Make Your Biggest Room Your Playroom

We did something a little radical this weekend.

It all started with the fact that I’ve been freaking out about our finances all week. We’re not in a tight spot like we used to be during ramen weeks in college, but we have a ton of things going on this summer and our budget is a little stretched right now. I also have a lot of things that I want to do/buy/support and we don’t have the extra funding for that right now, so that always puts me in that sour spiral of “Why did I make these life choices?” and “How can we bring kids up in a household that doesn’t even go to Paris in the summer?”

This all culminated on Friday night when I decided to clean the house late after everyone else was in bed. (I keep weird hours as a blogger. That’s a whole different post.) Of course, instead of cleaning I stomped around and grouched internally about what a hole we live in and how everything was terrible (it isn’t and it isn’t). So, I sat down and made a list of the top ten things I want in the next place we live:

1. A big, bright playroom for the kids.

2. A place to sit and relax that isn’t full of toys and chaos.

3. Room for homeschooling and other kid materials that aren’t toys.

4. A fun and safe backyard.

5. A calm place to sleep.

6. Great shops and parks within walking distance.

7. A safe neighborhood.

8. Great schools.

9. A kitchen that isn’t a crazy mess.

10. Storage. Storage, storage, storage.

Making the list actually made me feel a lot better, because in the house we’re in right now, we already have 6, 7, and 8. I figured 3 out of 10 wasn’t completely terrible and then as I started to look down the list, I wondered if there was something I could do to get some of those other numbers checked off. After all, we’ll probably be in this house for at least another year because we don’t have time to move this summer and then it’s going to be Fall and then the holidays and then snow and then maybe we’ll start looking again. So making this house as good as possible isn’t a bad goal.

The first two were my big ones. Our playroom/office had been well-loved and I was especially fond of the most recent update where I moved the art, but at the end of the day it got chaotic within minutes of the kids pulling toys out because it’s such a tight space. Our living room, on the other hand, had much more space but the space was always full of toys and mail and laundry and junk and anything else because everything seemed to migrate to living room whenever we turned around. The result was a big room that was anything but relaxing and usually just made me mad at the whole house. Cue Friday night gripe.

Then it occurred to me that I wanted a bigger playroom and a smaller living room and holy crap I could just switch them and everything in my life would improve.

So…

Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Side note: the fact that the first pictures are blurry and dark wasn’t intentional. My camera was on camcorder settings and I didn’t notice until I was trying to take “after” shots. Pretty effective though, right? Like taking your beginning diet photos in a too-small bathing suit in the dressing room at Target.

Anyway, voila! We made the biggest room in our house the playroom. I was nervous about it when we were moving the stuff because I kept thinking about people coming over and being weirded out that there weren’t couches in the front room, but then I realized that 95% of the people who come over these days are family members or playdates and not a single person I know is going to care where I want them to plop down when they visit. Besides, most of the time it’s just the four of us and it makes soooo much more sense for us to have a large area to play and work in where all of the kid stuff is pretty focused in one place.

Plus, the new TV room (or “den” because that’s a sexier word) is very, very lovely. We’re really trying to keep it pretty blank so it’s the chill out equivalent to our bedroom (although the presence of the play yard does lend a little kid vibe). It’s definitely abnormal to use the back room as the “front room” but it solves lots of problems for us at once: (1) keeps the space more free from chaos, (2) gets rid of the TV glare that we got in the front room, (3) contains the media noise to our most soundproof area, (4) gives us a place for guests to sleep with a little privacy, and (5) frees up that great big sunny room for the kids.

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As you can see, I cleaned out the fireplace to get us a new place to shove toy baskets. I wasn’t too sure about doing this, but our fireplace is non-functional and I scrubbed it down, so it works for now. The mantle has been repurposed as a place for my work books and homeschool/kid books so I can get to them when I need them. Small space solutions.

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There are a couple of things that definitely need some help. We have ton of wall space now (and it’s scuffed up, dented, full-of-holes wall space) so we need an art intervention on a large scale. Also, we ended up vaulting my desk on risers and shoving a dresser underneath it to give me more space for various things, which is surprisingly handy except for the fact that my office chair doesn’t work anymore. I’m looking into some bar stool type solutions…trying to figure out something that would be good for me but also safe for the kids…

I would also like a play rug and some valances and a place to display art and I want to get the iMac fixed and paint the piano…you know how it goes.

IMG_9356 IMG_9304Some things will be easier. We have that shelf that Kyle built for our DVDs and it’s pretty nailed to the wall so I’m using it for toy storage instead of moving it. I put old formula containers on there for now, but I want to paint the shelf and do something with the containers to make it easier for the kids to see inside. I admit that shelves of large glass jars would be more appealing, but I think a giant shelf of glass is one of those things that would be downright dumb to install with two little kids in the house.

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Oh, and all those DVDs? They’re in the old closet-turned-library. I loved that feature of the old playroom, but I have to admit that it was a flawed idea because Eva could only ever reach the bottom two shelves and as we got more books we had to sort of stack them and jam them and it was always a bit of a hot mess. Plus, I know what we have but Kyle is less familiar so he had a hard time remembering titles and purchased a few duplicates on accident. Now, the DVDs are in the closet and all of the kid books are right out where we can see them. We even created a little reading area with the playroom couch and filled Calvin’s new wagon with board books so he knows that they’re for him.

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It is sort of a pain to have a great DVD collection, especially when you consider the fact that we thinned out MORE THAN HALF of them last summer and we still have enough to fill a closet. I have thought that if we got rid of all these cases we would have a whole new closet for putting things in, but…enh. They’re fine for now.

So, that’s the big change. Crazy, but I think it will work! We had friends come over for a playdate this morning and it was lovely to sit and chat with my friend in our cozy, quiet little room while the kids basically had the run of the house playing. It was also less than a ten minute clean-up because everything has a space and I don’t have to trip over everything to put things away. So, we’ve done weird things but they’re oh so us.

Also, let’s take a minute to give my husband a standing ovation because he woke up on Saturday morning with a reasonably blank weekend and I was all “I want to put the furniture in this room over in that room and vice versa” and he was like “what a wonderful idea, you are so smart” and never complained even when this happened for THREE HOURS:

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He worked with me all the way through the weekend up to Sunday night and when Calvin wouldn’t sleep because his new front tooth was breaking through, Kyle got up with him again and again. And again. And again. And he still cleaned the kitchen before he went to work.

Seriously, y’all. Standing ovation.

Back to my list. With all of the changes we made this weekend, here’s where we stand:

1. A big, bright playroom for the kids.

2. A place to sit and relax that isn’t full of toys and chaos.

3. Room for homeschooling and other kid materials that aren’t toys.

4. A fun and safe backyard.

5. A calm place to sleep.

6. Great shops and parks within walking distance.

7. A safe neighborhood.

8. Great schools.

9. A kitchen that isn’t a crazy mess.

10. Storage. Storage, storage, storage.

OK, if I’m completely honest, we have done some things to increase storage so maybe that one could be crossed off. And we did have number 5 under control, but then we got a new bed and it stopped being a calm oasis and I’ll have to tackle that soon. Plus, the kitchen could probably be rearranged a little and our backyard is definitely getting a lot more fun as we work on it…

Looks like a busy summer for the Morgans!

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4 thoughts on “Make Your Biggest Room Your Playroom

  1. so, as a reader from way back during your wedding planning, I used to wonder how much I’d still read after all the recaps were up. And then you gave a lot of backstory and posts on you and Kyle as a couple, and I continued to find it interesting. And then all of the heartbreak and struggle before Eva. And so many other topics from A to Z. But I think my favorite posts at this point are the ones about how you make things work in your house – some of the ideas I’ve never seen before but just love, like this one – it makes perfect sense to make a cozier space the living room, but I’ve never known someone to do that! looking forward to more updates on the backyard and family bedroom!

  2. You’re a genius! Seriously. I wouldn’t think to switch rooms or to use the closet as DVD storage or to gut the fireplace. So smart! I think your house looks even more inviting now. Great job to the both of you. Also Kyle is a Saint!

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