Many expectant parents reluctantly accept as fact that their future will be littered with plastic playthings, loud “educational” toys, and garish stuffed animals. Tessa Hop—a mom of three young boys (Mees, Polle, and Guus) and one baby girl (Keetje)—is here to tell you: Step away from the Elmo.
She did, and her home (not to mention her sanity) is reaping the benefits. A few years after having their third child, Tessa and her husband, Menno, embarked on building their dream home in the town where she grew up, Alphen aan den Rijn, not far from Amsterdam. Designing it from scratch meant they were able to plan the house exactly to fit their family’s lifestyle—including freedom for her children to play without fear of ruining anything fancy and ample opportunities for her, a stay-at-home mom, to unwind.
Here, lessons from their beautiful home on how to keep a house for a family of six orderly, kid-friendly, and adult-approved.
1. Don’t shop in the kids’ section for toy baskets and bins.
Just because you’re looking for something to contain the kid stuff doesn’t mean it has to have pastel colors or a baby animal on it. Good storage is good storage. Period.
2. Provide ample space to get out the door efficiently.
Tessa and Menno thought the entryways in their prior residences were always too small for their large family. This time around, with the luxury of being able to design the perfect space to fit their needs, they made sure it was big enough that they wouldn’t feel crowded when they bustle in and out the door together.
3. Make tidying up something they can do themselves.
When shelves, bins, and hooks are positioned in places kids can easily reach, they’re more likely to put things away. In the entryway, there’s a separate wall of coat hooks, hung at kid-height-level, so that they can put away their outerwear themselves.
4. Don’t put away just clothing in the closets.
Every bedroom has a wall of built-ins in Tessa and Menno’s home. In the kids’ rooms, the closets don’t hold just their wardrobes but also their toys and books. Keeping children’s items out of sight contributes to their home’s organized and peaceful aesthetic.
5. Consider vintage when looking for storage and organization solutions.
“The furniture that really has my heart are the vintage items, the ones you can’t buy again so easily,” Tessa says. And oftentimes, these finds can offer unique storage opportunities.
6. Make space for laundry baskets in the bathroom.
Trust us, if there’s no dedicated spot in the bathroom for dirty clothing, the floor will become the de facto laundry bin. Avoid this less-than-ideal situation by carving out a nook for laundry baskets.
7. When in doubt, go for hooks.
Choosing between towel bars and hooks for the kids’ bath? No contest. Always opt for hooks. Hanging towels up on a bar requires that they first fold it neatly, then tuck it over the bar. That’s two steps—which means two reasons for them to skip hanging it up at all. With hooks, all they have to do is hang up the towel—one step and they’re done.
8. Give little ones a sense of ownership.
When there’s more than one child in a family, sharing (toys, food, clothing, sometimes bedrooms) becomes a part of life. Giving them something that’s theirs and theirs alone (whether its a chore, a cubby, or a cup) encourages personal responsibility—and they’re more apt to use it and care for it.
N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published 2018.
For more on living with kids without sacrificing good style, check out these posts: