OLWH: Reclaim Your (Former) Toddler's Play Space
Why The Client Called Me: My client took much pride in her daughter's artwork. (And don’t we all?) A few years ago, we worked together on kid artwork display ideas for her home. We hung up a spiffy IKEA curtain rod to hold the daily masterpieces, we carefully organized the toddler-aged art supplies in cute buckets, we set up an appropriate-height table and chairs. The space was adorable and functional. Fast-forward just a few years and bam! The child can no longer fit at the small table, nor did she play with fat crayons anymore.
My client needed a Family Command Center - a place to pay bills, manage the family calendar, return phone calls, manage the house and keep up with her family’s life all the way around. The former toddler space was just the right size and, right off the kitchen, it was the perfect location in the house.
Solution: We measured the new space and ordered a new desk, chair, bulletin board and white board. Shelving is also important. If you don’t have built-in shelves, you can use a bookcase or armoire, too. She also put her favorite family photo on the desk - and a few(!?) other items that brought her happiness.
PRO TIP: To keep this area from becoming an unloading zone, determine what truly will live in this new space - and what does not. Sure, mail, bills, sports schedules, medical records, school papers with short-term relevance are welcome. You need to process or refer to those items. But, 3-D art projects, magazines and newspapers and backpacks? Find another place and keep those items clear of this Home Command Center space. If you don’t make a plan for the ‘junkifiers’ like this, your precious Command Center is history. Find other homes for bulky, random items that threaten this space.
Ditch the Filing Cabinet. My client had responsibly kept a filing cabinet for years. Each time she moved, it went with her too. When it got overstuffed, she transferred contents to banker boxes - without necessarily purging anything. Does this filing cabinet belong in the new Home Command Center? No. Most home filing cabinets are stuffed with documents that people no longer need. And most archived paperwork can be scanned. (Thank you ScanSnap.) Sure, keep your old papers out in the garage in that old thing, but in the new Family Command Center, use a fresh, easy-to-see file sorter.
Color Code Your Life. Grab yourself a portable file box (travels with you to sofa for viewings of “The Good Wife” or back to your desk again…) Set up folders for different categories or family members, and label them in a way that makes the most sense to you: bills, work, family, keepsakes, kids, sports. This is the go-to for floating papers. My client liked the White Next Collection of Desktop Accessories from The Container Store, but you can choose anything.
Contain the Clutter. Sure, I love the look of neat, uniform boxes just like you. But the truth is, they work best for long-term storage. For your daily life, items come and go in many shapes and sizes - and they don’t always fit in a nice match-match box. For this client, we used an open-top file basket as her ‘drop zone.’
Take Charge of Charging. My client was adamant that neither she - nor her daughter - would charge their electronics in the bedroom. So we set up a family charging station at the Home Command Center. She is loving the good-looking bamboo model (that also hides cords) from Great Useful Stuff.
Outcome: At the end of our session, my client had reclaimed her new space and was set up for success. No more stacks of bills on the kitchen table or by the bedside - her upgraded toddler play space will keep her family life running smoothly.