May 2011: Your Kids


Problem: Deciding what stays and what goes
Erin and Mike Garcia have lived, with their two children—Elias (4) and Charis (2)—in their 1950s Fry’s Spring home for a little over a year. Their relocation from Crozet was prompted by the desire to be closer to town and their offices (Erin is a local Realtor and Mike is a psychologist). Surprisingly, the size of their new Charlottesville house (1,800 square feet) is slightly smaller than their previous townhome. Despite the expanding needs of a young family of four, the Garcias are able to make the most of their space by, as Erin puts it, “down-sizing our mentality.” 

“The idea is that we’re keeping things we actually use, and things that we really like,” she explains. “Not that we’ve arrived at this goal; [it’s] a work in progress.”

It appears that they are well on their way to meeting their objective. The children’s rooms blend seamlessly with the aesthetic of the rest of the home (no glaring colors or piles of toys here). Their son’s bedroom, for example, contains simply a classic antique four-poster bed and dresser. The color scheme is made of chocolate browns and creams. An artistic black and white photographic portrait of Elias as a newborn is neatly framed on the wall. The room is timeless, honest and quite cozy. Absent are stray Hotwheels and dirty shirts: the typical detritus of most 4-year-old boys.

The family den is where all of those missing toy cars, books and blocks can be found. Tucked away in a large closet are several clear plastic bins that house the children’s playthings. A corner bookshelf has grown-up reading material on the higher shelves and the lower ones are full of well-loved picture books, easily accessible for smaller readers.

Parents and children alike have agreed to dedicate this room to play and messier family time. As a result, the rest of the house remains calm and open for more focused activities, such as enjoying a fire in the living room fireplace or having unexpected guests drop in for a glass of Chicha Morado (Mike’s family is from Peru and this sweet purple corn drink is a family favorite).

When I visit, Charis is busy opening and closing the sliding screen door, happily coming in and out. Elias and his papi are working in the garden, digging and raking. There is an ease of pace, a sense that the activity going on is about living, not a frantic race to stay ahead of the mess and the stuff.

It’s not all carefree. Keeping a handle on the clutter does take some vigilance, as Erin explains. “We’re in a constant state of assessing what we need,” she says—“versus things we’re holding onto because we spent money on it, might need it again, or because someone gave it to us.”

Just like parenting, “It’s an ongoing exercise of discipline.”

Mini storage

Off the hook
Small drawstring fabric bags make tidying up a cinch! Perfect for small toys, these eco-friendly batik Wrap Sacks come in various colors and sizes at Integral Yoga ($4.99-6.99). Hang them from a row of funky or sophisticated wall hooks (Anthropologie carries a diverse assortment, $8-48) and de-clutter with style.