Chasing her dreams, Montclair mom Julia Epstein Fasano gave up practicing law in the city to take care of her three young kids full-time. But very quickly, she found herself helping friends design and decorate their houses. (My house was one of them! She saved it from destruction! Julia’s a genius on a budget! See my foyer at left–there used to be an old piano in that space.) Now, she’s created her own home business, JSE Interiors. You just have to check out her photos to see how great she is–and she works on a completely fair and reasonable paying scale. “No one will pull together a room as inexpensively as I would,” Julia told me. “And it will look so much better.”
To promote her new website launch, Julia agreed to give Barista Kids readers tips on cleaning up our kids’ play areas and organizing kids’ rooms. She also donated her services as an auction item for the Northeast Elementary Schools LOL Fundraiser. Anyway, read below, and you’ll be inspired to go straight into your child’s room and move the bed:
Organize Your Kids Rooms With Style by Julia Epstein Fasano
“We’ve all had that moment where you walk into your child’s room and can’t stand to look at it again. The same toys are still on the floor. Clothes are everywhere. The bed is unmade. For those of us who live in older homes (like everyone in Baristaville!), we know the pain of limited space and, more importantly, limited storage space. Here are tips to help keep you–and your kids–sane and tidy even in their messiest play areas.
Move the bed. Many of us instinctively push the bed against a wall to maximize floor space which is a seemingly logical solution. However, by simply moving the bed so the headboard is against a wall but the bed sticks into the room you can achieve two organization solutions. First, it becomes much easier to make the bed–so easy in fact, that your kids can do it themselves (gasp!). Second, by moving the bed so it divides the room, you achieve an important organizational goal: You create zones (keep reading).
Create Zones. Divide the room, as much as possible into two (or three depending on space) zones. Preferably one zone for play and one zone for homework/reading/quiet time. If you can manage to have a bed divide the room, great. If not, you can still achieve zones by simply organizing spaces smartly.
*The Play Zone Create a play zone with a simple throw rug and line one or two sides of that rug (and against walls) with toy storage. Keep all the toys in your child’s room only in that zone and preferably place that zone on the far side of the room so you don’t have to look at it every time you walk in or by. That way, if your child leaves a mess behind, it doesn’t take over the room. Consider this the “contained chaos” option. It also makes clean up easier and less of chore because it is contained.
*Quiet Zone The other side of the child’s room should be a designated quiet/reading/homework zone. Whether you have a bookcase and chair, desk or whatever, place it away from the toys and keep the décor and space minimalist. Less is more so kids can have a chaos-free zone, something everyone needs, even if they don’t know it. It will make reading time, homework or time outs easier because it will be free of distractions. Even if they don’t clean their toys every day, the quiet zone should be an area that a child can easily straighten each day to keep it as an oasis in their hectic little worlds.
Buy Baskets. We all know that baskets are our friends. They hold toys, books and occasionally, dirty socks and pizza crusts. Here’s a simple and inexpensive tip to keep those overflowing baskets more bearable. First, buy as many as you possibly can, but they should all be made of the same material and the same color. Avoid plastic bins because they tend to look cheap and, let’s face it, we all hate looking at giant plastic Tupperware containers of toys. The baskets can be inexpensive–try Target, Kmart or on-line. If you can find ones of woven wood (or faux wood), buy them, regardless of color, then go out and buy some spray paint. Pick a spray paint that matches an accent color in your child’s room then spray all those baskets. Kids can help (just make sure you do this outside), and they will even be more likely to use them. Once dry, you will have a set of custom color baskets to use throughout your child’s room. Place them under the bed, against the walls and on shelves. The consistency in fabric and color will make even the most disorganized array of baskets look like a considered design choice and will actually make a mess look far less messy.
Label, Label, Label! Now that you’ve got those baskets, label them with as much detail as you would your tax files. If your kids can’t yet read, cut out small pictures to use as labels. Pictures of whatever should go inside will help keep toys organized, aid in clean up and prevent the much dreaded dumping of baskets to find that one needed action figure. Cut out a picture of a Pet Shop character, a super hero, a car or anything. Let your kids pick the photos. Small, simple and easy-to-read are best. Make it appealing and easy to understand.
Buy Shelves. No surprise here–we all love shelves. But consider shelves in previously blank locations. Put a shelf over a door to display craft projects, lego creations, stuffed animals, you name it. Displays over a doorway look great, and I bet that space is vacant right now. Use the bottom shelf of a bookcase to store toys (pull out a few of those freshly painted storage baskets). Stack shelves in a corner: There are several mountable corner shelving units available that are inexpensive and nicely designed. Consider putting shelves in previously forgotten locations.
Buy Decorative Hooks. There are so many cool-looking decorative hooks out there that they can be a fun statement all by themselves. But they are actually useful! If your kid is as resistant as mine to actually hang clean clothes on hangers, then you can at least avoid SOME clothes on the floor by letting them easily hang those still clean jeans and pajamas on a hook. To avoid those dreaded morning arguments over which pair of leggings to wear, choose two outfits together (or yourself) the night before and hang them on those hooks for quicker morning dressing. You can even use them as a punishment. Put forbidden objects in a clear bag and hang them on that hook. Maybe looking at the forbidden fruit for a while will make your child less likely to have his or her favorite things end up there again. However you use them, hooks are our friends.”