Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Finding Creative Solutions for Large Families

Once upon a time I titled myself the Creative Manager of the family.   I've always had to find creative solutions for storage problems in our homes.  As the family grew, I had to find creative solutions for fitting a larger family into a small home.  Our first home was 1200 sq. ft 3 bedroom home without a basement, attic or garage.  We moved in as a family of four and moved out as a family of 8.

We moved into this home as a family of 8.  It had 1800 sq. ft. PLUS a garage AND a basement!!  But it was set up in a much less useful way.  The living room was larger, but large windows and the fact that it is open to the dining room make arranging furniture difficult.   We still have 3 bedrooms, but they are much smaller than the ones we had before.  Sure, we have storage in the basement, but  it's damp and we  have impractically small closets upstairs.

Now we are a family of 10, and I am still having to rearrange, shuffle, and think creatively to solve storage issues.   With each new baby comes another bed, more clothes, etc.  We have a limited amount of closet space and only so much room for dressers.

But the larger issue has been finding quiet places for everyone to do their schoolwork.  Working around the dining room table hasn't worked as well when it's open to the living room where the toddlers and preschoolers are playing or even watching TV.  The dining room table is also where I fold clothes, and where we try to get the kids to eat.  (They prefer the living room and TV side of the room.)  You can see the problem.

Some of my kids can not study in their bedrooms because they get distracted by toys.  Some of them get distracted by books, or the cozy warmth of their beds.   There is not room in the girl room for a desk.  And though the boy room could fit a desk in, it would block the closet or take up lego space on the floor.

I've been trying to figure out how to find more study places for the kids, especially for my teenagers.  But with all their books, it's harder to study on their beds (top bunks) or in my bedroom.  But they can't concentrate at the dining room table.  I finally came up with a solution yesterday, that I hope will work for my tenth grader.

She needed a desk with room to stack her books and write, and not have her stuff messed with by her younger siblings.  She needed quiet to focus.  She works best with her stuff all stacked beside her so she can just work down through the stack without getting up to trade books.  But I didn't have room to add a desk to the house!

I finally realized that I did have a small table that would be perfect for her in my kitchen; except it was holding my mixer, bread machine, and crock pot.  I did have a dresser in the kitchen that was our changing station, so I decided to move the mixer, bread machine and crock pot to the dresser top.  Which meant my changing station had to move.

I moved the small changing station organizer (holds diapers, wet wipes, ointments, etc.) to the corner of my dresser in my bedroom.  That meant moving the humidifier to the corner of the baby's dresser and the CD player to the top of a small shelf.   My dresser is right next to my bed (barely a step away) and I'm now changing diapers at the bottom of my bed.

Now that I don't have a changing table, I'm not sure if I'll keep my nice contoured changing pad or not.  For now, I'm putting it on my bed during the day, and moving it off at night.  That may become too much hassle and I may just end up tossing down a waterproof changing pad under the baby that I can fold up and put on my dresser edge when not in use.

My 15 year old was resistant to my idea at first because she didn't want me to "have to" move my stuff around and lose my changing table.  I told her it would work and be fine.  I've always had to re-adjust things in the home to better suit the changing needs of the family.  This is just another one of those times.  Her being able to study and focus is more important than me having a dedicated diaper changing area.

I'll still have to keep the little ones from trying to play in the kitchen, and the older ones will need to be reminded not to wander in and out for food and drinks repeatedly.  But it should be easier to keep them out of the kitchen than it would be to keep them out of the living or dining room.  (Hopefully I can add photos soon, but the camera was extremely full and it's taking a long time to empty it.  There's just something about having teens and only one digital camera ... )

Now if I can only find quiet nooks for the 3 student chair-desks that are in the basement so the other kids could spread out more to do their work.   And a place where 2 yo G can keep his Thomas trains and set them up without me always having to step over them.  (Oh how I long for a train table to replace my coffee table.  Someday maybe.)

And I'm still trying to figure out a new solution for our laundry issues.  One day and one issue at a time.

Creative Manager for the ElCloud Family,
April E.


  1. [...] finally have photos of my tenth grader’s new study area.   Rather than add them to my post about finding a study area for her, I decided to start a new [...]

  2. You're an inspiration April. I am also having to rearrange things frequently and have to keep trying new ideas for storage and schoolwork. It helps to see how others are creatively solving these problems.

  3. [...] share a photo of the new space we carved out for my 10th grader’s schoolwork.  The rest of the story and more photos were shared last [...]

  4. This was good to read. I am trying to set up some different learning areas here also. I'm sure your 15 yr old dd really appreciates you making what's important for her a priority!! Holly


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