This is what my living and dining room look like when they’ve been picked up and children are not around. I write that caveat in because many days this place looks like we’ve been robbed and the thieves emptied the place looking for an illusive piece of Lego.
When we first moved into this home almost seven years ago we filled the living room and dining room. We had a couch, arm chair, coffee table, huge IKEA expedit entertainment and storage unit, a storage chest, dining table and chairs and a large storage cabinet for wedding china, wine glasses and such. Sure, everything fit into the space but looking back at the photos, and remembering how it felt to live there, the room felt heavy and crammed. When I was struck by the decluttering bug in the fall of 2010 I gave away the storage chest and cleared out a lot of what was stored in the IKEA expedit unit. Six months later we sold everything and moved overseas (it felt amazing to own no furniture!). Moving back four years later I knew that although we had added two more people to the family, we didn’t need all of the furniture we had before.
This time around we skipped the big storage/entertainment unit and got two smaller pieces from IKEA. The bottom unit holds kids drawing items, games and puzzles on one side and the other side isn’t very full and holds some books and a few random decor pieces that we are trying to keep out of the baby’s reach. The shelving that is above the TV is storage for some electronic items and memorabilia.
At one point we did have an arm chair but it wasn’t getting a lot of use, was bright red and we had received it basically for free while getting a grouping of second hand items. I gave it away and the space feels the better for it. When we need more living room seating we pull one of the dining room chairs over – the upholstered ones are actually quite comfortable. For now all five of us can sit on the couch together comfortably and the kids often prefer to sit on the floor to read or play or watch a movie anyways. In trying to live a life where my home functions for 90% of my needs, instead of 100%, we don’t have a second couch for guests. We do have visitors and we can fit three adults on the couch, with the dining seating another four seats and I can bring in the chair from the office. We had a birthday party here with ten or so adults and fifteen kids and we made do just fine with the seating.
Our dining table has seen better days but was a good second hand deal and works with our space. Most of the time it sits in this compact square configuration leaving us a lot of floor space. When we have people over we take one or both of the leaves out, add in the office chair, pull out the kids table and party! *The kids table and chairs are actually my husband’s from his childhood. They rotate around our place for kid work/dining surface where needed. Currently they are ‘locked up’ in the master bedroom because the not quite 18 month old likes to stand on the table. If it’s a larger group than we have seating for we do two dinner shifts, kids eat first and go off and play while the adults eat. In a pinch we also throw down our picnic blanket and kids eat picnic style. Who doesn’t love an indoor picnic?
Again, less furniture makes this room more livable. At another time I would have put a big book case along the wall where the kids table is and a china cabinet across the back wall of this room. Coffee table, add in a big arm chair or even a love seat, and this room has a lot less space to move in. We will have to make some adjustments when the kids are older and bigger – that couch isn’t going to hold all of us! – but I hope they are small. Plus if we are living in the city with teens I am expecting that they make use of the community centre, library and parks independently in the evenings. As Miss Minimalist says, “in pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, we must resist the temptation to recreate the outside world within our abodes.”
Next up: kids’ bedroom.