For years people have said, “I love your home. It’s warm, welcoming, and cozy.” We have had at least three realtors say, “I would like to purchase your house myself.” How did Les and I discover how to make our home, sweet home?
I was blessed with a mother, a poor-farm housewife, who used to watch home design television shows. Yes, before the Home and Garden Television. She would then transform items from my grandparent’s attic or the local dump into useful household furnishings or decor. Interestingly enough, my brother Jamie McLaughlin became Vice-president, Residential Design for one of Ontario’s largest construction companies. Jamie generously designed our present house.
Here are some tips for warming up your home, sweet home.
Home Sweet Home Definitions
The Collins English Dictionary defines the word, house as a dwelling, which is a mere structure of a building. The word home on the other hand is defined as the place where one lives. A home is a man’s castle and hopefully for all family members, a haven of safety and love. A home includes elements that make living easy and organized. A home can also bring joy, especially with a touch of treasured items.
We like furniture and art work with a back-story and meaning to us. My friend, Joyce Sunada called this intentional decorating. For ideas to give order to your house and how to pare down your belongings to those you truly treasure, see my book summary of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Of course a home provides a safe place for children and adults to relax, experiment, and play.
A home’s functionality and needs ebb and flow with a family’s developmental stage and number of members. For example, some dedicated parents turn their dining rooms into play spaces for their young children. Of course, one day they may choose to turn it back into an eating space, or a reading space or whatever best serves their circumstance.
Home Sweet Home for Children
Houses can easily become child friendly homes. Growing families need organized storage and sensible but comfortable furnishings. There are three important questions parents can ask when deciding the use of each room’s space:
- What appropriate activities may the children do in this room? Young children need to safely explore a room and all that is kept in it.
- Have we provided appropriate activities so that all family members can function in this room?
- What could we add or eliminate from this room to make it safe and livable for children?
about plastering up juvenile wallpaper. Children will developmentally outgrow it before you have the energy to remove and redo it. One month Frozen is all the rage and the next it is Peter Pan or Mary Poppins. Choose durability and color rather than theme defined wallpaper. Themed items can be used as accessories such as posters, books, toys, and pillowcases. Older children will want to participate in the decorating of their room and legitimately deserve the opportunity to make their mark in their space.
Make sure you purchase a quality mattress. For young children, hang a mirror and pictures lower so they can enjoy the view. Low closet rods and hooks allow young children to better care for their clothes. Provide open shelving for toys, games, and craft materials that invite quiet activity.
Avoid toy chests, as they are impossible to organize. Other ideas include dressers with pictures on the drawers of the items to be stored. Add a bedside table with a manageable light and an alarm clock. A bulletin board is appreciated by any age. Some disciplined school age children will want a desk and chair in their room for doing homework. Many other children need a defined time and place near caregivers to complete their school assignments.
Places in the Home for Child Friendly Activities
Young children’s activities are given a sense of importance if they are accepted within the home’s hub of action—near the kitchen, dining room or family room. Many homes have toys strewn about because young children naturally want to be near the attention and sight of their parents. “Look what I just made, Dad!” If you can find space in that central area for a small table and chairs with shelving for games, paper, crayons and containers of toys you’ll have a warm hum in the middle of your home.
For school-age children, often the dining room table becomes the centre for homework and projects. A wood table that can one day be refinished alleviates adult anxiety. Give special consideration to where the computer centre is located. Some families are fortunate enough to have computers hooked up in each child’s bedroom. The down side of this arrangement is that children’s use of the Internet requires monitoring.
Oftentimes the living room is not utilized for any child-centred activities. Seldom does a child live in the living room! However, this living space is perfect for reading, listening to music, viewing the family photo album, playing a musical instrument, or cuddling a pet. But it needs to provide a welcoming atmosphere to do so. Consider providing a bookcase with some children’s books, a drawer of small musical instruments, a sound system, and maybe a little collection of kaleidoscopes.
The formal dining room is often wasted space in many family homes. Suggested activities include family meetings, board games, and family meals. The people you love the most deserve to have meals in the dining room. Turn the TV off, use the fine china, and share a conversation about the worst, best and funniest things that happened today. Yes, actually sit, look at one another, and be together breaking bread.
Introduce children to the world of food, nutrition and cooking. Involve preschoolers with meal preparation. They will eat a wider range of food if they help prepare it. Whoever holds the spoon is the cook. When they are old enough to read provide a simple cookbook or use an iPad. Have the child choose a recipe, and write down the ingredients on your grocery list. We found that our children at 10 years of age were able to prepare a meal a week. Create a snack drawer that is low and accessible. Then the children can slap together their own peanut butter sandwich, grab a bag of raisins or a fruit strip.
Be sure your children can see into a mirror and reach taps, towels, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Perhaps a footstool is required. Label towel racks with children’s names, fun pictures or a their photos. Don’t forget water play toys. Some 10-year-olds continue to enjoy them. Some days so does Grandma!
Basement Playroom or Wrecked Room
These rooms are useful when playmates are visiting or for some especially noisy activities; but generally pre-school and early elementary school-age children prefer to play near their caregivers. Observe where children are most comfortable playing and arrange for storage there. You will have fewer toys cluttering your home. Conversely, the basement is the perfect place for teens and their friends. They want space from adults. Go figure? Your home will be a popular hangout if you provide broken-down but comfy furniture, techno stuff, and a TV down there.
The Home Sweet Home Kid Test
Homes exist to serve family lifestyles. Parents of very young children can take a look at their home from their perspective. Years ago I got down on my hands and knees. I crawled around noticing the view. It was easy to test the ease of living for a little human at that level. Analyze your children’s needs and make some adjustments. Notice the habits of older children and ask their advice.
Grandparents can also integrate many of these ideas into their home. I recall feeling bored and restless visiting my grandparents. We have created spots in our home for children’s books, crafts, Lego, dress-up, a board games, play-dough, and a musical instrument drawer. The fun begins when the grand-kids arrive!
Lastly, don’t forget yourself. If they fit the budget and you desire them, arrange a spot for a Trisha Romance print, a lazy boy, a steam shower or a hot tub. Enjoy creating your Home Sweet Home!
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC
Helping her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience.
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