Thursday, June 27, 2013

Surrendering the master {big family, small house}

When people find out how many children are in our family, they tend to make one of two assumptions:

1. That we live in a sprawling house on property,
2. That we subscribe to the "stacked like cordwood" mentality and have people sleeping in closets and whatnot.

The answer, on both counts, is no.

The entire stateside Blandings clan lives in one 3 bedroom, 1500 sq ft (give or take) townhouse in your basic suburb. We have a 200(ish) sq ft backyard of our own (that opens onto a nearly 2 acre common area). We converted our garage into play space, school storage, and a pantry. And we make do.

We live here because God wants us here. Because we can afford it. And, in all honesty, because we bought this place when we were a family of 5 and it seemed like we were done.

We make do by keeping "stuff" to a minimum, aligning our priorities with our family vision, and by being very, very patient with one another. That patient part? It's usually the most important.

The biggest shock, for most people, comes when they find out that years ago, Mr. Blandings and I moved out of the master bedroom. Doing the math, it just made sense. Four boys or 2 adults? Hmmmm .... I think the four boys rate the space, don't you?

This isn't a revolutionary idea in large family circles, but seems to be rare to the point of absurd to most folks. You gave up your master bedroom? The one with the private bathroom? The one with the big walk-in closet?

Yeah. I did.

So, to satisfy the curious, here's how it looks in our house. These photos were taken on a random day to most accurately reflect the situation. Please note that there is no sweet and wonderful theme to this room. We opted instead to let each boy personalize his own little space on a blank backdrop. Note also that the only real "toys" in this room are the little guys' Lincoln Logs and trains. So while there's a book shelf full to bursting that ends up scattering its contents from time to time, the room is rarely more than five minutes away from being what passes for clean. I've done this on purpose-- it's that whole "keeping stuff to a minimum" that I talked about earlier, as well as the benefit of that garage play space.

This is the view from the bedroom door. You'll probably recognize the big set of shelves from Ikea. They hold special treasures, library books, and things that teens and pre-teens don't want their younger brothers to have. Securing that shelf to the wall beside it was one of the hardest home improvement projects ever, BUT ... the end result is that I can scale it and it won't even think of tipping. Worth the hours of frustration. 

The sides of the room are divided by personality, for sanity's sake. This side belongs to Logan (top bunk) and Oli (bottom bunk). Both of them tend to be a little more on the random, messy side ... so it's for the best that they deal with one another. The wall hooks you see under the windows are for backpacks, clothes to be put back on, belts ... whatever shouldn't be on the floor. Logan's only piece of permanent "collection" is the Pooh Bear print given to him by Benny years ago. He adores it. Right now, he also has Atticus' Moon In Your Room light (also a gift from Benny) and a whole lot of flight school stuff. Oli has wall stickers that glow in the dark. He tells them good night each and every evening.

This side belongs to Atticus (top) and Mani (bottom). As you can tell, Mani is a stickler for making his bed. And Atticus decorates with mementos of his achievements, as well as a Nepali silkscreen of Jesus given to him by Bee. Those small square windows serve as night stands, of sorts, to the older boys, allowing them to keep things nearby in the night. And that stained glass window is mine, y'all. I just don't have anywhere else to put it and it makes my heart sing when I drive up to the house and see it, so it stays there.

Behind the Ikea shelf is a small area for reading. It's also where the plastic bins of trains and Lincoln Logs are stored. Those bins will be replaced with large baskets as soon as we can find large enough options for a decent price at our favorite thrift shops. And see? I told you the place was anything but perfect. That bookshelf is embarrassing.

This shot gives you a better idea of the size of the reading area. The trains and Lincoln Logs usually don't get played with over here; they prefer the larger area under the windows. However, Atticus loves to drag his pillow down from his bed and stretch out in this spot to hang out.

Looking in the closet. Those small dressers belong to Oli and Mani, and area labelled with photos to help them keep their clothes in order. You can't see the large area to the right, which holds a small table (to be pulled out when needed for play) and Atticus' hanging clothes. Those are Logan's above the dressers.

And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this is also, clearly, the armory. Check the lightsaber collection!

The view from the wall with the small windows. That armoire holds Atticus and Logan's folded items. It belonged to Mr. Blanding's parents, and so is a treasured piece of family history. The door to the right of the armoire is the master bathroom, which is kept heavily childproofed (and has a childproof handle) to keep Oli safe.

So there you have it. Four boys. One room. And still enough space that no one minds sharing. 


You Can Call Me Jane said...

I love seeing this! You've done an excellent job of minimizing the "stuff" in their room. I think your room change and garage conversion was/is brilliant. :-)

The Reader said...

Love this! I keep suggesting the same to my husband, and we only have 3 boys total, but he won't go for it. It's not as necessary for us, and they like having their own space, but whatever.

You've done a great job arranging things! On the storage for the lincoln logs and trains --- would army surplus footlockers work? (or even new ones that look like that?) Just an idea, and might not be too pricey.

I wish I could ship things easily from Brazil to where you are; we have a great local source of inexpensive wicker baskets, trunks, etc. that are perfect for that sort of thing. Alas, shipping would be difficult and not cost effective.

mary grace said...

The garage was a stroke of brilliance on my husband's behalf, for sure! And the minimizing, well ... a little girl allergic to plastic makes purging a whole lot easier!

mary grace said...

I LOVE the footlocker idea! There's a surplus store not far from here. I will look into it for sure.

I always leaned towards baskets for storage, but they were often more pricey than the plastic bins, so guess which won out? Now that we don't really have a choice thanks to Seven's allergies, I am trying to be as creative as possible while still not breaking the bank. Thankfully, Goodwill seems to be the landing spot for everyone's unwanted wicker. :-)