January 2010: Kids

January 2010: Kids

Get it together

Problem: How to corral kids’ clutter into the common areas of a small home

The 800-square-foot, two-bedroom city home that Kerry MacFarland shares with her husband, 3-year-old daughter and newborn baby boy is a study in multifunctional use of space and hidden storage. 

Kerry McFarland and her kids—Hannah, 3, and Sage, 6 months—show off their living room, clutter-free thanks mostly to lots of baskets for toy storage.

“When guests come over, they often say, ‘Your house is so clean,’ but I tell them, ‘Don’t look in all the nooks and crannies!’” 

If guests did search all the corners and crevices of the 1940s era home that, true to its period, lacks much formal closet space, they’d discover that it’s stuffed to the gills. Boxes of files and clothes reside under MacFarland’s bed in the master bedroom that also functions as office for her home-based photography business, Earthdarling Portraits, as well as nursery for baby Sage. Husband Christian’s clothes live in a hallway armoire. Cleaning supplies, brooms and other daily chore equipment are stored on the landing and even down the stairs to the unfinished basement. 

“Even small houses like this have hidden spaces,” says MacFarland.

Still, it’s the most public spot—the attractive living room—that truly surprises with its lack of chaos. It’s got cool vintage furniture and mid-century console and speakers (Christian is a former D.J.) but also clearly functions as kid playroom. “In the summer, we use the screened porch and backyard a lot for playtime, but now, it’s just this room,” says MacFarland. 

Though baby Sage’s colorful bouncer conspicuously sits in one corner and daughter Hannah’s toys occupy another, it’s not a bit overwhelming or unbalanced. 

“I use a lot of baskets and containers,” says MacFarland. “At the end of the day, I just throw all the toys back.”

MacFarland also hung a narrow sheer curtain from the ceiling in the living room to somewhat shield the “kids’ corner” when the toys aren’t stowed away in their containers. But the key to really keeping the kid belongings at bay in the main living space, says MacFarland, is swapping toys in and out of circulation. She stores items not in use in the basement and brings them back after a few months. The strategy not only mitigates clutter, but also ensures the kids remain excited by their own stuff. 

With all of the home’s spaces serving multiple kid and adult purposes, MacFarland says that she and her husband have only one strict rule: “No toys in our room!”—Katherine Ludwig

Cute craft boxes

We know what winter really means: lots of indoor arts and crafts projects to occupy the kids when the weather outside is frightful. In other words, crayon chaos. To keep supplies from getting out of hand (and getting underfoot), give the kids their very own mini suitcases for stowing away all the popsicle sticks, pom-poms and glue sticks at the end of the day. Set of three “Euro Cases,” blue or pink, from Sustain Inc.: $16.—K.L.