Jells is the mom to EB (3) and Ans (le bebe) and blogs at I'll Sleep When They're Grown. She has an MLA and started a outdoor design/installation company with her husband. She manages writing, designing, mommy-ing and wife-ing all while finding time to sew and make crafty things. Sometimes. Check out her blog with all of (the rest of) the super awesome stories and find her all over the Intertron here: Pinterest Instagram YouTube

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Living in a Shoebox :: Small Living Ideas

Small living isn’t easy with 2 kids, 2 dogs, and too much stuff. I live in a tiny house in Austin, Texas.  It’s summer here, possibly more so than most places in the US, and when it gets in the triple digits, it means we either go to the pool or stay indoors in our 624 square feet.  While EB is in school 3 days a week during the summer months, she is home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and this mama has to get her sh-t together or ever’body goin’ cray-cray.

As soon as one toy or puzzle is out, the house explodes with crap.  There is literally no way to contain the waterfall of wooden blocks, dolls resting under tiny blankets, and ice-cream-colored clips that envelops the house.  My day is spent trying to plug the dam so that by the end of the day, I’m not wading in doll parts to get both kids their snacks.  Like I said, one option is to get everyone out of the house on a play date, which I can only manage one of our days home from school.  The packing, cooler stuffing, and floatie toting…it’s a lot.  So the other day home is spent indoors.  I should also mention that I work from home so the girls have to play on their own a good portion of the day while I TCOB at the kitchen table.

This becomes a problem when only the top layer of toys see the light of day and both kiddos get bored.  Ans, the almost-10-month old, will take anything she can stick in her mouth, so she’s not picky.  But Eebs, my toddler, needs more of a challenge.  Otherwise, she’ll start lifting her sister into a suitcase, trying to zip it up, or try to put her in the doll-sized stroller.  To entertain my toddler is to save the life of my baby.  It must be done.

"This Lego seems to fit perfectly here." ~Ans

“This Lego seems to fit perfectly here.” ~Ans

What to do when your kid is bored with her hundreds of small toys?  Reorganize.

Hubs and I have to do this every 6 months, minimum.  We must also entertain guests and have small portions of the day allotted to “adult life,” so we can’t exactly turn over our living room to the kids for a free-for-all playroom.  I wish.  I covet the playrooms of a few friends of mine.  An entire rubber room, with nothing but organized tupperwares of all toys on display sounds glorious…but impossible for our shoebox of a house.  After too many outside voices found their way inside yesterday afternoon (translation: yelling), Hubs and I decided it was time to move everything around.  The kitchen set that was in the living room is now in between the girls’ beds.  The bookshelf that was there is now in the living room for a new and improved reading center, complete with rug, small chair, and lamp.  Wall hangings are moved around in the girls’ room.  Organizer boxes storing the toys are redispursed to uncover hidden gems and house hard toys, dress up paraphenalia, and stuffed animals, respectively.  Block sets are set with Legos in a new, accessible place.

At Christmas, when EB first got her stove.  Imagine how fun it has been to reassemble the velcro fruits and veggies everyday.

At Christmas, when EB first got her stove. Imagine how fun it has been to reassemble the velcro fruits and veggies everyday.

Hubs cleaning/organizing while the girls un-clean/de-organize.

Hubs organizing the new reading station while the girls de-organize just as quickly.

And you know what?  Once it all fell into place, I can actually keep it clean because it’s new to me, too.  I was just kind of making piles near the overflowing boxes of toys, stuffing clothes in already too-stuffed and disorganized drawers, and placing lone wooden blocks in the fake oven of EB’s kitchen.  It was just too much to get it back to level: clean at the end of the day so I gently swept everything near its home, but not quite there.  Imagine the piles of dog hair that laid in wait once it all finally found a new home somewhere else in the house.  Sheesh.  That’s just the kind of thing Ans loooooves to stuff in her mouth when I’m not looking.

Annnnd as soon as the picture was taken, everything made it out onto the floor.  Of course.

Annnnd as soon as the picture was taken, everything made it out onto the floor. Of course.

A longtime reader on my blog asked me in the comments of my last post about how much trash my family creates a week (answer: one 13 gallon bag – I know) how I keep the clutter at bay.  I had written two contradicting statements: A) that I am a semi-packrat, and 2) that I purge, recycle, and repurpose.  How do I keep all of the scrap fabric to sew my headbands and still have a clutter-free house, she wonders?  Hubs.  He wants to get rid of everything that doesn’t fit perfectly Tetris-style in our house.  I am urged to make donation piles for Goodwill and friends in need (that I have every intention of actually moving out of the house once I feel like the organization wave has passed, but they do sit there for a while).  I just hate to donate the likes of baby clothes, orbisaucers, and door bouncers when so many people I know are preggo.  I was gifted with hand-me-downs and couldn’t have done it all without the kindness.  So I feel like I must pay it forward to someone I know.  The moral of the story is that while 90% of my house gets the clean-treatment, 10% gets the piles.

Hopefully the piles will find a new home pretty soon, or else the kiddos will think of them as long-lost toys that are more fun than the toys they can now reach.

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