Saturday, April 6, 2013

Not enough rooms, or not enough room? (Alternative title: Awash in a sea of stuff)

Today has been a slightly stressful day, and I knew it would be, because today was the day designated for doing a clutter reduction, sort and clean on the three bedrooms in our house.

At present, my 9.5 year old and almost-8 year old nominally share a bedroom, although the almost-8 ends up sleeping in the 4 year old's bed with her at least half the time. 4 year old has a room, and hubs and I share the master bedroom.

Each of the rooms was pretty much a mess at the start of today. The 4 year old's was probably the least so, because it was all surface mess (unmade bed, books and toys on the floor etc) but her cupboards and toy boxes are pretty well organised as I got stuck into them quite recently. The two shared bedrooms were both volcanic with potential for junk overflow - overstuffed drawers, little junk piles secreted in corners, cupboards in which the Ark of the Covenant could have been hidden in complete safety, buried under an impenetrable mountain of ... stuff.

We seem to get to this pass every 3-6 months, no matter how diligent I *think* I'm being about keeping up. And every time we do, restoring some kind of order is painful, protracted, involves tears and frustration, and is, in a nutshell, stressful.

Friends have told me that the fundamental problem is that 9.5 year old and almost-8 don't have enough space - that they need a room each. My husband tends to the view that I have provided them with too much storage - he asserts (and with some justice) that their Stuff expands to fill the available area, whatever that area might be, and that more storage doesn't equal a tidier or more functional space.

I think lack of room *is* part of the problem, but I'm not sure that it's lack of roomS as such. While we have discussed possibly extending the house at some future point, at the moment building an extra bedroom would be a wasted investment, as my almost-8 won't sleep alone at any price, and my 4year old isn't keen on it either, leading to a result that often only two bedrooms are slept in (Miss 4 sometimes goes in with the big girls, or Miss almost-8 and Miss 4 come to our room). That said, we are seriously considering changing up the room sharing so that my 9.5 year old, the only one expressing any desire for solitude, is by herself and the other two share.

But actually, I think the notion that every child needs a bedroom of their own is a very modern Western idea. Room-sharing and indeed bed-sharing was the norm in our culture a generation or two ago, and is still the norm in many other cultures today. I think what people need is not necessarily a separated sleeping space, but just *a* space for their activities and to give them a retreat point.

So what we are going to do is this.

We have a brick double garage with windows, sliding door access to the house, tiled ceiling and slate floor (it's very nice actually - like a little house). It is powered, plumbed, and is currently 1/3 used for shelving storage, and 2/3 full of junk that needs to be disposed of.

We are going to clear out the garage, put down rugs on the floor and set up trestle tables, toyboxes, bookshelves, art supply drawers and an old TV and DVD. It won't get signal out there, but will be OK for watching DVDs on. Our old fabric couch, which is somewhat awkwardly placed in the house, will go out there, as will my rocking chair and a large radiator. We are going to make it cozy, and use it as a family room where the kids can spread out art projects, puzzles, lego or homework and leave things set up; where anyone can go for a bit of quiet to read or study; where the kids' book and paper overflows can find a home; and where, as they get older, they can hang out with their friends with a modicum of privacy.

This won't cost much to do - the main things I'm proposing to buy are a good strong floor lamp and some wooden screens to hide the storage shelving section - and if it doesn't work, or we eventually move, it's easy to dismantle. I just think it is worth trying before we remortgage the house to build a bedroom that we might not even need, just because the common wisdom says we need to.

1 comment:

  1. I have been thinking some very similar things lately Kathy. Or five sleep in two rooms, masters 14 and 11 in one, then miss 9 shares with masters 6 and 4. I have an upstairs home office that could be a bedroom, but I am loathe to lose this space. Am not sure how much longer our daughter can share with her younger brothers. I have no answers yet!!!

    Your solution seems like a great one to me. Hope it works well.