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Friday, April 12, 2013

{family lab} space and environment

I often think about how space and environment impact our lives. I dream about living in monastic conditions, sparse and cool, with lots of earth tone linens, and maybe a breeze. But obviously, with three kids who are home all day (and the side of my personality that likes to gather things), this fantasy does not come anywhere near a workable reality.

I find it hard to keep a balance between an empty space which my kids thrive in and the cluttery mess of homeschooling, various projects and collections that can not be parted with.

But living with children is not just about managing clutter or mess.

Several years ago, I hosted a group chat at an unschooling conference about domestic space and how it is used in homeschooling homes (I think you can extend this to creative homes). We did not talk about cleaning, other than a general grumble, but investigated interesting ways of using space to create a home where free thought and creative pursuits flourish. In our home, our formal dining room is the learning lab (a project space) and we forgo a guest room to have a sewing room. The pantry shares space with art supplies, there is a mailbox attached to the wall near the bedrooms for communication and a indoor hall swing is used daily. Chalkboard walls, closets that are turned into secret play spaces and a designated hole digging area in the yard makes our space kid and big people friendly. When I switched my thinking from household management to creativity facilitator, I had more fun solving our challenges and my kids benefited.

Cleaning wise, what works in our house is that I try to keep the center of the house clean(ish), asking the kids to help return belongings to their rooms periodically. If I can have a big, uncluttered view of the living room, I am less antsy. 

I have also shifted my thinking over the years. A coffee table piled high with books and comics is not a mess, just evidence of a family who loves to read. A messy kitchen? Evidence that we love to cook and eat all day. But, their rooms are their domain, and for the most part they are messy unless we are having a sleep over or friends over. I have learned that what looks like a mess (or even trash) on the floor is often the remnants of an exciting project or adventure. 

I would love to connect with you on this. How do you make your space conductive to creativity? 

What was your room like as a kid?

Was it neat? Messy? A shared space?

How does your childhood home compare to your child's? Give as much detail as you can.

Today, no matter what the condition, photo document your kid's space

I love this challenge so much and do it a few times a year. You would be surprised at how much 
you will treasure these images later. 

When your kids are away or not paying attention, walk around the house and photograph 
traces of them.

Especially the messy parts:

their shoes lined up (or thrown around).
the half built block towns

what their bed looks like in the morning

what is on their desk or bed stand

how they have their bookshelves arranged
how they leave their toys in the sandbox/train table/playroom

Share any photos that you feel comfortable with on FB. 

Today, I wanted to share the moving and at times heart breaking book Where Children Sleep by James Mollison. He recorded, documentary style, the bedrooms of children from around the world. As you can imagine the variety of environments is wide. Take a look and consider sharing it with your children if they are are older. 

Luckily, you can read the entire book online. Just click on the title of the book above. 

Another photo project about kids around the world and their favorite toys can be viewed here

1 comment:

  1. I shared a room with my sister until I was about 13. She was extremely messy and unorganised(according to me anyway...) and me an utter neat freak. I cannot function in clutter or unorganisation of any kind. When I got my own room, It was monochramatic, black & white. I have evolved though, having my own little chaos creator in the house, so I don't mind a little mess and when I'm creating, I find peace in all the mess. But on Sunday nights, it's Clean-up time!


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