BTR: A Growing Family in Cole Valley (Part 2)


Welcome to Part 2 of the Behind the Redesign for a wonderful family in the quaint San Francisco neighborhood of Cole Valley.  New Minimalism was called in to make room for the newest member of the family, and what was standing in the way of this goal was a lot of stuff.  

If you recall from Part 1, during our first session we tackled decluttering the garage to make space for the home office.    On the second session, which we are sharing today, we decluttered the contents of the home office to make room for the nursery.  These photos share the after after, once the nursery furniture had been thoughtfully acquired and decorations installed.  All after after photos are by the talented and all around wonderful Ryan Devisser.

Above you can see that the home-office before (left) had turned into a room not just to hold office items, but also to store things that didn't have a proper home elsewhere in the house.  As the papers started to pile up for these busy working parents, the task of clearing and sorting everything became overwhelming.  

As is so common, once the clutter became overwhelming our clients found it was easier to close the door than to sit down and sort it all.  In the after photo (right) you can see what a stunning transformation this room undertook.  Our client selected a fun teal color for the carpet tiles, and chose the brand FLOR for their commitment to using sustainable materials. The IKEA bookshelf turned on its side was purchased second-hand.

We find that all of our clients are experiencing some type of significant transition when we work with them.  In this case, a second child on the way was the perfect time to prioritize and make room for life's exciting next chapter.

Again, the before and after shots are quite remarkable!  Before the desks were crowded with papers and extraneous office supplies.  We culled a "capsule" version of the office supplies to relocate to the new office in the garage, utilizing the yellow lamp and San Francisco map. After, the room displays playful art and a kid-friendly color palette.

A point of discussion was whether to keep the classic white Parsons desks to possibly be used in the future.  We encouraged our clients to consider the hidden costs of keeping these items "just in case."  The desks would need to be stored in a hard-to-access, already-crowded attic.  They would require time to maintain, energy to keep from being damaged as their growing family's needs changed, and the mental space to remember that the desks are there in the first place in the case that your future self has a need for said desk.  In the end, our clients took our advice and sold the desks on Craigslist.  They reported that we were relieved to send the desks to a new home and used the money towards furnishing the new nursery.

Sometimes the cost of keeping an item outweighs the cost of potentially having to re-buy that same item in a hypothetical future date.  

The crib was purchased second hand from Golden Gate Mothers Group.  Our client describes this group as a "gold mine" for previously-used, but like-new baby items.  

TIP:  If you are expecting a child, research to see if there is local mother's group in your area.  Not only are Mother's Groups a wonderful community to connect with, they also provide a wealth of information, and hey, you can even furnish your nursery without buying new!

The closet was a big challenge because it was densely filled with many small objects.  We are amazed at the focus of these clients because we were able to sort all this on one day!   While uniform containers give the appearance of order, the contents of the boxes were no longer relevant for our clients' needs. 

By removing some unneeded items from the entry closet (not pictured), we were able to relocate the extra jackets (shown above) that had sneakily made their way into the office closet. After, the closet is 100% dedicated to the new baby.

The dresser was also found second-hand at Golden Gate Mother's Group.  We love that our clients took to heart our design suggestions.  How beautiful is this space?!  And hardly anything in terms of baby furniture was purchased from the store.  It takes a little effort on the back end to find your second-hand resources, but the reduced price tag and earth-friendly satisfaction is well worth it.  

This gorgeous and serene space is a testament to our clients' laser-focus during our sessions.  With the second baby on the way, they were 100% ready to let go of the items that were no longer serving them.  And they have the closets to prove it!

Mini-Minimalists: 11 Ways to Cultivate Clutter-Free Kids

Image //  via

Image // via

As a woman of "a certain age," my life is rapidly transitioning from bottomless mimosa brunches and birthday weekends in wine country to baby showers and 1st birthday parties.  

And while I'm not yet a parent myself, it's been impossible not to notice all the products targeted at and constantly given to new parents and kids.  

In the world of families, the proposed "solution" to problems is almost always more/bigger/fancier (crib, stroller, house, toys, etc.).  And of course kids are so darn cute that we are all more than willing them 10x the things they would ever need.  Heck, I've seen babies in utero who already have more possessions than the average adult and houses where every room is brimming with toys. 

Given that parents are pretty much the busiest folks on the planet, it can feel miraculous to keep their own bedroom and adult spaces clean, forget the time or bandwidth to constantly do battle with their children's clutter.  

But what if, rather than being producers of continual clutter, your kids helped keep your home tidy and clear?   

The thing about kids is that they would often rather play with a wooden spoon or the box a toy came in.  Sometimes they open one present and play with it for weeks, ignoring the 20 other wrapped gifts in the corner.  Children know and are totally comfortable expressing their preferences (just ask a group of 4 year olds their thoughts on school/airplanes/music/broccoli if you don't believe me).  They are sensitive, empathic, generous and are excited by giving to others in need.   

Kids already have the hearts and minds of minimalists, they just need some help gathering tools. 

11 Tools for Cultivating Clutter-Free Kids:


1. Lead by example.  

You don't need to be Martha Stewart or a perfect minimalist to model good behavior for your child.  If you struggle with clutter yourself, take a few minutes to let your children know that you are focusing on honing down your things.  Let them watch you as you process and declutter some of your own items.  Share with them the benefits of having the house being clutter-free: it's easier to maintain, you'll have more time for spending with them, you can try out new hobbies together, the mornings before school will be smoother, etc.   If you're a tidy parent with messy kids?  All the more reason to talk with them so they can understand the intentionality behind your simple space.  


2. Let their room be their own. 

It's important to give your kids a feeling of ownership and mastery over their space.  When they know that their space is their own, they're empowered to make meaningful decisions and keep only what inspires and delights them.


3. Make it a game. 

Set a timer for 5 minutes and see if they can declutter a toy bin.  Or make a chart where they get a sticker for each small bag of toys they donate.  Whatever you decide works best for your kids, just keep it light and make it fun!


4. Designate a home for everything.

 Decide where the things that your kids do love and want to keep will be permanently stored.  It's helpful to place things in containers, e.g.: all legos in a certain bin, all animals in another.  This makes clean up very clear for kids to do on their own as well as signaling to the child when it's time to declutter again because the bin is too full.


5. Release your own biases.  

Children will surprise you with their clear preferences and natural penchant for simple living.  Often its actually the parent who struggles when the child clears.  For example, we worked with a parent-child duo and found that for nearly every toy or garment the child wanted to donate, the parent had a reason to keep it, such as: "You love this!  It was your favorite toy for all of kindergarten!"  "But you brought this with you everywhere last year!"  "Not this one, it was a gift from your grandma."  It's crucial if you are going to involve your kids that you honor their decisions.  Just do your best to be aware when these thoughts arise and try not place them on your kids.


6. Involve your children in the donation process.  

Bring them with you to donate items to Goodwill, a shelter or a higher-need school.  Let your child see how their generosity positively impacts others.


7. Be ready to be very impressed.  

Kids as young as 3 really do understand the idea of letting go of things "for the other kids who don't have as many toys."  Starting at 7, some kids can do an excellent job of decluttering their room on their own.  No matter what age, if you assist your child in the decluttering process, you'll get to hear their thought processes and learn about their value systems as they decide what stays and goes.  Their depth and self-awareness will blow you away.  And you can be damn proud for raising such a thoughtful child!


8. Encourage mindful consumption. 

The best way to keep order is to be far more selective about what you allow into a space to begin with.  Teach your child how to politely refuse items they don't care for by doing so yourself.  Show them how you care for and maintain items that are important to you encourage longevity.  Encourage them to invest in things they care about (whether this is their allowance or their Christmas list) and shift focus from quantity to quality.  


9) Use birthdays and holidays to your advantage. 

There tend to be a few times a year when children are inundated with new belongings.  Solution: declutter in advance.  The night before Santa comes or the weekend before a birthday party, sit down with your child and ask them, in light of the new things that will be coming into their lives, what they're ready to part with?


10) Change the way your family celebrates, aka: stop clutter before it enters the home.  

Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home does a remarkable job of this with her two sons.  She throws them parties but asks guests to give her sons experiences rather than "things."  Start this in your own home and then encourage others to get involved.


11) Solidify the habit.  

Create a donation area somewhere in your home that your kids all have access to.  Encourage them to place items they no longer want or use in the bin.  Let them know that it's natural for them to evolve and outgrow certain things.  Once the bin is full, you can bring it to your chosen charity together.


What has worked for you and your family?  How do you maintain your home with kids?  What are tools you've come up with to keep clutter at bay?  Where do you wish you had more help?  

Please share in the comments below!