Whenever I share photos of our house, especially our living room, inevitably I am asked the question: How do you decorate with so much white when you have kids?! I’ve gotten that question so much, in fact, that I decided to write a post explaining how exactly this works (and sometimes doesn’t work) in our house. 😉
So if you’re new around here, you should know that there are four of us living in our house: myself, my husband Donnie, and our sons Connor (age 8) and Caleb (age 5). I lucked out and Donnie is particularly neat. In fact, if you asked me which one of us is more neat and organized, I would tell you that he is, because it’s true!
photo by elle and arre photography
The Cs, on the other hand, are not particularly neat AT ALL. They are normal boys. They don’t mind being dirty, they don’t like to clean up, and they’re really unaffected by clutter and mess– it’s like they can’t even see it in the room. I love them dearly and both of them have many talents and strengths, but cleanliness is not one of them. I will say that they listen and pay more attention to rules now than they did when they were, say, 1 and 4, but just in case you thought I was working with extremely tidy, neat-nick children, that is not the case.
So how do I decorate with so much white when I have (very normal, messy) kids?
Here are a few of the things that have helped:
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1. We only eat in the kitchen and dining room (for the most part).
The boys know that if they’re eating, they need to be either sitting at the island in the kitchen or sitting at the dining room table. Our kitchen and living room are one big, open space, so it is easy to feel like you’re still part of what is happening in the living room (and they can still see the TV if we’re watching a movie or something) if you’re sitting at the kitchen island.
our current living room and kitchen
At our last house, the dining room and living room were in one large space, so they could eat at the dining room table and still be in on the action if everyone was hanging out in the living room.
living room and dining room in our last house
In both situations, this helped corral the mess in a designated area and kept our whites white! Occasionally the boys will wander into the living room with a bowl of popcorn or something and we live a little on the wild side (ha!), but for the most part, they keep food in the designated space.
2. We don’t wear shoes inside.
This happened more just naturally rather than us making a rule about it, but we enter the house from the garage into the mudroom, and the first thing the boys do is kick off their shoes before they walk into the main part of the house. They just don’t like wearing them unless they have to, which keeps them from tracking junk into the house too. Win-win.
3. Their playroom is upstairs.
I have loved this setup in our new house! The playroom is a bedroom upstairs, so craft projects and any messy fun is typically done in that space, which is set up to handle that kind of thing. (Even in our last house, their craft supplies and little art table were upstairs in their room rather than close to the living room/hang out area.) This way, the mess stays away from the main living space.
the Cs’ craft corner in our last house
Housing the toys upstairs also cuts down on clutter in the rooms we use most. Of course toys make their way downstairs sometimes, but I keep a basket in our entryway right next to the steps, so it’s easy to load playroom gear into the basket and take it back up the next time they go.
entry in our current house
4. I switch out our couch covers.
As I wrote about in this post, we have the IKEA EKTORP sofa, love seat, and chair, and I have both tan and white covers for each piece. I would say the tan covers are our “everyday” covers and the white ones just come out every so often. It is a big job to change everything out though, so when the white ones come out, they stay for a little while! We’ve lived in our new house for about 7 months now, and I would say within that time period, we’ve had the tan covers on for about 6 months and the white covers on for about 1 month, just to give you an idea of frequency.
our old living room with the tan couch covers
The other nice thing about the EKTORP covers is that they are washable! I don’t worry about them getting too messy because if something happens, I can take them off and throw them in the washing machine and they are as good as new. And if something major did happen to one of the covers, they are fairly inexpensive to replace. (Though we’ve had them for a few years now and haven’t had to replace one yet.)
With young kids, I am not going to spend big bucks on expensive sofas and constantly be nagging everyone who comes into my house to be careful with them. That’s just not us! The EKTORPs are a practical choice that also allow me to have the light, bright look that I love.
5. White kitchens haven’t been a problem for us.
I know that sounds like a cop-out. And I have definitely talked to people who have had white kitchens and felt like the cabinets got messy a lot. But we have had white kitchens in two houses now, and in both of them, I have felt like the cabinets and countertops were a breeze to keep clean.
white kitchen in our last house
If I see a spot (which I can’t say happens often), I just give it a quick wipe down with a rag and it’s gone in a second. In both of our white kitchens, the floors (an area rug over tile in our last kitchen and hardwoods in our current one) have actually been harder to keep clean than all of the white. This may not be everyone’s experience, but it truly has been for us.
white kitchen in our current house– still a work in progress!
6. We’re not perfect.
Finally, as I state right up front on my “Meet the Girl” page, we are far from perfect. The pictures you see on the blog are akin to what your house would look like when you’re getting ready for company to come over. I pick up, put everything in its place, wipe away smudges, etc. before I take photos of anything.
Right now a lot of the walls in our house are painted with a flat white paint because that’s what the builders painted them and we haven’t changed it yet. Do you know how hard flat paint is to keep clean? It is tough. There are scuffs. There are scrapes. There’s even a perfect handprint on one wall in the living room. 🙂 Real life at its finest.
We live in our house. I love to create organizational systems and figure out the best ways to store things to keep it as tidy as possible, but the reality is, sometimes (a lot of times) it gets messy! We are not this Stepford family that lives in a showroom all the time. We are normal, I promise.
I feel like every decorating style will have its challenges. Fingerprints and crumbs can show up easily on dark cabinets and countertops. Any color upholstery is capable of getting a stain. Paint gets chipped and scraped. Things get broken. I just do my best to merge our family’s style and the things that make us happy with the phase of life we’re in right now (the two crazy little boys phase)! I hope the Cs look back and think of their house as a welcoming, inviting, cozy, and safe place to be, a place where they are loved beyond measure and are also free to be their sweet– and sometimes messy– selves. 🙂
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Organize and Decorate Like a Pro
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Thanks for following along! Have a wonderful week!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.