5 Mothers On: Keeping Your Home Minimal Even with Kids

As any New Yorker will tell you, space is a commodity. Add in children and everything physical they come with, and even the most spacious home may feel overrun with things. As Dan and I are both fairly neat people, we’ve done our best to keep our apartment feeling cohesive and clean - even among the chaos of two young ones. And as we build our new home, creating opportunity for organization as the children age is top of mind. To help inspire me in my constant push to stay minimal while letting the children feel like they have ownership, I’ve asked some 5 moms to share their tips on keeping a home looking tidy yet lived in.

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Lisa Bower, Bay Area, mother to 1

I have three tips that really seem to help:

1. Toys that stand the test of time

Before Baby Brooks arrived, my husband and I took a lot of pride in our minimalist home and heard many friends laugh when we suggested we won’t let our home become overrun by toys. We decided early on we will only buy toys for Brooks that will help him learn and have longevity. It was hard to not roll our eyes when walking into a chic Oakland children's boutique and wooden blocks were priced at over $50. But in our mind, it is worth the investment for Brooks to have toys that will help him learn colors, learn to count, learn how to stack and the cause and effect of knocking them down. Not to mention, the beautifully stained wooden blocks look darling on the shelf in his playroom. 

2. Minimalist simple toy bins

We bought these felt bins from IKEA to keep his few toys contained. The bins are sturdy enough to withstand Brooks dumping them upside down each morning when he’s ready to play. The gray color is neutral and blends in perfectly on the bookshelf in our main living room. My sister with older children finds it humorous that we are able to contain all of his toys in just a couple bins. To try and keep the amount of toys and stuff to a minimum, we plan on donating some of his toys to a charity every year at Christmas. This year with Brooks’ birthday coming up, we’ve asked that friends and family forego physical gifts and consider donating to Brooks’ 529 education savings plan. I realize that we probably sound like most boring parents ever, but we truly want to foster his creativity and not overwhelm him and our home with stuff he may not need.

3. Cute play mat that blends in well with our furniture

This play mat from Amazon is amazing! We love how soft it is when Brooks tumbles and that it’s not an eye-sore. The mat is two-sided and the patterns on either side are modern and so subtle that fact many friends don’t even realize it’s a play mat when they walk into our home. I get a lot of mom friends asking me where I got the mat, and it’s my one item I tell all new moms to purchase. It's easy to clean and we love that it’s all one piece. In comparison to play mats that fit together like a puzzle, crumbs don't get caught in cracks and we can easily roll it up and store it away when we want to.

Sivan Ayla Richards, Los Angeles, mother to 1

To me, keeping my house looking kid-less is a must. I work from home so I need to do everything within my power to keep my home organized for my own sanity! When my house is overrun with stuff I get overwhelmed and my productivity goes out the window. Rather than wasting hours every week cleaning up toys, I like to limit the amount allowed at one time.

To paint a picture, one giant bin worth of toys lives in the TV room (in an aesthetically pleasing neutral basket, of course) and the rest is in another bin that gets swapped out every few weeks to keep things interesting.

I’m also big on donating things once the toy is outgrown. Think: In with the new, out with the old. For every new toy we bring home, another gets donated. The trick is to keep things manageable. Oh, and don’t forget the cute baskets!

I’ll report back once my baby is older and becomes more aware of Mommy throwing out toys ;)

Tali Roth, NYC, mother to 2

I don't think there is such thing as keeping a minimal home in regards to family homes in the city. We are tight on space and most likely don't have out own outdoor spaces and so we rely a lot on 'stuff' to get us through the extreme weather conditions and confined spaces. What I find tough, is the different types of toys and activities that my children have and how they are constantly evolving with each developmental stage.

I try to categorize everything and figure out the best storage techniques for each said category. I also insist on going through everything with my older son 3-4 times a year and seeing if he is willing to part with or store the things he no longer uses.

Puzzles, arts and crafts and board games - they are in the living space in Ikea Besta units.

Lego, Magnates, Cars, trains, plastic food - Ikea Trofast system. I love it!

Instruments + Dress Up + Balls / Sports ‘equipment’ - Woven bags from Etsy, Serena and Lily or Maisonette.

Books obviously go on bookshelves.

If I can stick to this storage systems it makes my home feel more orderly which in turns helps keep it looking more minimal.

Geri Hirsch, Los Angeles, mother to 1 and expecting her second

The truth is, we don’t buy our daughter a ton of toys (everyone else like her grandparents do though!) and for the toys she does have, they live in baskets or on a Montessori style shelf (google it!). What I’ve found is that she deeply loves a handful of items (books, her babydoll, a llama which is her lovey, etc.) but is mostly interested in everyday objects that can be found around the house. Beyond a concerted effort to not spoil her/fill our house with a ton of stuff, we edit constantly. When it’s clear she’s too old for something or no longer interested, we clean it and store it in containers labeled by age range for the next bebe.

(Editor note: Geri also has a great blog post on the subject here)

Shalice Noel, Pasadena, mother to 5

With 5 kids I cannot expect a clean house 24/7. We have a rule in our house, though. One room stays what my kids call, “the white room.”

It stays as untouched as possible while the kids have full access to the rest of the house. It helps our sanity and these baskets are my secret weapons to de-cluttering!