In buying and renovating a new home, we have reflected a lot on what worked and what didn’t at our previous house. There is a lot I want to replicate and others I look forward to improving on. With three very young kids and two working parents – we need our house to WORK for us, big time. Here are 10 of my big takeaways:
1. Safety is My Top Priority.
If the space is safe for young kids, we can all relax and have more fun without spending time worrying or scolding.
- Big things that can fall over easily (like wall mirrors, dressers and bookshelves) need to be secured to walls properly.
- Safety locks are used on doors and windows wherever needed.
- Cleaning supplies, medicines, laundry detergents, dishwasher pods, and alcohol are secured properly in hard to reach places (like high-up locked cabinets).
- Easily breakable items like lamps with glass bases, expensive art, or delicate sentimental items are removed from places children have easy access to. If it is not “ok to touch”, it’s probably not okay to have in a happy place that kids hangout in.
- Sharp and dangerous items are stored in hard to reach or access places (like knives, scissors, and tools).
- Places with water (hot tubs, pools, fish ponds, etc.) are properly gated and secured.
- Alarms are used in the right ways, in the right places, at the right times (like pool access points!).
- Children are protected from sharp edges (like the corners of metal tables) with bumpers or other types of blockers.
- Children are protected from fire and heat – like childproofing fireplaces, stoves, and ovens.
- Children are protected from heights – like staircases, raised decks, interior or exterior balconies.
- It is easy to keep an eye on them – by using interior cameras or baby monitors.
- Drawers, cabinets and doors are locked/baby proofed as needed, like in the kitchen or bathroom.
- Choking and hanging risks are a no-no; like window treatments with long, loose cords and small toy parts.
- Check out my full list on childproofing here.
2. Stairs are a Bust.
I hate stairs. At our old house we only had 5 stairs to the bedrooms.
Forgetting something was literally just a few steps away. At our new house, we have a ton more square feet, and a LOT more stairs. Running up and downstairs when each kid forgets something or needs something? I just can’t do it all day. Especially when I have three kids under 4 who all need attention and/or SOMETHING at all times. On the first floor I’ll have spare clothes, diapers, chargers, and duplicates of this and that etc. I am even planning to have a fold away pack n’ play on the first floor for Pea to take naps so that I don’t have to run up and down flights of stairs every time she peeps during her 2-3 naps a day.
3. Tuck it Away.
I don’t like having tons of exposed toys. It looks messy and confusing to me. It is hard to keep the space feelings calm and inspiring when they is so much in direct line of sight. It’s hard to clean-up. I learned at our previous house that the best storage kids toys are baskets, bins and cupboards that look clean and tucked away at the end of the day.
4. Organize Upfront
I need a good way and place to keep craft supplies organized. I haven’t totally figured this one out just yet but I have been doing my research for the new house. Lesson learned – the solution is not one big bin of crap.
5. Show Off Your Books
I love accessible and visible books for the kids. It has encouraged reading for all of us. I am big on this one! Our old house had a bookcase full of our treasured ‘Sunday finds’ (our local Library sold used books on Sundays for $1!) and prized birthday gifts (books!). I found the visual reminder of them being *right there* and easily accessible made reading a favorite past time.
6. Help Yourself
A happy home is a home where people can help themselves. Having step stools tucked away in the right rooms/closets are a must for me being just a smidge over 5 feet tall! Having kids items accessible to them (like plates, bowls, forks, toys, etc.) is also important! Although I am not about to hand over the paint or glue sticks without adult supervision – it is not uncommon for me to tell my two and three year old to retrieve *their own* bowl, spoon, or favorite book. This makes my life easier- and gives my kids a sense of independence and responsibility.
7. Live it the Way You Love It
I like having space that is useful and reflects the way we actually use our environment vs. based on design or tradition. In our California house, this pushed us to use the dining space (that was part of the living room) to be a play space instead. In no way, shape or form did we need a formal dining space. We will be doing something similar in our new home by converting the dining room (a whole room!!) to be a playroom and using the oversized ‘breakfast nook’ off the kitchen to be our one-and-only dining space. The designers out there might disagree with this one, but I know from our experience that having a dedicated playroom that we use every.single.day. is more important in this season in our life than having a formal dining room we only use a few times a year.
8. Light Matters.
It affects mood, motivation, productivity and positivity! In our previous home, no matter how hard we tried, it just always felt dark. The walls and ceilings were white, the furniture was light. The windows were almost always open. But the house was dark. Natural light in our house was met with low ceilings, and windows that had plantation shutters and exterior overhangs (goodbye sunshine!). When we didn’t have floor lamps or even a lot of places for table lamps. This impacted the feel of the house tremendously. I look forward to LIGHT in our new home, which has high ceilings, lots of windows (though, never enough in my book!!) and we added lots of extra lighting to brighten up the inside even on those impending dark and dreary days. I have been scoping out tons of table lamps and floor lamps to make sure the spaces all have exactly what they need. Let there be light!
9. Everything Needs a Home.
End of story. Our last home was small and had not nearly enough storage – closets, cabinets, drawers, shelves, wall space. There wasn’t a place for everything and thus, counter tops, tables and corners became temporary homes to things that belonged not there. I look forward to the organization that is granted to a home that can house things like craft supplies for the kids!
All things are Not Created Equal.
There is a definite use case for budget-friendly furniture and decor vs. expensive designer items, even in the fanciest of homes. Mixing Ikea with West Elm and RH is a ‘yes’ in my book, when done right. In this season of my life, there is not a real reason to have expensive furniture in a room used for playing when in 10 years, I’ll be transforming that space into something new. Of course I’d love a designer couch in my family room, but in the place where we cuddle up for disney movies and greasy popcorn, it’s just not the time. That doesn’t mean there won’t be nice frames hung on the walls or that I won’t put a little extra money into the a chair I’ll love for the next 15 years in my bedroom. Picking and choosing where it matters and where it does not (at least for now) both relieves stress, and budget constraints. I don’t freak out when the kids get paint on their play table – because it was meant to be used that way (and it won’t be expensive!).