When the holidays are over and the new year begins, it's time to make good on those resolutions and get organized. For families with children, an annual clean-out is absolutely essential.
First, you'll need to force everyone, including yourself, to go through the drawers and closets and toss out whatever is no longer being used. This includes outgrown clothes, shoes, toys and old schoolwork. To make a small home function, it's critical that you're brutally honest about eliminating the clutter of unnecessary things. If your budget allows, calling in a closet-organizer company to maximize your storage areas is a good investment.
Try to think of your young children's rooms like a college residence hall where there is a finite amount of floor space with no hope of expansion. According to Davis Remignanti, the lead design consultant at Furniture.com, bunk beds are the rage.
"In kids' rooms, bunk beds and lofts are obvious choices for maximizing floor space, and today's styles are often packed with built-in storage for clothes and toys," he said.
The photo (right) demonstrates how efficient the concept can be with two beds, a small study desk and clothes storage all packaged into a compact footprint. Some bunks offer storage under each bed as well as a study area.
One idea Remignanti offers is to reuse and recycle little kids' furniture. For instance, baby and toddler dressers tend to be narrow, with easy-to-open drawers and pulls that are close together to fit the proportions of tiny hands and short arm spans. When you find that your little ones have outgrown such a dresser, it can easily be tucked into a closet for extra storage.
Another suggestion is to investigate the myriad storage cubes available that range from colorful hard plastic to simple white plastic or plastic-coated wire ones. What is great about these is that they are not expensive, stack and can be easily moved around the house. They can hold all sorts of stuff from games to dolls to sports equipment.
Another good way to make the kids' rooms more functional is to invest in a set or two of nesting tables. When the homework project or game is done, the tables can stack back up in the living room in order to save space while they "nest."
In many small homes the kitchen table becomes the place where homework gets done, bills get paid and the laptop comes out in the evening. Remignanti suggests finding a small-scale hutch or wall unit that can serve as an alternative workstation. This one piece of furniture will allow you to stash away messy items such as the stapler, pens, bills and stamps quickly and without hassle in a way that is both convenient and attractive. Maybe the computer can live in there, too.
"A place for everything and everything in its place," says the old adage. Once you have everything in order, this is also a good time to teach your children to pick up their belongings and keep their rooms organized - a skill that will serve them well long after their nights in a bunk bed are behind them. *
Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.