will be a tidier house, but I’m not so sure that will make me happier mom. So for now, I’m seeking balance. A compromise somewhere between a perfectly spotless house and the love-filled home I want these little mess-makers to grow up in.
I’ve been on a quest for simplicity, but raising little humans is complex. I’ll continue to work on cutting out the inessential clutter, but want to never allow it to blind me to the beautiful essential things that make this space home.
Kristi Montague is a designer, maker and jack-of-all-trades who owns and operates Montague Workshop, a creative studio, with her husband Brad. From Kid President to books and birds and more, their studio aims to joyfully rebel against the world that is to create the world that could be. She’s also a mama two toddlers and lives in a 117-year-old house in rural Tennessee. You can follow her on Instagram, and see the latest projects from Montague Workshop on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
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