what you want + kids…is it possible?

When we adopted our little mixed breed pup {see Chloe} in our first home, I thought I had it bad. “She chews on the furniture! And scratches! And pees on the floor!” I bemoaned to one of my friends with children. “At least kids don’t do that!”

If I could capture the facial expression bestowed on me in that moment by said friend with children, it would be the perfect photo op for this post. {read: the-you’re-a-total-moron-but-I-love-you-anyway, look.} This was before I had delightful laughter filling these rooms, along with the chaos that often ensues. It was, of course, before I knew any better.

I lived in blissful ignorance.

Our babies: they’re worth every second. And they come first. But along with these little extensions of my heart, come the joyful tasks of laundry, dishes, picked up messes, and every day real life. Sometimes I feel like I just might drown in a tidal wave of legos, and someone will find me in the next decade long after the search committees have been called off, and they decide to pick them up.

So today, I’m here to ask that daunting question I think we’re always asking ourselves.

Can you really have children, a busy bustling household, and the home that you want? Is it possible to have children and a home that you love?

I answer that question with a resounding “Absolutely! YES!”

The whole reason I began tackling my house incessantly was to find my own identity. I wanted to create a haven for our children, in a way that expressed who we are. You can, actually, have your cake and eat it too. In my book, that’s always been a stupid phrase. What’s the point of life, if you can’t? What’s the point of a cake, without eating it? And I guess that’s the approach I take on the design in the spaces of our home.

Form AND high function are a must when it comes to design for {any} family. My children are the inspiration for each and every room.

Each household has its own philosophy, whether we realize it or not. So I decided to share a few things I adhere to, in attempting that day to day balance, while enjoying a home that makes us happy.

1. Go for it. 

Many of you guys know that I’m a big believer in going for what you want. Much to Jamin’s dismay, inhibitions simply don’t exist in my world. I live for the rush that I feel by reaching beyond my fears, and accomplishing something. In your home, if it’s a white sofa, you really want, then sell the uglies, and make it happen. Play it by ear, and roll with it. I see way too many people telling themselves that they’ll enjoy their homes when their children are out of the house.

I’m sorry. Say what?

That being said, I couldn’t disagree more. What about creating something for your children? What if you never get that “next” house?

On the children end of that spectrum, we made a few personal decisions, as parents, from the beginning. Wait for it…we never childproofed our home. (GASP!?) I simply kept things out of reach that were dangerous, {Cleaning supplies, etc. on the top shelf} but taught them to have boundaries, and respect our things. As they grew old enough to know better, they had already formed good habits. So from the beginning, the whole process of teaching my children to respect ‘things’ was a little easier, backed with a lot of work in the beginning. With a good base to build from, “they knew how to behave around stuff, and other peoples’ stuff.” {as a very observant friend recently put it}

Because we live in a smaller home, things like this are kind of essential to our survival.

All that said, this still happens. I think its also important to let them explore. We dance on the coffee table. And I found this guy on more than one occasion, climbing on things like he was the sole proprietor of a rock climbing gym. He literally swung from our chandelier one afternoon. Kids will be kids, and sometimes, it’s good to let them be. Within reason…

2. Be Realistic. 

The idea of living with three children with limited space is not a new one to us. We’ve been in this home for almost five years this fall. So the act of every day stuff with a few slow-but-sure additions has been a process that has taken place over time. This summer was a little crazy. Because of the mag shootmy trip to NYC, and a few other things we had coming up, we finished 2.5 rooms in August. Yeah. that was insane. Let me just clarify with what it looked like in the journey there:

What’s that? You can’t even tell what’s going on? That’s because I was too plagued with exhaustion to take clear shots. 😉 It felt like we were moving, and I took these halfheartedly to show a friend of ours who asked how bad it really was.

There was stuff everywhere. These photos really don’t do it justice. But we muscled our way through it.

I said all that to say this: always know, that whenever there’s a ‘pretty’ shot, there’s a billion pieces of crap literally shoved out of the way in the background. Real people don’t live like that. We certainly don’t. We don’t have a maid, and we’re here all day. You guys should see our pantry, closets, and garage. They’re next on our list. Think avalanche. In a few short weeks, operation purge is officially underway. Anyone want to come to our garage sale? It’s the only way I can make the ‘pretties’ happen on such short notice. And I will be found three years later, buried under pieces of forgotten furniture in our garage, like a hoarder. Awesome.

That being said, when accidents happen and things are broken {and they will, with kids, as many of you know} I believe its good not to sweat it. I only have a few “sacred” items in my house {things from my grandmother, etc.} that are truly “irreplaceable.”

Let’s just be honest: Jamin and I really mess up royally, as all of us do, on a regular basis in the land of parenthood. But in the realm of “things,” they will never matter more than our children do. Sometimes I feel like we can easily communicate this to them if we freak over a broken item. Or if I spend so much time obsessing over the small things. I even have to be careful when changing rooms in our own home. They’re watching. And I think its good to remember that. On another note, we’ve also found that things are easier to ‘repair’ when we’re the ones who changed, built, painted, or pieced it together in the first place. And when things weren’t purchased for much, it’s easier to roll with the punches of childhood.

3. Compromise.

I didn’t want a bunkbed. Aiden did. So did Jamin. So we came up with a clever way to utilize the room, save space, and create something super fun and a little more outside the box, just for him.

They’re only young once. And in my world, the belgium linen from Restoration Hardware can come later in life. I think its good to embrace your children, and let them be your muses for your space. They can be the best inspiration.

I hate the messes that legos make. And I detest the little jiblets that Play Dough can leave behind. Naked Barbies drive me insane {why did they have to give them boobies?} But I know that these are the things childhoods are made of. So if Aiden wants to leave his legos out (in his designated areas: See? Boundaries! Compromise! Reality!) or if Emerson wants to play one more time with that Play Dough set…for the love of all things that keep us young in life, we let them do it.

The world of raising a family in a smaller, rambling, chaotic home, is definitely a world of healthy give and take. So I deal with the smaller messes, and know that it’s just par for the course, after all.

Because sometimes, I make a bigger mess than the kids and the dog…and the hubs, all combined.

So spill it, guys! {Pun intended.} What are your philosophies for having a home you love and striking that balance with your family life? I think we can all learn from each other.

Please do tell. I’d love to hear your approach to it all!

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Responses to what you want + kids…is it possible?

  1. nicole says:

    LOVE this post, such a great reminder to enjoy the kids before they get too old! I am also MADLY in love with that bunk bed, did you guys build that yourselves?

  2. Melissa says:

    What an awesome post And I completely agree with everything you just said! Well I feel loads better about having white couches! ;0) (white slipcovers for my couches that is)

  3. Angela says:

    I gave up on having a clean home a long time ago lol. Its just never going to happen for us and I’ve made peace with it. With an 18mo, 2 dogs, a cat, and three horses, plus a husband who can never seem to wipe his feet my house is in a constant state of disarray. We’re slowly trying to make our house more beautiful and functional, but easy to clean wins out because no matter how many times a I pick-up or vacuum at the end of the day everything we own is going to be covered in pet hair anyway.

  4. Thanks so much for your encouraging words this morning! They are much appreciated and so very true! And yes, I do sometimes make the bigger mess around this house. I won’t go into detail, but my latest mess involved paint thinner all over the kitchen counter and floor after I decided to clean my paint brushes in a plastic Solo cup. I knew better, but I was in a sleep deprived fog, so my brain was not functioning properly! :)

  5. Jessica says:

    I just have to say I love the way you put it! Every time! I have the same philosophy of letting them be kids, mess it up, leave it (with boundaries :)) You inspire me to go for it and stop talking about it!!!

  6. We make it work everyday. We rent. FIve people in 2000 square feet can be daunting, but each person has their own space, and I am trying to personalize each one! I really liked this post.

  7. Sarah says:

    This is a great post! I currently don’t have kids, and sometimes find myself wondering how mothers do it. I’m not sure I could keep doing my jobs (1 full time, 2 part time) and still have a nice home & good kids. Something will have to give eventually. My husband is a pediatrician & loves kids, but they scare me! I know my husband wont be able to help too much with them because of his work, and it’s hard enough keeping his messes cleaned up… I can’t imagine adding kids to that now. This post gives me hope that my life wont end once kids are added to it.

  8. Jen says:

    I have the same philosophy: no “childproofing.” They had to learn what was/was not off limits and how to treat things. Super helpful when we visit places – our hosts don’t have to hide everything. We have lots of white: all scrubbable or machine washable. We have a lot of “vintage” stuff that has wear – wear it came with and wear we’ve inflicted on it. We have a small house, too, with no dedicated play space, which means lots of creative storage (like our “train table” that has a removable top so that it looks like a large coffee table when the Island of Sodor isn’t in use).

  9. Cheryl B. says:

    I love how your house is decorated. I would agree that you can have a decorated house and have kids. One way I found to keep the downstairs a little under control is to have 2 big baskets with lids, one for each of the kids. When the lid can not go on (meaning that the basket is overflowing), then some toys need to go upstairs into their bedroom. It has the benefit of keeping the downstairs a little neater and because all of the toys are not out at once, the old toys that were moved upstairs become “new” and exciting again after a few weeks.

  10. Becky says:

    I love it! We just moved into our house in June and we are still unpacking. I hope we can make a beautiful space for us and our chill’ins.

  11. Great post! We don’t childproof either. It only takes one drink of soap (non-toxic, but nasty tasting) for them to not open that cupboard door again! We also use it to teach respect. Respect your home, respect my things and I’ll respect your things. When we go other peoples homes they know to respect their home as well. Slowly but surely, we are decorating our house with things we love (we moved in 5 months ago).

  12. Leanne says:

    I am really trying to go through my home and get rid of everything I don’t love or need. I am shooting for a “less is more” easy to clean, bright and airy look. I love baskets. I have “living room toys” that are the only toys allowed in the living room. They all fit in the baskets. The lower 3 shelves of the living room bookshelves hold the baskets so little hands can reach them and not my books which are now up higher. Shelves are screwed safely to the wall and the coffee table and hope chest have been padded and covered to prevent bumps and bruises. My hope chest is filled with family games and there is a moses basket under the coffee table filled with cozy throw blankets to encourage snuggles. :) I got rid of all my beautiful dishes that had ornate crevices that took too long to clean and got all smooth surface fast clean up ones to take their place. My son has brown walls in his room. Take that dirty fingers. 😉 Carpets are gone except a few small area rugs – cheap and easily replaced. Food is in the kitchen. Legos have a bin and are only allowed in one room so the baby can’t get them. Same with army men, marbles and other choking hazards. Shoes off at the door. This is how I survive. 😉

  13. Cindy says:

    Great post. I love your pictures! I didn’t childproof either except for the really dangerous stuff. My kids could go to someone else’s house and they didn’t have to put all their delicate stuff away. One of my ways to keep sanity was to figure out that I felt better when surfaces were cleared off so that became a priority. On the other hand, my kitchen floor wasn’t as important, so I didn’t mop very often. My philosophy was that the dog kept the floor ‘looking’ ok and when she stopped licking it, it was time to mop. Haha!

  14. Moriah says:

    My mom always reminds me that having a clean house is like painting the golden gate bridge, once it is done, you have to start all over again. So, as much I would love my house to be clean all the time, I know it isn’t going to be. And, I have tons of projects on my bucket list, but the smaller ones come first. It’s just how I can deal with it right now.

  15. This is a great post– you’ll get lots of comments! My kids are older now and I can honestly say that I had a house I LIKED when they were smaller, but now I’m getting the house I LOVE. I have some more time to devote to getting the look I want, but I also don’t have to approach it from a PRACTICAL point of view. It has to be functional of course, but as our needs have waned and changed for each space, it’s been nice to not have to be so practical about it all. Bottom line: those with young ones, take heart! If it’s beyond you today, tomorrow will be here before you know it. :)

  16. Laura says:

    Amen & amen! We also are “house-proofing our child” instead of “child-proofing our house”. I love what Jill @ Craft in a Northern Town said about respecting other people’s things. I think that is a lesson for children that reaches far beyond simply not breaking stuff in the house. It’s something that will stick with them for a long time, and even leads to lessons about stealing, returning borrowed items, etc. Ya know? R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I will refrain from singing. Thank you for this post! Oh and double thanks for posting the pic of the laundry piled in the bathroom. That might be my favorite. :)

  17. i am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU about that playdough. My compromsie with it? I never buy the stuff! But we alwasy get some from birthday parties or halloween. The kids play with it, but only in the kitchen (I’d hate it even more when ground into the carpet!) and I sweep. A lot.

  18. jami nato says:

    i think just remembering that this is your kids home too. so it should be a place that you can really live. where the kids can be messy and know that mom isn’t going to freak out. i think kids should value cleanliness, but mothers should value a time where things should be messy and fun and you aren’t constantly cleaning toys out from under them.

    and yes, your house is ADORBS.

  19. Tracie says:

    Thank you for this post. Many times I see on blogs how beautiful, clean, and organized others homes are. Then I see mine. With toys everywhere, dishes pilling up, laundry needing to be folded and put away, and taking care of hubby and son, I get overwhelmed. Then I feel badly my house doesn’t look like others and feel guilty I don’t do this all for my family. I have to remind myself, It will get done, eventually.
    Thanks Ashley

  20. Tiffany says:

    Love this post! It is a great reminder for me. The toy clutter around here is driving me crazy, and I keep telling myself that one day I will miss it.

  21. I lived in a home that was spotless clean, shoes had to come off before they hit the floor, beds were made and never to be sat or jumped on. The rugs always had the vacuum lines and there were no fingerprints on anything. I now have my own home and am happy to say I live in it. Clean it when it needs cleaning but I think I’ve made my bed about 10 times. Life is too short!

  22. Kim says:

    Ahhhh, I so needed this post today. Was having a swallowed-by-laundry-changed-poop-dipes-all-day kind of day. And then a neighbor stopped by (as i was trying to give the kids dinner) to finally see our renovations and my dirty draws were lying on the bedroom floor. Ugh. I definitely have days I feel out of control because I have kids and can’t keep my home as pristine as I’d like. Then I read your post and I realize we all deal with the same thing. Although I’m typing this as I stare at a pile of play food and little people, my home is comfy and my kids went to bed happy. Thanks :)

  23. stacy says:

    I loved this post. It was so real and so true. don’t we all have those issues with pets and kids and our homes. I agree 100% with everything you wrote, it made me think and smile. Thanks

  24. Jennifer Talley says:

    Thanks for this grounding post! I enjoy your blog and often get great ideas from you, as we have similar taste. As a mom to 4 grown kids, I thought that by this point in the game, I would start having some “nicer” and fancier things. I am 48 and my husband and I just found out we are expecting our 8th grandchild. So there was very little “break” as we again find ourselves with lots of toy storage and floors and fabrics that can take a licking! But as I entertained some old highschool friends for our 30th class reunion the other night, everyone complimented how warm, and home feeling our house is. My friends who are not to this point in life yet were envious of the fact that we have a stylish home that reflects our casual lifestyle but accomodates a huge crowd of kids and grandkids! So the point is, that someday may never come! Is everything just as I would like it to be? NO! I have a red couch that I would love to slipcover white, but everytime the dog jumps up with muddy feet of my 2yr old grandson spills his chocolate pudding, I remind myself that we need our house to live well! I just ordered some of the bird fabric and the Richloom jacquard. It goes great with the blue chevron I already have scattered about. Thanks for helping me stay current and cool!

  25. Paula Chaffin says:

    We did basically the same as you with not putting things away just out of reach and teaching respect of property but we also added that we learned to apologize at an early age when we made the wrong decisions. We wanted to teach our children that although we were the adults, we also were not perfect nor had all the answers when it came to raising kids. We also taught table manners, which I am sure that you do.
    I loved your roller coaster story! You have such a way with your stories, you keep me in stitches!!

  26. Lisa says:

    Hello Ashley, I”m so impressed with your attitude and beautiful home! It’s taken me 21 years to get to the point that you are already at! I’m a different person than I was when my daughter was little and all of her toys had to be put away “just so.” I have a teen and 21 year old now, and my home is still not even close to being as neat as I would like, but they will only be home with us for alittle while longer so I’m trying every day to just savor our time with them (and ignore the messy counters and dirty floors!).

  27. Jen says:

    While renovating what is going to be our new home, we are crammed, as a family of 5, into a smaller 2 bedroom in-law quarters. Stuff is EVERYWHERE! There are times that I have to just close my eyes, take a deep breath and say 10 things I am thankful for or some precious things about my day. I also do this when I’m falling asleep if my mind is whirling about all the things that were left undone that day. Somehow it seems to put things in perspective and lower my stress level. I am blessed in so many ways, and at the end of the day who cares about the unclean house when I have the people that I love. :)

  28. Jennifer says:

    {“She chews on the furniture! And scratches! And pees on the floor!” I bemoaned to one of my friends with children. “At least kids don’t do that!”} Laugh right out loud. Incredible how similar children and puppies are! No lie; I had to tell my 6 year old to stop chewing on the seatbelt the other day! ?!

    My brother moved out of the house and then my husband and myself gave my parents grandkids…and we live 2 doors down…no break for them! So I have learned to get what I want, now, and not be too fussy about dents and dings and spills and scratches. Things are just things. Although one of my fave tricks; I’m getting ready to recover my dining room chairs again (changing colors), and I’m definitely going to be adding the iron-on vinyl once more. A little ghetto-y, but I love the wipe-down more than the scrub-out! I just squint my eyes to look past the sheen!

  29. Tricia a mama of 5 says:

    We have lots in common. I feel like we are constantly teaching our children to respect our things and theirs. I am always chasing the dirt around here with 5 kidos and 2 dogs. I make a point to keep things fresh by changing out small things year round and moving stuff around. It’s the only way for me to let out my creative side and stay sane while being home with my crew. BTW I have a naked barbie and a container of legos on my coffee table at this very moment!

  30. Jenn says:

    We never Baby proofed either! Our philosophies are very similar! I find living in the home we love and having children is refreshing! :)

  31. Jen Palmer says:

    I love this post. Exactly what I needed to hear. We are in our first home, which is really small and full of six soon to be seven kids. Since it took so long to get this far I struggle to allow myself a change to make things mine. Especially with them all unmaking it regularly! Thanks for your comments, glad I Found your blog.

  32. katie says:

    random question for you – I was searching for playroom ideas on pinterest and saw a sign that said “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” that linked me to your site (which I so thankful for becuase it’s my new obsession) but there was no trace of the sign. do you know where I can find it – and buy it?? If you could email me the info to [email protected] I would be so, so thankful!!

  33. Jessie says:

    What a lovely house, charmingly decorated. I wonder, though just how “small” your house really is. Looks spacious to me. Could you tell me how many square feet you’ve got?

    • Jessie-I say this a lot here, that space is all relative. We have five people in our home, and a large dog. I wasn’t complaining about the space so much, as feeling that we have to stay organized or else its a challenge. I don’t think it matters how large or small your home is. Organization is always an issue. It has plenty of space. But it is smaller. Photographs also do a lot to make a home look larger. That is all I will say, since it is on the market, and we love our home. I hope you understand. Thanks!

  34. Andrea B says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I think you may have just given me the hope that had begun to be crushed under the knowing looks of family and friends with children whenever I talk to them about decorating our home but also hoping to have kids in the near future.

    I feel much better now! (And it doesn’t hurt that my husband has assured me that if we really get worried, that nice white shag rug I am dying to have can always be relocated to our bedroom and a kid-proof rug added to our living room instead when the time comes.)

  35. lindsay says:

    i love this post. thank you. i’m re-inspired.

  36. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this well thought out post. I needed to hear it today! I have 3 kids under 5, a husband gone 12+ hours a day, a dog, a cat, and a part-time job. I am constantly torn between being intentional about QUALITY time with my children and having a home that is even slightly livable. It’s easy to look at decorating/design/organizing blogs from other mothers and feel bad about the job I do. Thanks for putting it in real perspective! Also…wish you could come decorate my home :)