Playroom Pitfalls

It's a mundane aspect of parenting that few parents-to-be deem important enough to discuss in advance: what kind of playroom to have in your home? Saturday's Washington Post explored different options in Room to Romp. Now that the days of fenced-in "playpens" have largely disappeared, many parents find their homes deluged with kids' toys and the question quickly becomes: Do we want a playroom, or do we let the entire house become the playroom?

Part of my "balance" is that I never wanted our home to be overtaken by kids' paraphernalia , no matter how brightly colored or well-designed. During 10 years of motherhood spanning two apartments and two townhouses, I've found myriad solutions that worked at the time: keeping toys out of sight in storage boxes and coffee table drawers, limiting toys to the kids' rooms, and giving each child a large cubby in our kitchen. At one point, sick of cleaning up and nagging young children, I turned a large room in the basement over to my three kids. The results were frightening -- toys, puzzle pieces, poster board, crayons and construction paper everywhere. But having one room I never stressed over saved my sanity while the kids were young. (In case you're wondering about rodents and bugs amidst the clutter, my strict no-food-outside-the-kitchen prevented a visit from DC Health and Human Services).

Here are some key issues to consider:

Safety. Especially when kids are young, the playroom needs to be in sight of a parent or caregiver at all times to prevent choking, falling or other toy-related accidents.

Space. Often there isn't enough room to designate "playspace exclusive." Creative solutions include having kids share a bedroom and turning a second bedroom into a shared playroom, or using a den or home office as a daytime play space with toys kept in a large plastic bin.

Guilt, Nagging and Judgment. It may seem ridiculous to adults without children, but lots of parents, unfortunately especially moms, feel like bad moms if we have a messy house. And we feel just as guilty about yelling at our kids to clean up their junk. Don't judge yourself or others about having a less-than-perfect home, particularly when children are too young to clean up for themselves. You can't keep a spotless home, be there for your kids and get enough sleep all in the same lifetime. Pick your priorities, and then be at peace with 'em.

Family Balance. Some families, especially those with kids spread out in age, feel the need to "contain" toys to a smaller space so everyone's not living in LegoLand. Others might embrace toys everywhere. Determine which kind of family balance you need.

Kids' Responsibilities. Over time, keeping play space relatively neat is a good way to teach children responsibility and respect for other family members.

As with most of parenting, playroom policies fall on a wide spectrum. I know one mom with twins who used a playpen until her children were nearly three. She also went through the children's toys every month and gave most away to charity. Her house is really clean, I've got to admit. I see parents on the other end of the scale who live happily in houses nearly as messy as my children's basement playroom. (My line in the sand is no bath toys strewn in the bathtub -- I always needed at least one small sanctuary from kid clutter.) I've seen a lot of creative ideas, especially for families living in apartments, such as turning an old fireplace or closet into a small play space.

Like children, playrooms morph over time. Everyone finds a solution that works for their family. What have you done? Do you have any creative solutions to balance your home between your kids' stuff and yours?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  January 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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We just moved out a big chair in our living room to give our 12 month old a corner for her toys. The coffee table was moved a while ago to give her more space to play. There are 2 mesh toy holder things, but some of the stuff doesn't fit. It's not too bad. We look forward to being able to finish out the basement, but it will be a while before she can play out of sight. I don't have a McMansion where I can keep the kids' stuff in the kid wing, so I just keep it as tidy as possible without stressing out about it. It's a phase that will soon pass. In the meantime, I love watching her play.

Posted by: atb2 | January 9, 2008 7:43 AM

We have a 3 yo and 1.5 yo so this issue is close to our hearts. but we still are at the stage where we need to have the kids within sight for safety reasons, particularly the younger one. We have babyproofed the whole first level of our house (townhouse) so that the kids can roam without being constantly told to "put that down." Of course there are still dangers...climbing on tables and chairs and namely each other! But I think reality dictates that one defined space won't work yet. We do have a basement playroom that we allow to remain messier than the upstairs living room. The upstairs we all clean up together every night so the kids understands that it is ok to make a mess as long as you clean it up. So far that seems to work as my 3 yo often tells me "I make mess now but I clean it up later."!!

Posted by: happydad | January 9, 2008 7:45 AM

Wow, first. We only have a three bedroom house. Up until now, our spare bedroom was used as an office. But now, we plan on using it for our second child. Our daughter has a decent size bedroom. She has a lot of toys in there. But we are the play all over the house type. She has play spaces on each of our three levels. I like it that way because she can play while we do other things and we can still converse and be together as a family. She has two of those bucket storage units. One upstairs and one in the basement rec room. She has toys in her bedroom and toys on the main level living room. So at any time I can be cooking, ironing, doing laundry, watching tv, reading, and she can be right beside me playing. We do try pretty hard to straighten up for company but I am not worried too much about a messy house. I figure they won't be kids forever and the toys will eventually be replaced by much smaller electronic items like cell phones and ipods. Let them play now. If I did have a four bedroom house, I would not mind a general play room but would still let them play all over the house.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 9, 2008 7:45 AM

"We only have a three bedroom house."

Gee, that's terrible.

Posted by: sigh | January 9, 2008 8:43 AM

We continue to fight this battle. When we bought our current house, our daughter was 3, and I envisioned a time soon where she would happily play by herself in her room. So we set her room up with toychest, a bookcase, and a small table and chairs. But 3 1/2 years later, she STILL prefers to be with us All The Time. Best-laid plans and all that.

So then we bought a media center for one wall in the family room, with drawers and cabinets on the bottom to hide the toys in. Worked for about a year -- until we added our son, and with him a whole new category of toys (balls. cars. balls. trains. balls. balls. oh, and did I mention balls?).

So our most recent foray has been to convert our living room to more of a playroom. We have an older house with two "sitting rooms" flanking the front hall. The bigger one is our family room, but the second was really just a repository for furniture that didn't fit anywhere else, plus the changing table, the rocking horse, etc. So we just made that more of a playroom. It was actually really easy --the couch that was in there is great for jumping on, and there were built-in bookshelves that we just converted to kid/toy storage. The coffee table was an old cedar chest anyway, so that became game storage. The one nice chair went up to our bedroom. And we brought in the boy's train table, a small work table in the corner for play-dough and art, and a toy chest from the family room. It's crowded and fairly messy, but who cares -- at least my family room is much less claustrophobic now.

Of course, they still prefer to be with us. But at least there's a separate place for their stuff to go back to when they're done with it -- and sometimes they actually play together there for 15 minutes or so. So there's hope! My one regret is that there's still no room for the air hockey table -- gonna need to wait a few years until the boy outgrows the train fascination.

Posted by: laura33 | January 9, 2008 8:44 AM

I hope it goes without saying, but you all must realize how unbelievably fortunate you are to be hand-wringing over playroom space, lamenting only having three bedrooms, and regretting not having room for an air-hockey table.

What a country.

I'll write no more. (I can feel electronic cheers for that).

Posted by: sigh | January 9, 2008 8:55 AM

We solved this by working carefully with the architect of our current house to design what we wanted.

When we first got married we had a small, three-bedroom house, but by the time we had 3 kids and an au pair it was too small. We wound up buying a lot and finding an architect and builder who'd work with us on both features and price (which means there was a lot of "we want this" "you can't afford it" "then how about this" "still too expensive" that took place.)

We had a five-bedroom house designed, with each bedroom having its own walk-in closet. Each child has his/her own room, and toys stay there overnight. (There are storage bins built into each closet, plus additional shelves, bins and buckets as needed.) Kids were allowed to bring toys out of their rooms, but we had a "floor cleaning fairy" who came around after the kids were in bed each night and made all toys left in the family room, living room, etc disappear for two weeks.

As the kids got older, we finished off the basement into DW's sewing/work room, an unfinished storage/woodworking room, a full bathroom and a play area for the kids. That's where the ping-pong table, PlayStation, etc. are.

The house is still messier in general than DW or I would prefer, but heck, we just deal with it - three years from now, three of the four of them will be gone off to college and then that house is going to be real big and empty. I suspect that we'll notice that more than the fact that it'll likely be cleaner.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 9, 2008 9:02 AM

Every time? Every time there has to be someone who makes some sort of holier-than-thou comment when we answer one of Leslie's questions? Is there anyone here who doesn't know that there are starving kids all over the world, including the USA? How about the systematic rape of women and child? Genocide? Homelessness? Cancer? Ya, we know all about that stuff. And some of us have kids with toys, too. Today we're talking about that.

Posted by: atb2 | January 9, 2008 9:04 AM

We *think* we just set up a long term solution. For a long time, we had a big basket of toys in the living room and rotated toys into and out of storage. When the kids got older, we took over a corner of the dining room for toy storage, but that fell apart after a year because the space was so tight that I was the only one who could figure out how to fit the toys back IN the space, so our house was constantly covered in kiddie confetti (you know what I'm talking about--small bits of blocks and Legos and crayons and Polly Pocket clothes coating every surface).

So this year we gave in and bought the world's biggest toybox: a family room addition on the back of our house. We designed it with one space for reading and t.v. viewing and another space for playing--we got a tall armoire and every single one of our toys fits in that space, so the kids can get what they want to play with and take over the room playing, but it only takes about 10 minutes to pick everything up and put it away. We've also had a strict rule from infancy that we don't allow any toys that take up the space of furniture--no play kitchens or large toy workbenches or indoor slides or anything like that.

Posted by: sarahfran | January 9, 2008 9:11 AM

Sure, there are many more important issues in this world. But it can be the little issues that drag you down day-by-day. And toys/stuff all over the house are just the type of little issue that begs for a solution that works for a family. So instead of whining about people saying they don't have enough room or whatever, how about realizing this is reality, and the in-your-face little issues need solutions too?

In our house, when the kids were younger, they also gravitated to where we were. They've never played in their rooms...never ever. We also had a 'cleaning fairy'...though Army Brat's idea of quaranteeing for two weeks is an idea I wish we had back then. Now they're older and their computers are in the bonus room. We have to beg them to sit with us...well, almost beg. The issue went from toys to their tremendous sized shoes all over the place!

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 9:24 AM

That's a funny playing in a fireplace???

Posted by: kattoo | January 9, 2008 9:25 AM

That's a funny playing in a fireplace???

Posted by: kattoo | January 9, 2008 9:25 AM

dotted_1, re the shoes: one of our favorite comics is "Zits"; DW has one pinned up on the cork board that shows Connie Duncan (the mother) tripping over and falling into a shoe that Jeremy left lying around - "falling into" because the shoe's about twice as large as Connie is. DW says that since she now has the smallest feet in the house that's exactly what she feels like.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 9, 2008 9:27 AM

Yes, I realize I am fortunate to have a problem figuring out playroom issues.

When DD was young, we gated off the living room and had her toys, eventually in bins, there.

As she grew, of course, she needed more room for herself and her toys/crafts, etc. Our basement is not finished.

So, we moved the no-longer used ping-pong table into the basement, put down cushy mats, and made the sunroom her toyroom.

Still, though, never found a great way to organize it and remained a disaster area. UNTIL this weekend - we got 5 matching, heavy duty bookcases (2 double, 3 single), cleared out lots of junk, and put many items (gears, doll stuff, craft items) in SEE THROUGH plastic containers with lids. While the Pottery Barn catalog *looks* neat & fabulous, it's not practical b/c the child can't actually see what's in the containers.

Posted by: Post43 | January 9, 2008 9:29 AM

We were lucky enough that I was pregnant when we were looking for a house, so space for a playroom was one of the things we were looking for. The house we bought has a small sunroom off the kitchen, which we use as a playroom.

In reality, though, that space really just provides toy storage, as DD doesn't tend to stay in the "playroom." I usually let her free run of the house, but can gate off the stairs if I need her to stay where I can see her.

Posted by: newsahm | January 9, 2008 9:29 AM

Heck, yeah, I regret not having room for the air hockey table -- that's the one toy *I* actually like to play with! :-)

[insert mandatory disclaimer here re: growing up dirt poor so never taking current situation for granted, etc.]

Posted by: laura33 | January 9, 2008 9:34 AM

Army Brat - that Connie would be me! I now have the smallest feet in the house. Over Christmas holidays, I thought I would disappear into shoes myself. They're supposed to be left by the door, but ummmm, that doesn't happen all the time like it should.

And our cat likes to spread himself over the stinky tennis shoes...why I don't know... I admire parents who make rules and then stick to them consistently. I try and I try...some tune is trying to find its way out here.

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 9:37 AM

The one benefit of not having enough space for a play room is that it forces you to clean up and get rid of stuff faster. We give away a lot of toys to charity, day care and the preschool. It also makes you think about the space a toy takes up before purchasing it or asking for it as a gift.

No one is sitting around saying my life is so bad I don't have play room. I think we are just saying it is a fact that some of our homes are not large enough to have a play room.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 9, 2008 9:37 AM

My 70lb dog leave his toys all over the living/dining room/foyer/stairs. He has big bones and large balls and I am forever stepping on them or almost tripping over them. Every time I put them in his basket he immediately turns it over and strews them all over the floor again..But it is fun to watch.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | January 9, 2008 9:48 AM

KLB - I bet he thinks it is a game. A dog is a perpetual toddler.

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 9:49 AM

hmmm... maybe this is inexperience talking, but it seems like a lot of people have an excessive amount of toys. My husband and I are not yet parents, but we have lots of neices and nephews and it seems that the number of toys is making a bigger impact on messiness (or whatever) than whether or not you have a play space. But, in regards to the topic at hand, I think having a separate playroom, once the kids are a past the toddler phase, is a good idea if you can do it, even if it is just their bedroom. My 2 nephews are really good at entertaining themselves and love having their own room with their stuff... seems like it makes them more independent -- particularly when "boring" things are going on in the family room, like watching the news :) But they are a little older now (5 and 6) -- I can see the benefit of having them in eyesight when they are younger.

I should note, I'm a bit of a neat freak and I realize that my dream of organized and out-of-sight toys is probably just that - a dream. : ) The lady Leslie talked about who goes through the toys every month sounds like she would be my hero!

Posted by: JJ321 | January 9, 2008 9:50 AM

I found that no matter how you try to organize kids stuff unless they start putting things away your house will always be a mess. I do nagg my kids all the time about this and they are old enough to do it. Do they like to do it? Of course, not. Do I have to get involved? Of course I do. I remember when I was a kid and my mother was after me to clean up my room and we had fights about that. Well, when I grew up and had my own home, my mother's words did sink in. I like to keep an uncluttered clean home. I don't do it because of some guilt. I do it for me. I don't feel comfortable and relaxed in a house where there are crumbs on the floor and lotion tubes under a rug. My husband, whose parents never required him to pick up after himself, is an example of how not to raise a child. Even my kids hate going to my MIL house because it is so messy and cluttered and just plain disgusting.

Posted by: tsm | January 9, 2008 9:51 AM

I don't know why more architects don't design playrooms off the kitchen. I've only seen it once at the summer home of a family whose two boys I looked after many years ago. Wonderful set-up. Kids don't like to be far from the center of action yet it allowed us to keep the toys contained. For myself, I'm in foamgnome's situation with no space for a playroom so I'm taking ArmyBrat's attitude. I'll live with a little mess (and nightly threats and exhortations to get my kids to put things away) knowing I'll miss some of that chaos when it's gone.

Posted by: anne.saunders | January 9, 2008 9:51 AM

When we had our first we were in a one bedroom apartment. Originally we made a sunny alcove in the living/family room her bedroom. But she had lots of health issues and it made far more sense to have her bunk in with us. So the alcove became her playroom. I eventually gated off the area and added some toy storage. We moved when she was a year and a half and now two houses later this will always be my favorite "playroom". I loved the coziness of our apartment when she was young. I always knew where she was, she felt secure and there was such limited space that I could guilt free get rid of stuff.

Not saying we don't love our house. It is great to have a kitchen larger than my arm span and having bedrooms for the kids is terrific now that they are older and healthier but I do miss the coziness of that apartment.

Posted by: ChesapeakeBeach | January 9, 2008 9:56 AM

tsm - I'm totally with you on cleaning for yourself. I feel stressed and disorganized when my house is a mess. One of my favorite days is the day AFTER we've cleaned the house and gone grocery shopping... it's like a clean slate (piled with food!)

Posted by: JJ321 | January 9, 2008 10:07 AM

This has been our solution: we have two Ikea expedit bookcases (bookcases divided into large squares; we have the smaller one with 8 squares), one in the rec room/playroom in the basement, and one in the living room.

Then we have Ikea bins that fit in the squares, 4 for each bookcase. Most of the toys fit either in the bins or on the shelves. We rotate which toys are upstairs, downstairs, or in the closet having "a break" to keep the chaos down, and we tidy up together (err my son is 2, so it's "together") each night.

We'd have one in his room but there wasn't a good spot, so in his room he has shelves and a bench where two bins fit underneath.

What I like about this system is that it looks "adult enough" to blend in okay with our life, but also gives my son the sense that his things are welcome in our home, which is important to me. And the modular thing means when he's on a Duplo craze we don't have to reorganize.

My experience is that once he's older we might be able to direct him to other rooms, but right now, he pretty much likes to be where the action is.

If we have another child, I've already figured out where to put more expedit bookcases. :)

The larger toys find homes in corners, but we are a bit selective - like we looked for a non-baby-pink play kitchen that we could live with in a corner of ours.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | January 9, 2008 10:15 AM

Oh and JJ321 - yah that's what I thought too, and to some extent we have kept the toy count low in comparison to some families I know. (and actually fewer than I remember having, but my mother was a bit of a toy junkie).

But I wasn't prepared for both the generosity of family and friends, and the sheer fun my son has with things - not just blocks but a great big wall of blocks. Given that he got two block sets AND he uses them, I just found room for the blocks. :)

We do declutter pretty regularly, but it turns out that my experience is that it's much more organic than it looks like when you're planning it. I really thought that at his age (2.5) my son would never notice if toys disappeared but he does. He is okay with us explaining that some of them are going away, but he will actually come and ask for things that I've put in the closet, or tossed.

A think a lot depends on your kid and how you want to operate as a family. We so far have managed to gatekeep at the source and keep really lousy happy-meal type toys away by just refusing them, but I know as my son gets older, we'll probably lose the battle on that one too. At least for a few years.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | January 9, 2008 10:25 AM

To Sigh - I know how you feel, I rarely post here because the "balance" issues discussed here are far outside of what I experience. It is difficult to read about people that custom build a house to fit all their stuff, put a new addition on to fit their children's toys and otherwise enjoy a lifestyle that others of us will never enjoy. But that is really Leslie's audience.

Perhaps one day the Post will have a blog that explores balance issues like "how do I pay for daycare and my mortgage when my electric bill is $200 more than I expected"? And, "what excuse can I give at work today so I, a single mom, can take my kid to the doctor"? But these are issues that really don't affect the regular readers of Leslie's blog.

Just sayin...

Posted by: jjtwo | January 9, 2008 10:26 AM

We have stuff out the wazoo and more empty crates and storage units than I care to count.

A converted porch off the kitchen was the play-place when they were little as I could watch them while I slaved away.

After that toys seem to be everywhere. I'm sure I"m not the only Mom who has a drawer or glass full of GI Joe helmets and Barbie shoes.

It passes. Now my house is full of iPods, DVD players and big screen TVs.

We have friends where the Mom doesn't work, or the Dad doesn't have a high powered job and there isn't so much money for kid stuff. Know what? Their house is full of kid toys too! They're just smarter than we are and buy them at yard sales.

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 9, 2008 10:45 AM

Amen RedBird. I've noticed even in households that are "toy-lite" there can still be a lot of stuff -- crayons, markers, paper with the latest "masterpiece", other arts supplies, bug collections, balls, dvds, etc.

People in the US have lots of STUFF at most socioeconomic levels.

Posted by: tntkate | January 9, 2008 10:59 AM

I've noticed that the kids collection of toys is doing what common sense would have said I would have done years ago. Go through MY old stuff. Why do I still have some of those old college things for goodness sake. I graduated in '86 and '91. Not real current anymore.

The less stuff I have leaves more room for their things, although I do try to do a quick purge everytime I get a call from National Children's Charities or Purple Heart or when I am about to go to the doctors (I like to leave a couple of kids books each time I go.)

Posted by: robinwfcva | January 9, 2008 11:13 AM

The reality is that toys are cheap - we don't buy anything, and they have tons of stuff cause people buy them for the kids - cause they're so inexpensive.

We even had a bday party for my older DS and said: we're having a book exchange. Everyone brought a book and went home with another book. No presents, no goodie bags, etc. We STILL have SO MUCH more than we will EVER need.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 9, 2008 11:33 AM

Back in the late 60's/early 70's, my parents raised three kids (aged 5 and under) in an apartment small enough that my mother could vacuum the entire apartment without unplugging her vacuum.

During the day while my Dad was at work, we pretty much played in the apartment or outside with our friends from the neighboring apartments. And about 15 minutes before my father came home, my mother would announce "Clean up - fast as lightning!"

All of our toys would then be picked up and put away into our toy chest and shared rooms, no questions asked. Because that was the deal. Sure, things got mixed up, but two or three times a year, we would help my mother put everything to rights.

Later, as my parents could afford it, we moved into bigger homes. But we still never got a designated play room. The basement stored our communal stuff (board games, bucket-o-puppets and the folding theater my dad made for us to play with them), but we still always had to put things away neatly, and my parents lined the tops of our rooms with shelves for our personal collections (I was a stuffed animal girl, myself).

Kids will play where kids will play. The key is having them respect communal space. If they don't learn young that they can't leave their stuff scattered around, they're never going to learn.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 9, 2008 11:49 AM

Totally love the playroom-off-the-kitchen idea. Architects and new home builders, take note!

Kind of off topic: bought some new Ann Taylor Loft super hip khaki pants on a New Year's Day sale. Wore them for the first time today. At breakfast, sat on old melted chocolate chip. Just discovered have been walking around all morning (at school, doctor's app't, etc) showing off my new pants with what clearly looks like doodie on my hiney. And I'm too busy to change pants.

Motherhood is a such a comedy.

Posted by: leslie4 | January 9, 2008 11:49 AM

Just discovered have been walking around all morning (at school, doctor's app't, etc) showing off my new pants with what clearly looks like doodie on my hiney. "

I saw you. I thought it was a dried up booger...

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 9, 2008 11:56 AM

A really HUGE dried up booger, chitty!

And next time I see you I'm gonna flick it your way...

Posted by: leslie4 | January 9, 2008 11:59 AM

oh oh...that's funny. "flick it your way"... :)

one can tell I live in a house full of teens...

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 12:22 PM


I've delt with your issues my whole life in one form or the other. On Monday my mom called to tell me that if my sister didn't pay the gas company 175 by the end of the day they were shutting off her gas. I feel for you, I really do.

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 9, 2008 12:27 PM

Should be dealt.

Please for give the typo, typo Gods. I have a baby on my lap and more work than I can ever get done!

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 9, 2008 12:30 PM

Irishgirl - thanks for the kind words! I'm actually much more comfortable financially today, but for many, many years it was a struggle, as I lost my husband when my two boys were younger. It was tough at the time, but looking back, I think we are all better off. I certainly have two wonderful, level-headed and sweet boys that seem to appreciate things more than their friends do.

Posted by: jjtwo | January 9, 2008 12:40 PM


"On Monday my mom called to tell me that if my sister didn't pay the gas company 175 by the end of the day they were shutting off her gas. "

Did you tell your Mom & sister to post on this blog for support and helpful advice?

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 9, 2008 12:59 PM

No chitty,

I paid the gas bill.

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 9, 2008 1:03 PM

Irishgirl, I think there's a speck in my eye...

Posted by: mehitabel | January 9, 2008 1:27 PM

must be a speck in my eye too...

baby on lap! Oh those were the days...believe it or not, you will look fondly back at days like today! left arm, then right arm. Who knew one could type with just one hand? I didn't! And then there was the nursing incident...well, it was only an incident to me...he drained one side completely dry while I was mindlessly focusing on writing something or another...the other side was still completely full and he went to sleep!

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 1:33 PM

Irishgirl, I think there's a speck in my eye...

At least it's not a booger.

These days my daughter's play room seems to be everywhere. That will change when my newphew leaves. All her toys,except her doll house is going to the basement.

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 9, 2008 1:34 PM

jjtwo: "It was tough at the time, but looking back, I think we are all better off. "

Well, you're husband may not be better off. :-(

(I'm sorry; I really am. I just couldn't stop myself. Back into the cave with me - Fred will pick the color.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | January 9, 2008 1:35 PM

jjtwo--you're right, of course, that those are legitimate balance issues, and I think you'd be surprised how many people HAVE dealt with them (maybe not regular posters here, but then again, maybe many or most of them have). On the other hand, when I went through my years of serious financial struggles (including wondering where the grocery money would come from) we still had the problem of where to store all the kids' toys. The chaos in my house was almost as stressful as the chaos in my finances. When my husband was a single father in a tiny apartment he tore his hair out about every six months trying to reorganize his son's toys. So I think of this as just as much a balance issue as paying the electric bill. And certainly back then we couldn't ever imagine an end to that struggle or ever being in the position where we could put an addition on our house! And if it helps you imagine our situation any better, the addition brought our home up to a grand total of 1300 s.f.

Posted by: sarahfran | January 9, 2008 1:36 PM

Army Brat and Scarry - the one-liners are flying today! woo hoo!

okay, back to get something accomplished here...but with a major smile on my face

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 1:36 PM


haha, yeah, I have a nanny but if the baby is quiet, I let him stay with me. He is such a good baby too. He loves to eat and he laughs all the time.

Posted by: Irishgirl | January 9, 2008 1:39 PM

"jjtwo--you're right, of course, that those are legitimate balance issues, and I think you'd be surprised how many people HAVE dealt with them (maybe not regular posters here, but then again, maybe many or most of them have)."

If you're going to make snarky comments about the readership, jjtwo, you might want to actually read these comments for a week or two. If you did, you'd learn that quite a few "regulars" can relate to economic insecurity.

"And we feel just as guilty about yelling at our kids to clean up their junk." Huh? There's no reason to yell about anything, but why would any parent feel guilty about establishing and enforcing house rules that create responsible children? Ask any kindergarten teacher who the nightmare kids are: they are the ones with parents who never instilled in them the responsiblity for cleaning up after themselves. Do your kids and the world a favor, feel guilty if you raise them NOT to clean up after themselves and put away their own toys.

Also, if we had an extra bedroom, it would turn into a guest bedroom for our friends and family to stay in when they visit NOT a playroom. It's a matter of priorities. Fewer toys, stored in their rooms.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 9, 2008 3:30 PM

Where is MN, Meesh, Fred, Fo4, etc. today? Maybe their homes are clean? I can only wish.

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 3:31 PM

We just have a corner of the living room that is dd's play area (actually, she has a little corner in the kitchen, too). She doesn't want to go play in a room by herself, and I prefer to have her playing next to me while I cook or whatever, so this works better for us. I think a playroom might work better for older kids than toddlers, but I really don't know not having experienced that.

Posted by: floof | January 9, 2008 3:38 PM

Where is MN, Meesh, Fred, Fo4, etc. today? Maybe their homes are clean? I can only wish.

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 03:31 PM

Ha! If only, dotted:>)

My son was introduced to Guitar Hero AND Rock Band in a six-day span. He may never be the same.

Posted by: mn.188 | January 9, 2008 3:47 PM

Guitar Hero AND Rock Band??? Oh rock...

or else you're nuts. My boys have been doing Guitar Hero III since it came out. Luckily, they go over to friends to play Rock Band. And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on.

Posted by: dotted_1 | January 9, 2008 4:01 PM

"(In case you're wondering about rodents and bugs amidst the clutter, my strict no-food-outside-the-kitchen prevented a visit from DC Health and Human Services)."

By Leslie Morgan Steiner '87 | January 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET

We had the same rule. Yes, the club room floor, and often the kids' bedroom floors, would be carpeted by a mixture of Legos, baseball cards, and their scribbles, but at least we did not have to worry about biohazard. But beware! Seemingly inert items like paper grocery bags are not so inert as they seem. Our tenants found this out when they stored the bags next to the refrigerator and roaches came to eat the glue that holds the bags together.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | January 9, 2008 4:03 PM

Hey, not only do kids take up your time and money, but they also take up space. It's a real issue and only people without children would feel the need to zing Leslie on it.
My husband and I have turned it into something positive, I do alot more questioning before I bring junk into my house. Do we have room, is it really better to have this than to have more money in the bank? I have also discovered to value empty space. Clutter is distracting, empty space gives you room to breathe, dance, do yoga, play with dog, crawl and someday, with tears and laughter, cheers and bruises, pull up and walk for the first time ever. Wide open spaces are serious business, you just can't create without a little space. Furniture stores are warehouses, and the stuff in them just usually doesn't fit in the average american home. So we got rid of the overstuffed furniture, bought a futon and some small but comfortable wicker chairs and now we can dance in the living room. The only rule is that the toys leave the dance floor after 8pm and find their respective place in the corner.

Posted by: pinkoleander | January 9, 2008 4:43 PM

mn - wow, I certainly wasn't trying to be snarky. I was responding to a previous poster that commented "I hope it goes without saying, but you all must realize how unbelievably fortunate you are to be hand-wringing over playroom space, lamenting only having three bedrooms, and regretting not having room for an air-hockey table."

I was trying to nicely say that the audience for this blog is generally a little more well off, and that's why the comments are the way they are. And, I thought I said it in a very nice way. Oh, well.

And, by the way, I read this every day and have for months (or more).

Posted by: jjtwo | January 9, 2008 4:48 PM

Well, we de-cluttered our house 28 months ago and life has not been the same since.

Took the time to convert that pesky extra bedroom into a laundry room thanks to our architect, Mr. Sweat and head contractor, Mr. Brow.

Posted by: Fred | January 9, 2008 4:49 PM

Army brat, the color is sage green.

Dotted, my house is perfectly clean, esp, when I clean the toilets.


I understand what you are saying and I don't think you are being snarky.

Posted by: Fred | January 9, 2008 4:52 PM

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