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is that all it takes?

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Although my family is blessed to live on a big, beautiful farm–our actual living space is pretty small for a family of five. Sometimes I get a little nutty and have to change things up, or put a bunch of things away to simplify the spaces I’m always looking at. But as my husband says, "it’s good practice". It’s good to learn to live with less–less space, less stuff. And although I sometimes miss that "house of my own" feeling, I love being here and I love the things we’re all learning from living together in our tight-knit quarters.

So this morning started out with making beds and picking up yesterday’s messes,  and quickly grew into a quick rearrange. A simple rearrange. Our living room is an open space that we’ve turned into two spaces by separating it with a sofa. So today, I simply made a switch. I moved the rug behind the sofa, in front of the sofa, and vice versa.

And I took two minutes to have a conversation with Emma about our toys:
Which do you really want to play with these days–the doll house or the barn? the barn.
Why haven’t you been playing with the basket of blocks and train tracks? the basket is too heavy for me to get out from under the table.
Would you rather I moved the blocks to an open space? yes, please.
Can we put this basket of toys away for a few weeks and get some other things out? yes, I like that idea.
P1010011

Well, you’d think it was Christmas morning around this place. Everyone is completely engrossed in play. Emma surrounded by wooden fences and horses, Mary setting up a jungle of animals, and Elizabeth scootching around between the two and causing trouble.

Who knew moving two rugs and two minute conversation could encourage such hard-working play in our home?

P1010006

Although my family is blessed to live on a big, beautiful farm–our actual living space is pretty small for a family of five. Sometimes I get a little nutty and have to change things up, or put a bunch of things away to simplify the spaces I’m always looking at. But as my husband says, "it’s good practice". It’s good to learn to live with less–less space, less stuff. And although I sometimes miss that "house of my own" feeling, I love being here and I love the things we’re all learning from living together in our tight-knit quarters.

So this morning started out with making beds and picking up yesterday’s messes,  and quickly grew into a quick rearrange. A simple rearrange. Our living room is an open space that we’ve turned into two spaces by separating it with a sofa. So today, I simply made a switch. I moved the rug behind the sofa, in front of the sofa, and vice versa.

And I took two minutes to have a conversation with Emma about our toys:
Which do you really want to play with these days–the doll house or the barn? the barn.
Why haven’t you been playing with the basket of blocks and train tracks? the basket is too heavy for me to get out from under the table.
Would you rather I moved the blocks to an open space? yes, please.
Can we put this basket of toys away for a few weeks and get some other things out? yes, I like that idea.
P1010011

Well, you’d think it was Christmas morning around this place. Everyone is completely engrossed in play. Emma surrounded by wooden fences and horses, Mary setting up a jungle of animals, and Elizabeth scootching around between the two and causing trouble.

Who knew moving two rugs and two minute conversation could encourage such hard-working play in our home?

20 comments on “is that all it takes?”

  1. Oh my! We’re living parallel lives! We cleaned out and rearranged our school room this weekend, and it was like they’d never been in there or seen such wonders before. They were so busy, building and crafting, drawing and reading. I’ve resolved to mix it up more often!

  2. We do that a lot around this house which is also very small for a family of 5 (1000 sq ft). What a difference it makes! And I notice that our spaces look nicer with less – toys, furniture, stuff. They actually look “decorated” when they are decluttered. So now when I need a change I subtract stuff – makes the room look new and fresh and makes playing (and cleaning) easier.Gosh if only all stuff could be this easy, eh?

  3. We just did something very similar over here. It’s amazing what seeing things in a new context can do for the imagination. I liken it to rearranging my scrabble letter tiles to stumble on new words I hadn’t noticed.

  4. we used to do this all of the time – “rotating toys” we call it in our hosue. but we’ve fallen a bit out of practice. i do love how it makes space – in my mind, somehow, and also for the children to re-discover play. a little rotation is in order around here, too!

  5. this is actually a great practice. in early childhood developement, switching out toys every so often is a way of encouraging continued learning and creativity! great job!!!

  6. good idea…I’ll have to do that with Gabe. For only being 1.5 years old he has amassed quite a few toys! We recently rearranged the living-room and his room and you would have though it was Christmas here too!

  7. There must be something in the air. I rearranged my daughter’s room and ‘rationalised’ her brother’s this weekend – both have now rediscovered toys they haven’t touched for ages!Our house is also too small for it’s occupants and all their ‘stuff’ :o)

  8. I really need to try this. Our toy baskets have been sitting untouched for months. The baby dolls come out, the baby dolls go in and everything else sits. Maybe shelves would be better where the toy options are actually visible.

  9. We try to rotate toys every so often so Elise doesn’t get bored and our living room doesn’t turn into a toy store. It feels good every time! We’re about due.

  10. Hi Molly. Don’t for a second think that you are missing anything by not having your own, read big, space. I spend most of my days longing to live in Japan, or someplace where you are confined to small spaces that can be tidied up in minutes rather than hours. The bigger the house, the more time you spend engaged with the maintenance of it and the less time you spend engaged with your kids. Sometimes I think our society has gone overboard with this need for personal space. I love our home, but having it, like most things, is a trade off.

  11. I only have one tiny baby (and a lot of visiting toddlers) and I find myself overwelmed with toys on a regular basis. I have decided that some kind of rotation system is a brilliant idea – as well as a lot more boxes! Thank you for a lovely blog.

  12. We live in a smallish space for the six of us, too, and I find the more crowded in we become with play things, the more cranky “I” get! As soon as we go through things and simplify, I can feel myself relaxing. For the kids, it seems the MORE we have out, the LESS they play with them and vice-versa. So, de-cluttering works for all of us!

  13. This is very inspiring! I was so much happier with my craft room after I moved the furniture around, and I wish I could perform the same magic on my living room but the furniture just won’t allow it. Maybe we’ll try rotating some things instead…

  14. Do not let your husband do the rearranging unless you’re up for an adventure. Mine decided he needed more space to stretch his arms and it has left up (temporarily) without a roof!

  15. Rapture! And I like the “good practice” part. We are a family of five and our living quarters, though big for San Francisco flat standards, would probably be seen as tiny to others. But we manage. It makes me creative in carving spaces to make stuff.

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