My boys and I spent the summer days learning from each other. Because I work from home, my kids are naturally curious about what I do. So I tell them. I’m writing a story on picking paint colors. Or I’m teaching other mommies how to decorate their homes. With their limited world-view they assume I’m teaching all their friends mommies, which just makes everything I do more special in their eyes.
As much as they learn from me, I feel like I learn ten times more from them. They help me see things in totally new ways. Having them home with me all summer was turbulent at times. I had to let go of some perfectionist tendencies in my home. In the end, I learned to look at my home differently after a glimpse of the world through their eyes.
How My Kids Changed How I Think About Decorating
1. There’s A Season for Everything
Summer was a short 12 weeks. Just a season. My kids knew how to savor every minute of it, knowing it wouldn’t last. At the same time, they aren’t sad to see it go, because they plan to savor every minute of fall.
Homes have seasons, too. You should relish each one and let it pass when it’s time for a new season.
The living room furniture arrangement that was perfect 12 months ago, stopped working for how we lived, so we changed it. Now, we’re house training a new puppy and embracing a season of minimalism (no rug, no floor lamp) while he learns what he’s allowed to chew on and where he’s allowed to pee.
There’s a season for everything. A season when toys are all over the floor. A season where fresh-from-the-pool swimsuits hang where the backpacks once did. A season where the dining room is a makeshift home office while you build a school to teach other mommies about decorating. Your life is constantly evolving and you need to evolve your home to meet the needs at the moment.
2. Find the Simple Answer
Things are almost always more simple than they seem. We just like to make things complicated. Or is that just me?
My kids distill everything into the simplest possible solution. Although, leaving dirty socks on the sofa because it’s easier than putting them in the hamper grates on my nerves, other times their simplistic view is poignant. They don’t understand the complexities, so they can see the simple answer.
We had some water damage recently. To have it repaired requires paying a large deductible and a lot of dirty, scrape and refinish the ceiling kind of work. We are still debating over the repair. While my oldest doesn’t see what the big deal is. We should just get it fixed.
There’s a simplicity you can find in every decision. It usually starts with an if statement, followed by what you would do if you ignored the complexities. One night I turned to my husband and said. “You know if we were selling the house right now, we wouldn’t think twice about getting this fixed.” There it is. The simple answer.
3. Structure is Important
Kids crave structure. They behave better when there is some structure and order to their days. They also seek out structure as a means of understanding and explaining the world around them.
My kids see me decorating and they want to know why. Why are you putting that on the mantel? Why are you moving the chair over there? Why are you painting?
I’ve gotten really good at explaining myself. They just want to know the natural order of things – to understand the structure of decorating.
They’ve trained me to ask myself why. More than once I’ve stopped myself from moving or changing something, because I couldn’t come up with a good reason why I wanted to do it, design-wise or function-wise.
4. Be Ever Playful
They put them back afterwards, but most of our days the pillows and throw blankets from the sofa are fashioned into a fort or tossed on the floor as islands to hop across the room.
It used to drive me crazy. Put them back where they belong on the sofa. Use something else to play with.
But they use everything around them. Everything is fair game. Why can’t the decorative pillow be a seat in an imaginary car?
Their playfulness reminds me our things, even our pretty things, should be used daily. So, no longer do I reserve my prettiest fabric for pillows that don’t get touched, I put it in the heart of my home where it can be enjoyed, even if that means being tossed around by kids and a shorter lifespan. Because the kids taught me things that don’t get used, have no life at all.
5. It’s Not What It Looks Like
Everything can be something else. Just like throw pillows can be islands on the ocean of a rug, an ottoman can be a coffee table with the right tray.
My kids see everything for what it is and what it could be.
Use your imagination to see what else something could be. A bench makes a great coffee table in a small living space. A comfortable dining chair might be better than a desk chair. A short bookshelf can double as a console table behind the sofa.
6. Too Much of A Good Thing is Over-Stimulating
When my kids have all the toys pulled out, strewn across the floor, they fight more and play less. It’s too much. When they choose just a few favorites, they can play for hours happily creating new story after new story a la Toy Story.
Decorating, specifically accessorizing, is the same way. If you put everything out on display, then nothing is on display. You can’t enjoy the things that matter most because they are crowded out by all the other things. Choose a few favorites and stick with them.
7. “Can’t We Just Buy It?!”
While I’m trying to teach my kids you can’t just buy everything, I appreciate that their first concern is never price. They have no idea if $10 is expensive or not. They focus first on what they really need or want. They worry (or let mommy worry) about price or how they’re going to get it later.
You might get too wrapped up in the price tag to make the right choices for your home. If the sofa you daydream about is $500 more than you want to spend in the moment, you buy a lesser option and spend your days wishing you had saved for the other one. Instead, focus on your true needs and wants, then figure out the plan to get there (even if it means waiting and saving).
8. Make a Mess and Make It Personal
As much as they want to just buy everything they like, my kids also love to make things. They embellish everything. Whatever they can paint, tape, glue, and hang is perfect for decorating. They put their stamp on our space and personalize it. And they always make a big mess along the way.
What they don’t do is re-draw their picture a dozen times until it’s just right or notice if the letters they write on a banner aren’t in a perfect line. They live in the moment. They live to share a piece of themselves.
You shouldn’t be afraid to make a little mess sometimes and put a personal stamp on your home. Live in the moment. Share a piece of yourself. Use your favorite color all over the place, hang up your kid’s artwork, use personal mementos and things you make over store-bought things anyone might have.
9. The Best Host Only Cares About Their Guests
Kids make the best hosts. No comparison, no self-judgement, no apologies.
As frustrating as it is to get my kids to help clean up for play dates, I secretly admire how much they don’t care. They graciously invite their friends in, strike up a conversation, and have the best time whether the house is a mess or not. It’s no big deal to them. They don’t worry what others will think, they only care about having a good time with their guests.
Shouldn’t we all?
10. Change is the Only Constant – Go With it
Kids are highly adaptable. They don’t just accept change, they make change. They constantly experiment and try new things, because that’s how they learn. They push boundaries, they try everything multiple ways (like getting off the sofa by standing up or by somersaulting over the edge), and they don’t give up easily when they really want something.
All too often, we stall out in our homes. You stop trying to get it right. You stop experimenting. You get complacent.
We have a lot to learn from our kids. They remind us to keep trying new things or old things in new ways. They show us what it means to push boundaries. They don’t give up easily and question us when we do.
To sum it all up from my kid’s point of view: Life is one big experiment (including your home).
Get a Free Copy of my book "Free Decorating"
"This book is so inspiring, I'm a self confessed "decor" addict, I buy anything I think "may" work only to take it home and be disappointed. After reading this book I can't wait to shop my own home and make more meaningful purchases." - Cori I.