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Metro Detroit

August 21, 2013

How to keep homes in order during those sweet — and sloppy — childhood years

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Michelle Mio modified a pair of closet doors to double as an attractive piece of wall art that looks like a decorative armoire with a bulletin board.
Just for fun, the editorial staff at C & G Newspapers shared their favorite tips and tricks to keep the house clean with little ones running around — or at least how they try to keep it clean.

“You don’t need as much as you think you need. Some stuff is great and helpful, but some is just useless gadgetry. Ask your grandma; or someone else’s grandma. They raised kids with way less stuff than we do today.”
— Annie Bates, editor

“It is impossible.”
— Deb Jacques, photographer

“I store tons of neglected toys in a hidden area in the basement and bring something ‘new’ out every six months or so, and my kids suddenly love it like it’s new again. I then refill the neglected bins with toys in their rooms that they no longer play with, and those will come back into play in another six months or so.”
— Julie Snyder, staff writer

“Utilize furniture that doubles as storage for items such as toys, diapers, wipes, blankets, etc. Like ottomans/coffee tables/end tables. Even those drawers/shelves on the entertainment center – which you’ve already emptied because baby loves to play with all the shiny DVDs.”
— Jon Malavolti, editor

“You can just get really pissed about no one cleaning up their stuff and go through their toy boxes with a giant garbage bag every couple of months like Mommy Godzilla. I prefer that method.”
— Robin Ruehlen, staff writer

“Keep clothing and toys that he or she has grown out of, or that are seasonal, in labeled bins in the basement if you plan to use them for another kid, or sell them at a MOM2MOM sale. Otherwise, donate them to charity.”
— Mary Beth Almond, staff writer

There are few forces in nature that can match the destructive power of children and their toys.

Parents can attest to the difficulty of keeping houses clear of clutter while a little one is running around. While it can seem impossible, some local experts say that there are ways to keep homes from being overrun my kid-dom.

The challenge is nothing new for interior designer Michelle Mio. The metro Detroit designer with the firm Rariden Schumacher Mio, who was featured last year on HGTV’s “Showhouse Showdown,” has created many livingscapes for families with young children. She says it’s all about finding convenient, creative ways to stash the stuff.

“Storage ottomans, I like a lot. They can go right in the middle of the family room, instead of a coffee table. You just lift the lid and start piling kids’ toys in it,” said Mio.

The idea, she said, is to create storage opportunities that are easily hidden but also easily accessible. If busy parents and children have to run up and down stairs and all over the house to put items away, then cleaning likely won’t happen often.

“Ottomans, or window seats, with storage or hidden baskets; sectionals are really popular, and sometimes they have cases built in for baskets or something. It has to be easily accessible.”

Mio’s other trick of the trade is making sure that every stashable item has a home. When family members, young and old, know where their things belong, they’ll be more likely to keep them there.

“Mudroom build-ins are really big right now for shoes and backpacks,” she noted. “Also, charging stations so there’s a place to put all those devices like tablets and smartphones.”

It’s also important, Mio said, to try and keep toys and the like in designated kid spaces, like bedrooms or playrooms.

“That way, if it does blow up, it doesn’t affect other functional parts of the house,” she said, explaining that little ones are still responsible for sprucing up their special space. “Labeled or colored baskets or boxes are nice. And kids like pictures — you could probably even put a picture of a Lego on the front of the box where Legos go, so kids know, ‘This is where Legos go,’ or ‘This is where Polly Pockets go.’”

Even items like hair ties or nail polish can have a designated bin all their own. But whether they’re little babes or teens and tweens, after a while, all of those little things could add up to a big mess. Julie Grippo, owner of Bec and Sam’s in downtown Birmingham, specializes in clothing and accessories for the younger set. And while she’s got lots of wonderful things for parents to “ooh and ah” over, she said parents shouldn’t feel pressured to have it all.

“I think the biggest misconception a lot of parents have is that their baby needs a lot of things, especially when it comes to the gear. Like the big heavy strollers. Trust me, (babies) like the lighter strollers just fine,” said Grippo. “They’re little creatures, and they’ll be just fine without all that stuff.”

Mio agreed, saying that sometimes the difference between chaos and order is a few simple omissions.

“Probably the biggest problem my clients have is they’ve got five pounds of potatoes in a two-pound sack. You have to realistically edit,” said Mio. “If you get a new dress, maybe donate a dress. Do the same thing with kids’ toys. People really accommodate for way too much. Does the baby really need 50 toys at one time when 10 is just plenty?”

She went on to say that even the sentimental stuff, like gifts and artwork, can add up in a home. She recommended displaying keepsakes on shelves in “collections,” keeping similar items together. When random items are shown together, the result can look cluttered.

Mio also suggested moving the creations of little artists off the refrigerator and moving it to a special space where it can be displayed neatly, such as a bulletin board. Picture frames are another option, where art can be shown off and then changed out later with newer pieces.

Grippo stocks shelves and cubbies in her shop that can be used to display a range of items, from adorable outfits to trophies and other mementos. She added that some forms of storage can be used in different ways throughout childhood.

“We sell these Moses baskets, and they can be used to put the babies in when you’re visiting somewhere. Then, when they’re older, you can just throw stuff in there in their room,” said Grippo. “And those nice bassinettes — you can keep those and store stuffed animals and dolls in them when they get older.”