Last year, we made the decision to have one sleep room and one playroom. Originally, we had two and a half year old twins in one room and the four and a half year old in another. But as my oldest became aware that she was the only one in the house who didn’t have a bunk mate, she made more and more pleas to sleep with her sisters.
I had been putting off releasing the twins from their cells, I mean cribs, for a few months. Twins somehow manage to get into, not double, but exponentially more trouble than one child when left to their own devices. But once they started climbing out, I knew I had to do something. My biggest hesitation was that playrooms inevitably turn into junk rooms, and clutter makes me crazy. Determined to avoid this, I came up with a plan and learned some tricks along the way.
I use the term “sleep” as opposed to “bed,” because that is literally all they do in there. There are beds, pillows, blankets, fuzzy friends, and books. Sometimes, their play does spill into that room, but it’s usually just a bedtime reenactment of one of them being an exasperated parent and the other two being the kids that won’t go to sleep. (Dramatic artists tend to draw inspiration from what they know.) Having this distinction keeps most of the action in the playroom. Which leads me to the next step.
Use the playroom.
I know it seems counterproductive, but using the playroom is what keeps the clutter away. In our attempt to clear out the sleep room of all possible disaster starters, we had to add more function to the playroom. I moved all their seasonally appropriate clothes into the playroom closet, along with the changing table. Forcing my husband and I to be in the playroom everyday prevents the room from becoming a room-sized replica of Monica’s secret closet on Friends.
Storage. Storage. Storage.
It’s no secret that storage prevents clutter, and I am obsessed with cube storage. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than clearing an entire floor of toys in thirty seconds and sliding a perfectly cubed box snugly into a perfectly cubed cubby, the contents never to be thought of again. A rolling set of drawers is another great storage idea. We use ours for Barbie dolls and their accessories. The girls roll it away from the dollhouse when they need to and roll it back when they pick up. Also, my sister loves giving my girls gifts in decorative boxes, so I reuse them for more storage as well. Having a bunch of cute boxes all over the room is way more aesthetically pleasing than piles of toys.
Establish play centers.
I have stayed home with my kids off and on for almost four years, and one thing has remained constant. My kids will only play with toy sets if they are out and organized. Otherwise, I might as well dump a pile of old kid’s meal toys and toilet paper rolls on the floor, because that is all they seem to be able to find in the disarray. Our playroom has a music center, dress up center, dollhouse center, etc. Most daycare and kindergarten classes do this for organization and ease of play, but it also helps them learn where things go for pick up. Speaking of …
Teach your kids to pick up.
I have only recently started down this road, and right now it is still a pipe dream. But I’m staying home all summer with my kids, and I refuse to pick up the remnants of their daily toy scattering every afternoon. I told them that I would show them where things went everyday until they could do it on their own. When that happens, they will get a huge surprise treat. I call this tactic “operation briberation,” and I’m not afraid to admit it. Also, I have no idea what the treat will be, but it will be huge (or whatever candy is still left over from Easter).
Save that crib mattress for emergencies. We converted one of the cribs into a toddler bed and the other into a double bed. This left us with an extra mattress. Our first instinct was to toss it because of clutter, but we set it up on the floor in the playroom as a fail safe for rough nights. We can put a sick or overly tired kid in there, or an older sister who’s had enough twinning for the night. During the day, it acts as a little couch for the girls while they play.
We are going on a year of having this arrangement, and while bedtime has gotten out of hand some nights and the playroom has come close to needing a hoarding intervention, I still prefer it over two bedrooms. The girls sleep better all snuggled in bed together, and they play better because the playroom and its contents are for everyone. Eventually, they’ll want their own rooms. My only hope is that we have a bigger house by then!